Law in Contemporary Society

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ZachBlumySecondEssay 1 - 07 Jun 2017 - Main.ZachBlumy
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-- By ZachBlumy - 07 Jun 2017


I’m always stuck in the slow lane

And when I change, the traffic’s following me

And I don’t know why the highway

Always seems so pissed when I’ve got somewhere to be

This lyric sums up the year I spent in the Chicago suburbs with my parents between college and law school. In some ways, it was incredibly liberating. Living rent-free allowed me to wholeheartedly pursue pop culture writing, which presented opportunities to interview some of my greatest artistic inspirations, and to try my hand at creative projects. I took a screenwriting class at Second City. I took a film production class at a cinema incubator. I even wrote and directed a short film.

Despite this liberty, my imagination felt more constrained than ever. Perhaps my setting itself was a cause; there’s no adventure in suburbia’s deliberate tedium. But I think there was a more direct culprit. I originally interpreted it as “too much freedom,” but that takes freedom for granted and improperly shifts the culpability to my circumstances from within myself. Too much freedom wasn’t the problem; too little drive was. With all the time in the world and no compelling pressure beyond my own restlessness, I entered a creative doldrums, more apt to binge-watch television or lurk on online forums than to tell my own stories. I wrote exactly one song during my gap year, by far my least prolific songwriting period since I began undergrad.

I got impatient waiting for my muse to return to me, so off I went to Columbia.

I feared the frantic pace and oft-overwhelming stress of 1L would similarly dampen my creative spirit. I worried that in choosing law school, I was selling my nebulous dreams of becoming a renowned writer or musician for a $180,000 starting salary. But much to my surprise, I’ve found that my artistic drive has actually been enhanced over the past year. I played my guitar every day; I penned five songs; I co-wrote a television pilot and helped friends hone their own written works; and most importantly, I joined Law Revue, which gave me both a weekly creative outlet and most of my best friends here.

Full Sail

How and why did my muse reawaken only after I had committed myself to becoming a lawyer?

My first inclination was to credit the stress of 1L. Writing stories and playing music has always served as a centering routine for me, my own form of meditation. The greater the external pressure, I figured, the greater the internal catharsis, and the better art I could create.

But I was creative in my years at overnight camp, too, and during undergrad. And those were happy places for me, places where my imagination carried me to peaks of inspiration in the absence of stress. In reality, stress is probably neither sufficient nor necessary to stoke my fire; rather, my muse’s activity appears to correlate directly with my level of mental stimulation, intellectual or otherwise, and it’s particularly powerful when I’m surrounded by other creatives.

The next question follows easily. If my proudest accomplishment of 1L year was rediscovering my muse, but that development was more due to putting myself in a robust mental environment than attending law school, what the hell am I still doing here? Why am I not submerging myself in the creative community of New York, getting a job as a barista and forming a band or writing screenplays? Why not unleash my imagination upon the world in full force?

One reason is fear. I’m a risk-averse control freak at heart, no matter how many small risks I take. Law school offers a virtual guarantee of financial security, if I want it, and a high floor on my ability to foster positive change in my chosen field. And whereas I’ve never lacked confidence in my intellect, I’ve always had some doubt in my songwriting and storytelling abilities, perhaps because they expose a more vulnerable part of me. Faced with a choice between a sure thing and a leap of faith, I took the sure thing.

Today, I reaffirm my decision, even though the romantic in me will always nag me for it, because the fear explanation sells short the legitimate reasons I have to stay in law school. Columbia is an intellectual panacea, and it hosts communities that embrace my creativity in both argumentation and artistry. Out of that positive reinforcement has come not only more creative expression, but more purpose than I’ve had in a long time. Every time I make music or write a story, I think about the people doing it full-time who have the guts—or, perhaps, the innate compulsion—that I lack. I realize that I’m here not just to facilitate the unfettering of their creativity, but also to connect with them, keeping one foot in their river of expression and the other in the legal and economic realities of the entertainment world.

Stay The Course

Their beautiful compulsion is what has always drawn me to artists—that all-consuming passion that, despite my most fervent hopes, has never completely ignited within me. That used to bother me, but finding purpose at law school has granted me a measure of peace. Now, my chief concern is maintaining my ability to connect with artists on a mental, artistic level—an ability that I think will prove crucial to my lawyering abilities in the entertainment field.

Another lyric, this one written in Austin after chatting with musicians at South by Southwest:

I’ve fallen out of the loop, the scene’s passed me by

And now I feel like a super awkward fly

On the wall, just waiting to be swatted away.

This will be the defining conflict of my life for the foreseeable future: maintaining a connection with the larger creative community, not just with my own creativity. I’m not yet sure how it will unfold—my determination will only be tested more as my workload mounts next year—but for the time being, I’m happy that I’m no longer stuck in the slow lane.

Revision 1r1 - 07 Jun 2017 - 07:07:01 - ZachBlumy
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