A Flower in a Vase

Before I came to law school in Toronto, I daydreamed about law school in Toronto. I am living somewhere downtown, with the love of my life, in a high place with large windows. Morning’s multi-coloured paint spills all over. We have children, who are far kinder and wiser than either of us, my pride in whom towers the significance of anything I’ve ever done or will do. At this point, I have graduated from Osgoode with shining letters into an innovative social justice practice. I then transitioned into the academy, where I am both happy and prolific. Will the kids go to law school, too? My partner, whom I met in 1L, and I have not speculated in any daydream about our kids’ careers. For the moment, we are reflecting on our LSAT strategies at the dinner table. The kids are politely withholding commentary on the vegetables. She asks me to recount every variety of logic game and to explain all personally troublesome examples from pre-2016 exams. Sipping wine, she reminds me that, despite my paralyzing anxieties, my performance turned out stellar. She omits that hers was better, but reiterates several tips. The conversation slowly disintegrates, along with the kitchen, off its emotional core. Its 19-year-old creator, passing warmly into weekday sleep, has let off his hands.

Now that I am in law school, I don’t daydream anymore. Instead, I remember. Daydreaming and remembrance are similar, in some ways. Each is like a mental hug: in both cases, I hold something close to my mind. But I would like to forget some things. Some things hurt me to imagine. Others are joys. I would like to hold these ones close. When I was younger, in Edmonton, and unbelievably anxious about law school applications, this downtown Toronto scene was one whose existence I wholly endorsed. Its possibility got me through the night. At 22, I am a JD/MA student, living very luckily in the downtown core. The buildings I look at from my (large-ish) windows are eerily close to those I imagined alone in bed, although the Sun’s morning stretches are surely more beautiful here. (I grant, of course, that every downtown condo building looks the same.) In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald I am, as far as I’m concerned, breathing dreams like air. But, on the other hand, the space between me and my history has swollen. Accordingly, I often attempt to recall it.

Before I came to law school in Toronto, everyone that ever loved me, taught me, and encouraged me lived somewhere in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. So did everyone with whom I ever had fun, a disagreement, an awkward moment, or loose ends… In short, and with very few exceptions, every significantly formative human interaction I ever had occurred in my hometown. Community, whether I love it or not, is an existential adhesive. In Edmonton, I was a flower in a garden; in Toronto, I am a flower in a vase.

Or at least I was, at first. Coming from out of province, I experienced the full range of 1L emotions—from exhilaration to frustration to ego-destruction—but these occurred always on the precipice of a specific loneliness, threatening always, and sometimes succeeding, to render it all meaningless. Consequently, I became highly sensitive, very fast, to my law school relationships. I was quick to love and quick to condemn. Quick to search for people to hold close. Quick, thank heavens, to find them.

I don’t daydream anymore, but I have become a hugger and a dancer. When you and the most challenging, lovely people you’ve ever met in one place are tethered ceaselessly to your desks by academic pressure, you go to pub night if they do. And, when otherwise socially appropriate, you hug them on sight. For, like home, you will always remember them.

About the Author: Matti Thurlin is a law and philosophy student at Osgoode Hall Law School. He is a passionate ambassador for the First Generation Network (FGN), and currently sits on the executive team for the FGN’s Osgoode Hall chapter.