A decade of the law

It will be ten years this sum­mer that I set out on the jour­ney of becom­ing a “priest of the law” — tak­ing the first steps toward my degree, and my career, as a canonist.

It is with con­sid­er­able ambiva­lence that I reflect on that deci­sion, and all that fol­lowed. My life, and the life of my entire fam­i­ly, has been for­ev­er changed by the dis­rup­tion, the adven­tures, the tra­vails and the new expe­ri­ences which crowd­ed upon us, indi­vid­u­al­ly and col­lec­tive­ly, from the moment we left behind all we knew in search of all I thought we wanted.

Every­thing has changed in these ten years. I have climbed to some mar­velous vis­tas, to be sure, but far more time has been spent wan­der­ing in the val­ley of the shad­ow of death. I can­not change any­thing that has tran­spired. Maybe I can learn from it: that seems a bit too cute for my taste, though. Prin­ci­pal­ly, I am grate­ful to have sur­vived it all, amazed to be still stand­ing, still breath­ing: that I still have a chance to try again.

When I first set out to study canon law, I wrapped myself in pride and ambi­tion: I want­ed to make a name for myself in this new dis­ci­pline, this new call­ing, which I was pre­pared to throw myself head­long into. I thought I had final­ly found a sphere in which I was real­ly going to be a some­body. But I lacked the for­ti­tude to actu­al­ly do the work that this would entail: I set­tled for coast­ing through as I had done my entire adult life, added idle self-indul­gence and near­ly con­stant ine­bri­a­tion, and the fact that all of us have sur­vived the exis­ten­tial train­wreck that ensued is a dai­ly cause for wonderment.

But sur­viv­ing is just what we are doing. I am learn­ing — for what seems like the first time — to push myself, to fol­low through on my com­mit­ments, to be the per­son that seem­ing­ly every­one except me has always believed I could be. That’s hard work. But I tell myself every morn­ing that it is hard work worth doing, and that I am going to do it.