Confessions of a Masked Blogger
I have got to be honest here. This has not been the greatest semester for me. I have fallen behind in all of my classes, and do not even have the excuse of interviewing, as I did last semester. I am tired of being in school, after 19 straight years of it. I feel totally disconnected from the world, without power or responsibility for anything but myself. And this is a step backwards for me, even though I did not take time off to work before law school.
Having been one of only 4 members of Army ROTC in my class, I had a lot of responsibility my junior and senior years of college. I functioned primarily in the cadet non-commissioned officer positions, because that was what I was good at. I was good at the practical side of things: man-management, supply, scheduling, discipline. Most of all, I liked having people depending on me, knowing that my actions every day were having an effect, hopefully positive, on their lives.
That may seem silly and quaint from the perspective of those who have had real jobs and real responsibility, but compared to what I have now in law school, it was wonderful.
Now I could have joined student groups here at the law school, perhaps even earned a leadership position. But none of them really appealed to me. At least not enough to overcome my 1L focus on schoolwork, on grades. And that focus paid off, at least as much as it could. I made law review. But I did not pursue a leadership position in that organization either, choosing simply not to apply. Why? I've made it no secret that I have a strong distaste for legal academic journals and legal academic writing. I think there is too much of it, with too little quality. Don't get me wrong, I do not think I am capable of doing much better. There is simply too much pressure on professors to publish, thus too much literature, and the average quality is inevitably pretty low.
Even if it were not, I do not really buy the idea that law students are qualified to do anything more than the menial editing and citecheck work that they end up doing. Lofty ideas of shaping the course of legal theory or doctrine are quickly dissolved. Whether this view is right or wrong, it is how I feel and I think it clear that someone with such views is probably better off not seeking leadership positions on a law journal. So even though there are opportunities there for teamwork, camaraderie, responsibility, it is all done in the pursuit of an activity which I do not really respect. Just not for me.
Yet I am still an editorial board member, and that means citechecks. Probably two more this spring, plus one during the week after school ends in May. Still a lot of time. And I have to catch up on my work. So my options are limited in the pursuit of what I've come to think must be the only school-related activity which could provide any measure of fulfillment: pro bono work. I've been in law school for over three semesters and have yet to volunteer for anything. I had easy rationalizations last year, focusing on schoolwork to make law review, and last semester, with interviews taking over my life. But this semester I've had no such excuse, and I won't next year. So that's an area with a lot of potential and I'm going to start looking into it.
My normal attitude has long been that school cannot provide that sort of fulfillment. It is an academic experience, which is valuable, but there must be external pursuits for true happiness. I did ROTC in college, was in a fraternity, collected live bootleg CDs, went to a lot of concerts, visited the Cambridge Zen Center and read a lot of books. In law school, I've done the latter, but none of the rest. Instead, my other primary hobby has been this. Blogging. And though overall I am quite pleased that I became a blogger, it has been a rollercoaster ride for me. It is very easy to lose track of why I blog, and without that purpose in mind it can seem rather aimless, or even a chore. Not the sort of thing I like to spend my free time on.
Long, long time readers will know that I've expressed some of this dissatisfaction before. The truth is that though I have been largely a legal and political blogger, those are not the things that I really want to be blogging about. At least not all the time. That was one of the motivations for En Banc: I could do some legal blogging there, and make this solo blog more personal. Unfortunately, having two blogs proved too much work and I ended up shutting this one down. Then I was left with an even worse situation: I was on a group blog devoted almost entirely to legal and political blogging, even though that was exactly what I was trying to get away from. After agonizing over what to do, I decided to shut down En Banc. I did it quite suddenly, and did not give either my co-bloggers nor the readers adequate warning or discussion. Some were confused about why I did not simply hand over EB to my co-bloggers, but in my mind En Banc was at bottom a creation of mine, a failure of mine (in my mind), and I thought it better that we make a clean break. I think it has worked out pretty well, as my former co-bloggers are about to unveil their new blog, wonderfully crafted by them as a group, the way it should be.
That was a difficult experience. A lot of harsh things were said about me, and perhaps they were deserved. At best, I was very guarded about discussing why I had shut down En Banc and that left people with nothing to do but speculate. At the time my reasoning just felt too personal to splash on the web site or give to strangers, but I tried to explain it in private emails with my co-bloggers. Some were satisfied, some not.
But if I had thought shutting down En Banc would be some sort of cure-all, I was wrong. It was just one problem and not the root. If everything else in my life were giving me pleasure and fulfillment, I'm sure my displeasure with En Banc could have been dealt with and solved. But I am still glad I shut it down, as it was the straw breaking this camel's back. Something had to give, and in the scheme of things a website is a pretty easy thing to let go off. The real root problem was the restlessness I've discussed above, the feeling that, so long as I'm in school, I have little aim, purpose, or responsibility. And to the extent that blogging exacerbates rather than alleviates that feeling, it is of little use to me.
As such, I'm going to try again to make a change in tone around here. I will not discontinue my legal and political blogging, as those are still things that interest me. But I no longer want to think of myself as a political blogger. I need more of a personal outlet than that. Now that does not mean I'm going to start talking about my girlfriend or my friends here; I have pretty high walls when it comes to those things. But I want there to be more about what I am thinking, what I am feeling. Not just my reaction or analysis of this or that court decision or news story. We'll see how it goes.