Monday, September 10, 2007

9/11 is my birthday.

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The fact that 9/11 is also my birthday might give you some insight into how much my post-millennial life has sucked. Not sucked as much as the post-millennial fates of people who died in the World Trade Center, or people who lost people that day--not even close. Not sucked as much as my mother's life sucked that year, diagnosed that spring with brain cancer and dead by the last dying days of the year. Not sucked like the lives of people at Enron who lost their life savings, or people whose families got torn apart by a member's deployment or injury or death in Iraq. Or poor people everywhere.

As my friend Eric likes to remind me, some people in the world are so poor they live on nothing.

But still. Just because I didn't die quickly or slowly in 2001 or have nothing to eat ever, doesn't mean I don't get to smile grimly and indulge in a tiny, luscious dollop of self-pity when someone hands me back my ID and says, inevitably, "Wow, 9/11. That really sucks."

Which is why this year is doubly amazing to me. Eliot said April was the cruellest month, but he should have said September. September is when the summer ends, when school starts, when the first intimations of how lousy the MLA job list will be start to emerge to darken our hearts. And, of course, 9/11. Recently I added the acronym "OCI" to the list of horrors. OCI means "on-campus interviews," and anyone at all familiar with law schools knows that fall OCI is when the big firms come a-courtin' students with stellar GPAs, ready to offer them a cushy 30K summer job that pays the bulk of their third year of school. Most big firms only hire new associates from that summer pool. Most law schools pretend big firms are the best, the only real payoff for all those hours of studying.

But in reality, very few students get summer jobs from OCI interviews. I went to five interviews and felt sick to my stomach every day. When I realized I didn't have the follow-through GPA to close the deal on the good impression I had made with my interviewers, I felt even worse. When I thought about those uptight people and their high-pressure lives, I felt nothing but misery, but when I heard about people with several callbacks (firm visits) and from that, several offers, I just felt like a failure.

But there are dried tubers in September, and leaves to keep us warm. The last few weeks have been a revelation to me, as I gradually came to realize that now that I didn't have to try for the money, I can do--anything. You have to try for the money, you know. It's just plain irresponsible not to. And if it comes to you, you have to take it. And if you take it and they want you, you have to go to them. And then, only then, do you begin to plan your escape.

But if this passes from you?

You are free.

Lately I've been talking to anyone I can about public interest jobs. About activist jobs. At the height of my post-OCI spiritual revelations I went to Lavender Law, the LGBTQI national law conference, and sat blissfully through an entire day of panels on the exciting issues in queer family law, from surrogacy, sperm donors, and second-parent adoption issues to marriage, estate planning, taxation, and elder law. The speakers were riveting. The issues were riveting. They were not lawyers working at big law firms. They were not academics. They were activists and legal aid workers and family law practitioners and clinicians. They did pro bono work and organizing.

They were the most interesting panelists and panels I had heard since, well, the heady days of the early 1990s, when academic conferences were full of feminist panels and anti-racist panels and marxist panels and people of color panels and queer panels, and none of it seemed tired, and all of it felt like it could change the world. I swear, this felt like that.

And it got me thinking.

Maybe it can be like that. Maybe it still can.

I still don't know what I'll do for a job next summer. I still don't know whether they'll be anything but renting an apartment for the rest of my life and wearing clothes from Old Navy. I've never owned a new car and I probably never will. But the best part is, I think I don't care anymore. There's more to life, as my mother liked to say.

So happy 45th birthday to me. All this week we waited for GF to ovulate, filled with trepidation. What if we couldn't begin IUI insemination this month? Worse--what if we COULD?

The weekend came and went, and with it, enough ovulation predictor kit sticks to build a modest cabin somewhere strange. Two women with PhDs squinted at lines on peed-on pieces of plastic until their heads swam. And then, Saturday afternoon, two solid lines appeared like a tiny pink pathway. The hormone surge! At last!

So Sunday we threw on clothes, grabbed coffee, and got inseminated (well, one of us did) at the fertility clinic, all before 11am. Afterwards we strolled the walkway outside the clinic and watched kayakers navigate the calm waters of the river that meanders through this part of the city. Canadian geese drifted by, and I felt more peaceful than I have in years. I thought about tides, and how they turn, and then I hoped for everything.