So the RPGWW legacy post on the spam forum finally motivated me to write up what I've been doing for the past year or so in an attempt to get back in touch with some friends who I have not spoken to in a long time. This is actually a facebook note, which I am simply copying over to here, since I thought that some of you might be interested in it as well. Enjoy.
Let me begin by explaining why Iâ€™m writing this. First of all, there is no particular significance to the timing of this, it just happens that I have some time available (I am writing this on a train coming back from a cousinâ€™s bah mitzvah in New Jersey) and finally decided to get my thoughts down on paper. This is something that I have been meaning to write for well over a year now, but I just kept putting it off and promising that I would do it tomorrow.
To be blunt, this is going to be a fairly simple and quick summary of what Iâ€™ve been up to since I graduated from Duke. The reason why I feel I need to tell people this is two-fold. First, I like my friends to know what Iâ€™m up to just like Iâ€™d like to know what theyâ€™re up to. Second, and more importantly, I am terrible at keeping in touch with people. It happened first with a couple of summer camps, then high school, and now college. At all of these places I made great friendships that could last a lifetime, but due to my own laziness I let those friendships slip away. Well, I feel guilty about this and want to take the first step to trying to rekindle some old friendships and get back in touch with a lot of people.
So Iâ€™m going to begin with graduating Duke. I know Iâ€™ve seen some of you since then, and havenâ€™t seen some others since before I even went to Duke, but maybe I can still fill in a few gaps. I left North Carolina and headed back to England without any concrete sense of purpose or goal for myself. All I knew is that the one realistic dream I had previously had (since I have many unrealistic dreams, most of them involving stand-up comedy), which was to be a Classics professor, had suddenly become a nightmare. A terrible senior year had completely killed my desire to go into academia in that subject, and so I needed a new direction. Unfortunately, a BA in Classics doesnâ€™t really open many doors other than going for a masterâ€™s degree, so I found myself doing the old job-search shuffle. Everywhere I was either too qualified for a starting position or too inexperienced, and after a month of this I was starting to get a little worried. So I decided to throw caution to the winds and declare that the next year would be a time for following all those crazy job ideas I had when I was young, and see where they led me. I started looking into auditions for plays, but my crippling stage-fright wouldnâ€™t even let me think about that. Then I turned to one of my true loves in life: video games.
As a semi-joke, I applied to a bunch of British video game companies for various positions. Now none of these were that technical (I have no programming skills other than BASIC, and then I could only get that damn turtle to run around in a circle), but administrative positions and so on. I almost landed the dream goal as well: a creative position. Writing video games, how cool would that be? Sadly I didnâ€™t make the final cut, and Iâ€™m sure Empire: Total War will be a worse game for it. However, while heading out for a meal with my family one Friday night, my phone rang. I was asked if I could interview immediately, and organized a time for the next day. A day later I was contracted to work 2 months as a video game tester for TT Games, on Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Awesome. I donâ€™t know if any of you have seen Grandmaâ€™s Boy, but it gives you half the picture of what itâ€™s like. Fun and games galore, but with ridiculous working hours (at least 40 a week, encouraged to work 12 hour shifts for 6 days a week, but they paid amazing overtime) and a fairly unhealthy environment (when youâ€™re working the night shift, itâ€™s pizza and KFC every night). I had a great time there, but my commute was over an hour each way, and when you add that to a 12-hour night shift position, I barely had time to eat when I got home each day. Besides, I knew this was never going to be a career, for bigger plans had already begun to form. So when I was offered a yearâ€™s contract at the end of my two months, I thanked them but declined.
About 3 months before I left Duke, when I was certain I didnâ€™t want to go into Classics, I had started to panic about my future and look around at my options. I spoke to a lot of friends about their plans, and where they were going, and my gaze fell upon law school. Now I had always known that law was an option for me, since my father is a lawyer and would eagerly support me if I went down that route, but I had avoided it previously because I didnâ€™t want to seem as if I was just â€œfollowing in Daddyâ€™s footstepsâ€ or anything like that. But the more I looked into it, the more attractive it became as an idea. My father is a capital markets lawyer, and when I was young I probably thought that was the only kind of lawyer in existence, but I came to see a whole world of possibilities open up before me. Intellectual property, human rights, international crime, antitrust, and so much more. It wasnâ€™t just money and long hours, it was a chance to do something big. So I started to look into the exams and the application and the syllabus and talk to people I knew at Duke law about what it was like, and when I was offered to stay at TT Games, I knew where I was heading instead: law school.
