Thursday, January 04, 2007

A.D. 2

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...

4 comments:

Proud Daughter of Eve said...

Wow. That's going to take a lot of thought! Not to mention prayer. Going back to school sounds great but you also have some legitmate concerns. Good luck, you and youre family are always in my prayers!

Anonymous said...

Krista,

I have followed your blog ever since you first found out that you had a brain tumor. I look to you to be a source of positive outlook. Not just with the tumor, with everything! You have helped me get through infertility, you have been my rock. I want you to know that.

Let me tell you something quickly. My uncle was born with a major heart defect. Not only that when he was only 18 months old he suffered a subdural (sp) hematoma. The doctors told my grandparents that he would never suceed in life. Did he ever prove them wrong he turned out to be a genius!! After serving a mission, he ended up going to medical school and he became a doctor. He only practiced 1 1/2 years when he suffered a major heart incident. Though he never was able to practice medicine in a doctors office again, he proved to be a great source of knowledge to our entire family. He passed away about 6 years ago but he never regretted all that he had learned in life, school, etc. Besides isn't that is what we can take with us in the end anyway? Good luck with your decision.

Anonymous said...

Krista, as an attorney I can tell you that there is no life in law school. You have so much energy and vitality I think you could learn even more by self-study than phony baloney cum laude. (just weighing in)

Anonymous said...

Is it "Brain on Steroids" time again? :-). You know there is help for you at overachievers.com. Just kidding. It's nice to know that you are feeling so great that you are considering school again. You are such an amazing person. Look at what you have accomplished in your life so far. You are doing more good for the world with this BLOG and your book than you could ever do as a lawyer.

Love ya lots!

Jeri
PS Let's plan our next girls trip.