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.


Hilaire said...

Happy Birthday, Sfragett!
And best, best wishes to you and GF in the new adventure.

squadratomagico said...

Happy Birthday ... and best wishes for a conception!

Deb said...

Happy birthday!

MaggieMay said...

Happy birthday. And, you're amazing.

lil'rumpus said...

happy birthday! many many tons of good luck on conception! and, if it doesn't happen this month or even next, keep your chin up :)

Dr. Shellie said...

happy birthday, and keep up the hopeful spirits!

ok, on a different note, about the duck picture... in my rss reader the whole, lovely picture shows up, and you see the small ducklings representing hope and future and new life and good things... but on your web page (which I saw first, before the rss feed), the picture gets cut off, and there is just a small duck looking at a duck butt, and i actually spent a few minutes this morning pondering the symbolism of THAT. and whether you were saying that post-millenialism and having a birthday on 9/11 was kind of looking at a much bigger, more important duck's rear end all of the time. apparently not. :) so yeah, if you can keep the picture from getting cut off on the right-hand side... i'm using firefox on a mac; not sure if this happens in all browsers.

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday!! And, well ... wow! You sound reborn. I smiled all through your post -- well, after the sad early bits, that is.
And of course -- good luck to both of you!!

Sfrajett said...

Thanks for all the birthday wishes! Of course, they're exactly what I wanted. You are all awesome.

k said...

happy birthday! well, slightly belated, but only by a little more than an hour.

i made a blog at's only got one entry so far, but hey.

fingers crossed on the conception!

Stephanie said...

Happy birthday. If I see you in the grocery store, I'll give you a basket of your own : )

Weezy said...

Happy birthday and you go girl!!! I hear you in so many ways about doing what you love and believe in and to hell with the pay. You can feel you excitement from your post---and that will mean the world!

Fingers crossed, prayers and wishes for those swimming upstream. (did you ever check out that book I suggested?) I know you won't have much time to read but GF might enjoy!

adjunct whore said...

this is so beautiful, i'm crying in my office (borrowed office, actually). there is so much more and i'm so happy that you're finding it. and happy birthday! my daughter's is 9/12--it felt horrible to have 6 year old bday party the day after.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Belated happy birthday! And thanks for the great post. I nearly posted myself about feeling free earlier this week - I was driving to my current job, and felt so damn free NOT to be on the tenure track.

Lavender Law sounds like it was awesome. And I've got my fingers crossed for the swimmers, too.

Sfrajett said...

You totally should post about it. It's odd, isn't it, how free you can feel as as adjunct or TA or visitor? Not that those jobs aren't crappy in other ways, but that feeling of being your own person is startling. Thanks for the good wishes!

What Now? said...

A very belated happy birthday to you. And what a lovely post (as always!). Here's to freedom.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Happy Birthday. I am sorry about the interviews - I hate looking for jobs because by the 10th interview I always feel "What's wrong with me" and by the 15th I feel like saying; "Please, I'll do anything for free!"

But a law degree/training is always in need, particularly in advocacy - And if it hadn't been for citizen legal aid in the UK, my employeer would have fired me for orientation and got away guilt free.

Best wishes on pregnancy, we are starting to think the same thing and I like the images of two Ph.D's staring at kit sticks. Good to know what is in the future.


Winter said...

Happy Birthday!

Lawfrog said...

There is so much more you can do with law than OCI leads you to believe. You really can change the world, if not for everyone, then for some people, and the difference you make to them will forever be remembered. How many people working in big law can say that?

One of the best things I ever did was pro bono family law work. It doesn't pay money, but it pays so much more in other ways.

Good luck with the conception! May you see two lines on another pee stick very soon:)