So I left TT Games and returned to the video game retail shop I had worked in before: GAME. For the Americans reading this, GAME is the British equivalent of GameStop: big, unfriendly, expensive, and generally poorly run by its administration, who seem to take some sort of pleasure out of making the store manager and staffâ€™s day as complicated and counter-intuitive as possible. However, the store I was working at, High Street Kensington, is a little haven of tranquility in a storm of confusion, and this is because of the awesome staff there. I started working at GAME because I needed a job that would 1) pay my bills and 2) allow me to work flexible hours so I could study for the LSAT (the law school entrance exam). The reason I needed to pay my bills was because I was no longer living at home at this point: I had moved to The Citadel.
The Citadel was a small house in Ealing, West London, that was bought by one my close high-school friendâ€™s family property development company, and so he rented it out to myself, another high-school friend, and a friend of mine from Duke who was in London to get a masterâ€™s degree. The rent was just to cover the taxes and bills, and so it was really a bargain, and the house was fantastic. The four of us got along really well (for the most part, there were the occasional arguments of course) and we became a little social hub. I was very happy there and miss it quite a lot. Between living there and working at GAME I was having that great year I had promised myself, and it was working its magic. I put the bad memories of my senior year at Duke behind me and relaxed and recuperated, ready to tackle graduate school.
In January, once the Christmas season had ended, I got some time off and headed to Boston to visit Jen. Now, for those of you who I havenâ€™t spoke to in a very long time, Jen and I had almost been dating for 4 years at this point, and she was (and still is) at Harvard Law School. This was great for me, as it meant I got a little sneak preview of what law school would be like, and it was on this trip that I mailed off all my applications and recommendation letters to law schools. I was with Jen for about 2 weeks, and for the second weekend we headed down to New Jersey for a family reunion to celebrate my paternal grandmotherâ€™s 80th birthday. Jen and I knew at this point that we were heading for a life-long relationship, and we had discussed marriage and even started to joke about it (Jen would often demand to know where her â€œshineyâ€ was, meaning a ring). As we were getting ready to leave for the plane to NJ, I told Jen that even though I am a constant joker I was always serious about her, and thatâ€™s when I proposed. So that should explain my facebook relationship status to all of you. We headed down to the family event to party and share the good news.
I went back to England, and continued at GAME for another couple of months. During this time I was hearing pretty bad news from law schools. Harvard, Cornell, and Boston University outright rejected me, Columbia put my application on hold for a while before rejecting it, Boston College, Georgetown, Northeastern, and Duke all waitlisted me while I was accepted into Syracuse and Suffolk, my two safety schools. Damn my Duke GPA, my senior year had reared its ugly head once more. I knew Suffolk was my last choice, and was only even considered because it was in Boston and close to Jen, and after a visit to Syracuse I knew I really did not want to go there, and if I did I would be attempting to transfer immediately. Then I got the same message from Boston College, Georgetown, and Duke: â€œif youâ€™ll definitely accept an offer, weâ€™ll make you one.â€ I had to choose. It was a tough call. I had enjoyed most of my time at Duke, but I really did not like the town it was in, Durham, and wasnâ€™t too keen to return, even if it was the highest ranked law school of the three. Boston College was the lowest ranked of the three, but it was close to Jen and I love Boston as a city. Then there was Georgetown. I had barely ever been to Washington D.C., I knew nobody who had been to Georgetown, and did not know much about the school itself. But, as I researched it, I saw its amazing international programs, its great reputation in several key areas of law, and its commitment to public service. It looked to be the best match of the three. I told Georgetown that I was ready to commit to them, and within a week they had made me an offer which I had accepted.
Shortly after that I left GAME. It was the right time for me to do so, as it was during a quiet time in the season, and I had become highly frustrated with new company policies that I disagreed with. I decided to get some legal experience and, with help from my father and some old family friends, I got two short-term paralegal opportunities at great London law firms: Allen & Overy and Herbert Smith. I wanted this chance because I believed, at this point, that I did not want to be a firm lawyer, yet I wanted to see what it was like to work at a big firm, just to satisfy my curiosity. I got there, I worked there, and I really enjoyed it. Damnation. I was hoping that working at a law firm would help focus my career interests, that I would be able to say â€œwell at least I know I donâ€™t want to work in the private sector,â€ but all it did was reveal to me that even one of the supposedly driest and most money-based law fields (International Capital Markets and Derivative Structured Finance) is actually fascinating and highly enjoyable when youâ€™re doing the work! I had a great time at both firms, partly because they allowed me to participate in the activities for Summer Associates (second-year law students). From what they said I apparently did a good job as well, so I guess thatâ€™s something, right?
