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September 5, 2020

Hard Magic: A Law School Journey

by Lisa Salsman

My husband and my younger boys are on a little road trip today. I helped them get their stuff together, kissed each one of them ‘goodbye’, and watched them all climb into the minivan and drive away. I returned to the kitchen, ate a bowl of cereal, made a cup of coffee, and headed to my room to retrieve my enormous stack of law books for a full day of reading and working on assignments.

Does it feel bad? Yeah. Did it hurt my heart a little when my youngest son pulled away from me and wiped his tears from his face? Yeah. Did I know I was signing up for this when I decided to go to law school as a mother of four? Yeah. Does that make it any easier? No.

It’s hard. Not being involved in their day-to-day the way I have been for their entire lives up until now …it’s hard. Is it worth it? I sure hope so. But the truth is, if I did not believe it would pay off in the end, I would never have rolled the dice. Some things we do in life are hard. They are risks. They bring sweat, tired eyes, tears, anxiety, exhaustion, and loneliness. And we take those things because, at the end, we believe we will trade them in for accomplishment, purpose, and belonging.

It is so easy to find ways to be discouraged in this journey. I currently leave no later than 7am and return between 7 and 8pm, if not a little later, most nights. I tuck in sleepy children who wait up to spend time with me. I read to them from legal cases to put them to sleep. I let them climb up into my bed with their own books, so that we can all read together, just to be close to them. I miss them.

My husband comes to bed and lightly touches my back. He wants to be close, as well. I scoot closer to him, curl up with my head resting on his arm, and promptly pass out from exhaustion. I miss him.

My daughter in college is in town for the weekend. She wants to bring a friend over for one of our “Family Game Nights”. All I know is that is a night I have dedicated to studying. I really don’t want a loud house that evening; but I absolutely want the interaction with my sweet girl. I miss her.

My oldest son is a Senior in high school. He works …a lot. He plays soccer. He has a girlfriend, which may not last. He wants to talk to me about it. I want to hear him. He approaches my bedroom door just as I have finished my reading and am falling asleep. I do whatever it takes to hold myself together, so I can listen to him. I love that kid. I want to be present for his life and his struggles. I miss him.

And here I am, home alone, working on my assignments, feeling a bit weary, a bit sad, and a whole lotta determined. Because the truth is, if I allow all of this missing out and don’t receive the big payoff in the end, it was pointless. I have to be able to show my family that their sacrifice was not in vain. They did not allow me this sacred space so that I could waste it on Facebook, social time, or sitting around feeling sorry for myself. So, I open my books. I end this writing. And I get to work, reminded that this is a privilege I have long been denied. It is, in fact, a dream come true. The honor of going to law school. The honor of a family that supports me and is proud of me. The honor of a day where my amazing husband is taking my boys to a science museum and lunch and filling in the gaps, while I read about torts, criminals, and civil procedure. These are the days of magic – hard, brutal, rewarding magic.

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