It’s almost the end of the year 2016, which believe it or not is the year I became a law graduate. It’s been about 4 months since I graduated but sometimes, I still have to remind myself that I did. As 2016 comes to an end, I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some thoughts I had while sitting in a slightly slanted room in Oxford’s University College, making sure my boyfriend didn’t oversleep and miss his law interview (more on that later).
One time around mid-September this year, while I was waiting for the x90 coach just outside Victoria Station, a coach driver who was also waiting (he was waiting to take over the shift of the driver who would arrive in another 15 minutes) for the coach asked me why I was going to Oxford. I told him I studied law at Oxford and was going to visit my boyfriend who was still living there at the time. It wasn’t until 5 minutes later that I suddenly woke up from my auto-pilot-small-talk mode, and realised that the bus driver was no longer talking about Oxford and the crappy British weather, but rather he’d moved on to telling me about his divorce proceedings. Now, I was completely out of my depth. I just nodded along like any unsuspecting listener, and occasionally threw in a “mmm” and an “oh”. When he finally finished telling me about his devil-like-soon-to-be-ex-wife he moved on to complain about the lawyers that were dealing with his case. Then he looked at me for advice (or perhaps approval) and so I said “hmm, maybe you ought to file a complaint with the SRA [the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority]”. Somehow my suggestion seemed to anger him even more! He let out a gruntish-sigh and said “don’t you realise that all these bullsh*t lawyers and the SRA are one and the same? They cover up for each other. The SRA aren’t going to help me.” I have to admit that his physical size and raised tone scared me a little and so I hastened to assure him that I wasn’t one of those bullsh*t lawyers he’d been dealing with and conveniently left out the fact that I was (and I still am) on that career trajectory. On that note he seemed to calm down a little. It was at this moment that I thought: perhaps I talk to strangers too much.
I’m just kidding. What I really thought was: do I really want to do law?
I still remember how I began my personal statement when I applied through UCAS: “I have always wanted to be a lawyer”. And that was 100% true. I was telling my parents what a big-shot lawyer I would be from the moment I learnt how to string a sentence together. What I left out on my personal statement (not unintentionally) was that I’ve also wanted to be a doctor, a chemist, a quantum physicist, a writer, a painter, a musician and even a Chinese poet at some point or another in my then 17 years of being – being a lawyer just happened to be the profession I came across first. What I perhaps should have written, if complete honesty was my aim, is “I have always wanted to do everything”. My interests have always been broad and varied. I was never one of those people with a singular passion. That’s why I really enjoyed my GCSEs: I was allowed to learn a little of everything. I think that reflected in the options I took: French, Business Studies and Music. For fun, I used to sit in on Spanish classes – I even bought a Spanish dictionary. Si, me encanta el espanol. At sixth form, I struggled with narrowing down my interests so I took Physics, Chemistry, Maths and English Literature. And I jumped at the opportunity of taking a short-course GCSE in Ancient Greek as an elective, despite the head of sixth insisting that I took critical thinking.
So what happened when it came to the crunch? How did I go from all of that to one single subject at university? I suppose Law just seemed like something I hadn’t done yet (after concluding that I wasn’t really smart enough to study Medicine and realising that I probably couldn’t stomach it either). Law actually ended up being one of those things that I just stumbled into, kind of like how you go from just thinking about food in your room to somehow stumbling into McDonald’s and ordering a chicken legend meal to go. Anyway, back when I was 17 and writing my personal statement, I just didn’t think that “I take an interest in everything” was a good enough reason to state as my motivation for studying law. Hence “I have always wanted to be a lawyer”.
To be entirely fair, I began my degree as a wildly enthusiastic eager-beaver. Law was really interesting to me. I did my reading and made good notes while developing my own thoughts and arguments. I enjoyed the tutorial system that Oxford had and the collegiate environment of the university in general. But somehow that only lasted about one term. I left my degree as a significantly less enthusiastic, well, keeno-beano (I’ve never not been keen). In my mind, oxford law changed me and I didn’t know whether I liked that.
This brings me back to today, sitting in that slanted UNIV room, tasked with waking my boyfriend up so he wouldn’t miss his interview, I thought back to this one cool summer’s day in Oxford just before I had to begin sitting my Finals papers. I was sat on a sofa chair inside my room by the windows that I’d opened. My legs were propped up and I was in my pyjamas. I looked out to the exam schools and all the way up the High Street and it was a busy day. The buses on the street kept coming and going. Passerby’s’ conversations were drowned out by the sound of traffic and I heard only a low and consistent hum. The skies were completely cleared after the rain and the sun reflected off little puddles in the streets. I sat there with a cup of tea in one hand and my diary in the other, perfectly content. In that moment, I didn’t want Oxford to end. And I just sat there and I took it all in.
The thing is, now whenever anyone asks me, “so did you like it, Oxford?” I tend to think back to the stress of exams, the pressure of wanting to do well, always feeling like I was supposed to be studying and say something along the lines of “it was an experience. But one that I would rather not repeat”. I suppose Oxford was a little too much for me. I always felt a little out of my depth there. Besides I think I’ve always been a little annoyed at myself for applying for Oxford just for the name rather than for its merits (I never even looked into my course). But then when I turned to see my boyfriend who was just waking up for his Law interview, but who had already graduated from Oxford with a double first in Physics and Philosophy in this very same year, I realised that I’ve been wrong. No matter how out of my depth I eventually felt at Oxford, and no matter how annoyed at myself I am for never looking into my course, I simply wouldn’t be where I am now, having met the people who I have had the pleasure of meeting, had I never stumbled into Oxford law. And I’m happy now.
And so as I sat there on that slightly slanted chair, in that slightly slanted room, feeling like I’d somehow come full circle through my boyfriend, I thought to myself “maybe I ought to start telling people about that one cool summer’s day before Finals, when I was perfectly content”.
HNTBALS out x