Happy New Year!
We celebrated the close of 2006 and the opening of 2007 a few days ago (and it was nice to be certain that there would be no tombstone for me that said: "1967-2006"), but I had an earlier new year's celebration, as you know from my "happy birthday" post in December.
Having finished what I call "A.D. 1" (A.D. = After Diagnosis), I am now several weeks into the year A.D. 2. Of course, I still recognize the "anno Domini" calendar, and I haven't failed a neuro test (they always check to see if I know what day it is). I'm just letting the confetti fly whenever I can find a chance. So Happy anno Domini 2007 and Happy After Diagnosis 2!
Many people come up with resolutions for the new year. Mine is easy: LIVE!
Yes, I should also organize my house, lose the "steroid & exercise ban" weight from AD 1, and pay the medical bills; because home organization, weight loss, and debt elimination are some of the most commonly made New Year's resolutions. But while those are worthy pursuits, LIVE is the one I will focus on most.
I recently heard an ad for a local university that is now offering an evening law degree program, and that perked up my ears. Ever since I was a ten-year-old devourer of Nancy Drew mysteries, and was too embarrassed to tell people that I wanted to grow up and be a detective like Nancy Drew, I started telling people that I wanted to be a lawyer. Nancy Drew's dad was a lawyer, and it seemed like a way to stay tapped into the Nancy Drew world. I could still secretly do detective work and find my own cases instead of needing a lawyer-dad to feed them to me.
I don't have a lawyer-dad (he has an MBA). I have a lawyer-mom. My mom started law school when I was a senior in high school. The following year, we were both at Brigham Young University: I as a freshman, and Mom as a second year law student. I remembered thinking "wow - and she's SO OLD", but I am now the same age she was at that time, and it feels pretty darn young. But following in Mom's footsteps was another good reason for me choose a legal education. Plus I liked to argue, so I figured it was a good way to put my best talents to work.
I was sixteen when I started my first summer term at BYU, and the presumption was that I would plow through my undergraduate studies and OF COURSE go directly to law school without missing a step. However, since I figured time was on my side, and since there was no specified pre-law curriculum back then, I wasted a lot of time being indecisive about my major. I started as a business major--a nod to my dad's MBA degree and an acknowledgement of the entrepreneurial blood coursing through my veins. Then I drifted to psychology, because - and this is eerily significant now - I was always fascinated with the brain and how it works. Then I hopped over to communications (I enjoyed my high school disc jockey days) and English (I liked to write), and then back to psychology (it still held my interest, plus I had the most credits in that major).
While I was in school Jared served a two-year church mission in Japan. When he returned, I still had most of my senior year to finish, and we wanted to marry ASAP. Since my dad planned to boycott the wedding if I didn't graduate from college first (and promised to give us a car if I did graduate from college first), we set our wedding date exactly one week after summer graduation, and I engaged in a crash program to overcome the time I wasted deciding on a major. I went to school year-round and I combined the maximum allowable on-campus credit hours with additional independent study classes, and while it got me to graduation on time, it also burned me out. I let the LSAT and law school application windows close. I was ready for a break from school once I graduated. This was a major scandal, because while my parents were relieved that I was at least getting my bachelor's degree, it was always expected that I would pursue an advanced degree. Education has always been important in our family: I have two parents with advanced degrees, one younger brother who is an M.D., one younger brother who just earned his MBA, and my youngest brother is in school. I remember trying to persuade my mom to recover from the blow of my decision: "But Mom, you went back to law school later, and so can I..." and she tried to explain how difficult that was.
She was right. I thought it would be easy to take a break, decompress, and then go to law school, but we got caught up in married life and jobs and (finally) kids. Having worked in the field of regulatory affairs, I have always known that a law degree would enhance my career (certainly a lot more than the psychology degree). It was in my plans, but finding a nearby law school (especially one with an evening program) was difficult. And then one day I participated in a mediation on behalf of a company that I worked for. After ten hours in the mediation room I emerged, battle-weary, having lost all desire to go to law school. I later became president of the company I was working for, and now I have my own consulting practice, so I have considered looking for an MBA program, especially since there many executive MBA programs out there.
However, I realized that I finally got the designation I wanted most of all: not J.D., not M.B.A., but M.O.M. For us, that effort took longer than most Ph.D. programs. And shortly after we adopted our second child, another designation (one I didn't intentionally pursue) was bestowed upon me: "cancer survivor". Graduate school left the back burner and got dumped into the sink during these seasons of joy and challenge. But I have managed to keep afloat with work and family and singing and getting a book published and receiving a very personalized medical education, so I can't complain.
As soon as I heard about the new evening law program at SMU, though, I started to wonder if this should be one of my A.D. 2 goals. Not necessarily because I want to sit in another mediation room. Not because of the Nancy Drew books that are still in the juvenile literature section of our upstairs bookshelf. Not because I want to double my billable rate for regulatory consulting. This has a Mount Everest appeal for me. Should I do it just because it's there? Just because it's something that isn't expected of someone with a cancerous brain tumor? Is it a way of defiantly challenging the slim odds of surviving long enough for a three-year degree program? Is this to be some kind of less humorous/less bubbly/less size 4 (but still "underdog-makes-it") version of Legally Blonde?
Should we really be spending $25,000/year on tuition, when out-of-pocket medical expenses can easily reach that level in six weeks? Would I be spending too much time away from my family, when time together is so precious? I know I would be a non-traditional student (which sometimes gives a competitive edge in the admissions process) but would the school really accept someone whose life expectancy isn't consistent with a future Supreme Court justice? How much studying can I do during chemo infusions? And are these valid considerations, or are they the whisperings of discouragement that always try to frustrate accomplishment?
If I surrender to my inner "GO FOR IT", I know I would be surrounded by support and encouragement. I would certainly keep my mind active and exercised, which is part of my survival strategy. It would be a worthwhile pursuit, even if I don't make it to graduation. However, if I decide to be more practical and focus on other worthwhile pursuits that make more sense for me and my family, I would still have the support and encouragement that I need. But no matter what, my goal should be the same: LIVE.
LIVE means more than just avoiding a tombstone with 1967-2007 on it. LIVE means using up every drop of life while I can. No matter what I pursue, I want learn something new. I want to magnify my talents and abilities. I want to keep challenging my mind. I want to enjoy every moment that I have with family and friends. I want to use what I have been blessed with, to bless others.
...and while I'm at it I should also strive to keep exercising every day and get the @#$! office organized and...