At this point it is now July, and 3 days after my final day at Herbert Smith I am in Cornwall, south-west England, having moved out of The Citadel (following some awesome leaving parties), in order to get ready for my older brotherâ€™s wedding that week, where Iâ€™d be the best man (it is tempting to insert a line here saying â€œbut arenâ€™t I always, ladies?â€ but I feel I lack the confidence to pull that sort of thing off). The wedding attracted friends and family from around the world, and when the Goldens get together the place starts jumping. I canâ€™t speak for my brother, but on the big day I was sweating with nervousness. But the wedding went off with only a minor hitch (the priest forgot the brideâ€™s name), and the reception kicks off into full swing. Now, you can tell itâ€™s going to be a great party when the bar gets cleaned out of alcohol in half the time they expected, so they have to double-up their stock. Of course there was the mingling, the socializing, the hundreds of pictures, and some great food, but all I could think of was the encroaching doom heading in my direction: the best manâ€™s speech.
Now Iâ€™ve already mentioned that I suffer from crippling stage fright, which I try to channel into a small whirling ball of nervous energy to propel myself through any public speaking event. I almost vomited a few times from nerves alone, hiding behind the marquee, frantically practicing the speech I had written that morning between running errands for the bride and groom, and I was completely unable to eat for fear that it wouldnâ€™t stay down. Finally, when I could put it off no longer, I got up, did the clinky-clinky thing with the glass to get attention, and began. From the opening fart joke to the closing toast, it was a success. Whether it was parts I had pre-planned, ad-libs I added in, or a couple of mistakes that people though were purposeful jokes, everything came together in perfect harmony. If youâ€™re interested, thereâ€™s a video of a small part of the speech on my facebook page, but nothing captures the relief I had at finishing that speech successfully. To date that is the hardest and scariest thing I have ever attempted, and I am so glad it went off well.
After the wedding, I returned to London for a little bit to say goodbye to friends and colleagues, at a wonderful party at one of my favorite pubs, after which I began a strange journey around America. My father, who was elected head of a lawyerâ€™s organization for a year that was just ending, insisted that the family accompany him to the last event he was in charge of. So in August we went to Atlantic City and then New York, on what felt like a pointless exercise at the time. I then left my family in New York and flew to Vancouver for a night, my first ever visit to Canada, where I joined Jen and her parents for a cruise to Alaska. We had a great time on that trip, the highlight of which, for me, was standing no more than 12 feet away from a black bear cub who was hunting salmon in a stream. A great time, after which I began a 23 hour journey back to England for two days of furious laundry and packing, ready to head to Washington D.C. and Georgetown law. My parents helped me move in to my wonderful on-campus apartment and a few days later classes began.
Law school is not scary anymore. For all those of you who have seen â€œThe Paper Chaseâ€ or read â€œ1Lâ€ or even just heard terror stories of law students having nervous breakdowns and sabotaging each othersâ€™ work to ensure they get the highest grade, itâ€™s not true. It might have been true in the 70s or 80s, but law school is simply not like that anymore. Furthermore, itâ€™s not that hard. I donâ€™t mean itâ€™s easy, but itâ€™s not as hard as, say, attempting to learn hieroglyphics from a self-help manual or diffusing a bomb. The concepts themselves are not so alien as to be unrecognizable (although some are tricky), the difficulty comes from the amount of work and the standard required. To keep up, you work non-stop. You are expected to be perfect in what you have read. This is the commitment law school demands, and Iâ€™m keeping up with it so far.
Other than work Iâ€™m having a pretty good time here. I have some good friends, although I feel the work keeps me away from a social life a lot of the time, but I have started to become involved in a few societies. Exams begin this month with an early exam and a take-home, then mostly occur in the middle of December. On top of that, weâ€™re supposed to be outlining (a famous process which I have yet to begin) and starting our job search for the summer. Itâ€™s a stressful environment, but for most of us thatâ€™s just practice for our eventual careers. Iâ€™m still unsure where Iâ€™ll end up, although at the moment Iâ€™m most interested in a judicial role, but I suppose I have another year before I really have to choose what path to take.
The important thing is, Iâ€™m happy. Iâ€™m happy with my studies, Iâ€™m happy with my future, Iâ€™m very happy with my love-life, and Iâ€™m happy enough with my social life (though I wish I could find a group of people at Georgetown to play Dungeons and Dragons with). I hope this message reaches all of you, and that youâ€™re in good health and spirits. I really do feel bad that I havenâ€™t written sooner, and I just hope Iâ€™m not too late. Iâ€™d be overjoyed to hear what all of you are up to, and who knows, maybe some of you will be passing through D.C. in the future, and will let me know.
[Edited for readability]