The forty-something having fun at law school in this meme is supposed to be me, I imagine. But the cigar-smoking golfer is John Daly. Hard-driving, hard-drinking, ‘Long John’ Daly. He’s played golf most of his life. He still plays golf. Through alcoholism, failed marriages, and personal turmoil, John Daly keeps playing golf. And he’s 56.
Funny thing, golf. Even the best player in the world is going to lose. A lot. And they’re going to lose for one very simple, very human reason. They just weren’t good enough. Maybe the greens were faster than they like, or their short game was off. I don’t know; I don’t play golf. But whatever the multitude of reasons, there’s only one that matters. On that day, in those conditions, someone else did it better. For whatever reason.
I’ve thought about this quite a bit as we’ve plummeted towards final exams, and as I’ve watched the sick realization of competition take hold and threaten to distort friendship into rivalry. I’ve thought about losing, and law school, and what I can learn from John Daly. And what I’ve decided is…
I’m in East Wing 115, the very first room I sat in as a brand-new BC Law student. It’s the room that looks so much like a Greek amphitheater and feels like one, too, when the questioning begins. The lights aren’t even on because it’s 8am, a full half-hour before Contracts, and dammit. I’m not even the first one here. Walking to my seat, I shake my head. Who gets up early for Contracts at 8:30 in the morning?! It’s a ridiculous question, of course, because the answer is Me. I get up early for Contracts. It’s just that…I didn’t think anyone else would. And it’s not just one else, either. There are a good half-dozen elses, chatting softly together in the gently lit dark. I shake my head again. Madness.
By eight-fifteen, the classroom is full. Section 2 is present and accounted for. Hillinger could walk in and start her interrogation critical questioning, and no one would bat an eye. Everyone is ready, anyway. Somebody tapped the lights on the way in, and now the classroom blazes with life and energy and conversation.
I grew up in Techwood, a housing project of inner-city Atlanta. Until it was razed in preparation for the ’96 Summer Olympics, Techwood was widely regarded as one of the most dangerous projects of any city in the country. Bodies in gutters and on gurneys, overdoses, gang violence, drive-bys. I saw it all. I still do, from time to time. So I escaped. Left it all behind. And I didn’t need a Wardrobe or a Tardis or a tricked-out DeLorean. All I had to do was press the ‘walk’ button, wait for the light to change, and walk across the street. It was just that easy. And when I stepped on the far sidewalk, as if by magic, the world changed from the pitted, blood-stained sidewalks of Techwood to the manicured lawns of Georgia Tech. That was my Narnia, my middle-Earth, my galaxy far far away. Use whatever metaphors and similes you can find. But the campus of Georgia Tech was as magical and mystical as any of those fantasy lands, except that this one was real. And it was mine.