Thursday, July 29, 2010

Should I have done law school?

Last night I met up with five people from my neighborhood and had a somewhat disappointing dinner at the new Indian place across the street from my apartment. In the hourlong window prior to that, I grabbed a drink with a fellow who I knew from the debate circuit ages ago in high school. Hadn't seem him in 13 years. He's a lawyer. Almost everybody from that circle is a lawyer. A few are broadcast journalists.

The path to choosing an MBA was hardly obvious; I had a lot of different thoughts about going back to school. I graduated from undergrad in 2001 and probably had my first serious thoughts about returning to school in 2005. That summer, I studied for the GRE and took it. At the time I was reviewing DVDs for the paper and thought I might want to be a movie critic, and I felt that to have an authoritative voice I should get a PhD in film studies, perhaps at NYU. In retrospect, that would have been an unwise move, as those jobs are rapidly disappearing.

I looked at several grad programs, including this one that I still occasionally regret passing up: an MFA in film music composition at North Carolina School of the Arts. I even sent in some music and spoke to the director, who seemed to like my stuff and encouraged me to apply. Ultimately, though, I wasn't convinced that the students coming out of the program could get real jobs. But part of me always wonders whether I should have given this a try.

I kept on working, moving to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and eventually the back-to-school bug bit me again. In about 2007, I decided I wanted to do something more serious, analytical and lucrative, because my job had become everything I said I would not tolerate -- mundane and low-paying, with terrible hours. I looked at law schools and business schools. I decided on business school for a few reasons. (1) Most of the lawyers I knew didn't seem to particularly like their jobs, (2) Business school had more math, (3) The MBA seemed more versatile, (4) I don't care that much about law, really, (5) Everyone kept blaming journalism's problems on a "broken business model," so I figured that, somehow, there would be career opportunities out there for people with business educations and journalism backgrounds. So I took the GMAT and started hunting for the right MBA program.

I might have enjoyed law school. I like logic, argumentation, philosophy and ethics. But I don't particularly care much about what's legal and what's not. I also can't see myself being a lawyer ... it seems too serious, with too much responsibility, too much stress, too many hours. My dad was a lawyer.

Business school may not have been the ideal fit either, I admit. But I don't think you grow in this world by doing what's easy, or even what fits. I'd rather challenge myself and learn than just reinforce skills and tendencies I already have. That's the theory behind physical exercise -- it's more comfortable to sit and do nothing, but to get stronger you need to do the exercises that are hard and may at first feel a little strange. That, for me, is what my first year at school has been ... working muscles and pushing my limits. Anyway, it remains to be seen where the MBA will take me. Maybe in 5 years I'll be writing about my experience transitioning from the business world to the North Carolina School of the Arts.

1 comment:

  1. You are absolutely spot on. If you don't challenge yourself, you don't grow. Being idle truly is the devil's playground. The more people you meet and the more opportunities you create for yourself, the more you learn about yourself and others and function better in the world and create what your fulfillment will be. I learned this the hard way. Keep stretching your muscles and pushing your limits. As for North Carolina School of the Arts, your future isn't scripted or set in stone. You can steer your ship any direction you want. Getting an education is never a regret and I think the degree you are pursuing is very fitting, especially taking into account the comments you already made about reinforcing your personal skills and tendencies with it. That's not to say your education will stop there, Yale, life, or otherwise. It keeps going. If you decide you want to pick up another degree at some point or if you change your mind about a direction, you are fully entitled to that. It's your life after all. I don't recall you mentioning consideration of the music MFA, that sounds like a really unique opportunity. If you end up picking both, you've got some great plan A, B, C, D, etc options! You've always got your education (whatever form it takes) to fall back upon and shift directions. Not to mention, you could always hold a business job while attending music school. The world is yours, keep experimenting and broadening your horizons and being true to yourself and you'll find what you seek.