The Liminal Space of Legal Articling

Every day I open up my cover letter. I push a period here, change a sentence there. I think ‘That’s Good’ and hope that will mean Good Enough to the person sifting through resume after resume. How to stand out, how to fit into the shape they want for their firm – is it bragging? How much tea becomes too much tea? So I fire off an email to an acquaintance, follow up on leads for connections, and then focus on work. Not the work I studied for of course, that’s a dream too good to be true. If you’re like me, Admin work. Steady, decent pay. All in all a good gig, and one I was lucky to temp my way into when I first came back, reverse culture-shocked and still trying to weed British phrases from my vocabulary that three years Wales-side had sown.

Sometimes you follow up on what your classmates have achieved, like pressing an old bruise to see if it still hurts. But I don’t resent them, they took their lumps too.

They say they want someone who’s hungry – but I haven’t eaten the meat of my degree in ages. I’m starving.

A think piece comes out, and suggests that with the market so bad, students should be articling for free, which at its most base level assumes a level of material comfortability that predicate silk sheets and four poster beds and someone to bring me champagne before I begin my day amongst the Ton.

I’m just saying that’s tough – especially in Toronto proper. Out West, the shortage still stings, but it’s belayed by the old optimism of an Oil and Gas town. Once the economy gets better, you hear people say.

So I reword my opening paragraph and cheer on oil like I’m racing ponies.

I occupy myself like an invading military – with terrifying efficiency. And I go on. Because what else can be done- give up? Ha! Not after everything I went through to get to where I am; the late library sessions, the cancelled plans, and sleepless nights filled with feverish repetition of case law. The half second where you go to sip some quality Fenteman’s ginger beer and have a heart stopping pause.

I think of studying in the UK, and travelling on the cheap to Paris. I think of the fake flowers in Montmarte held aloft below Van Gogh’s window. And Van Gogh writing to his dear brother, “If I am worth anything later, I am worth something now. For wheat is wheat even if people think it is grass in the beginning.”

And I go outside, I stand by the river. I write when I can, and keep trying even when I think I can’t.

There’s a small voice that says that I should give up and try something else. Anything Else. But that voice isn’t louder than the one that tells me I’m not alone in this struggle. The one that says: Keep going. And yes, it sucks. I hate that voice a bit, like the way I hate the voice of a dvd-workout video the 8th time I’ve sweat my way through it. I KNOW THAT I NEED TO BREATHE VANESSA I AM LUNGING MY GODDAMN HEART OUT OVER HERE OK LEAVE ME ALONE.

The stasis that my life is in will change only by action. And yes, the bruise still hurts, but it also reminds me that it’s worth going out there to take the tumble anyway, bruises be damned.

And I keep going, we all keep going, despite how much of an uphill climb it seems. We wait in the in-between, on the threshold of becoming what we studied to be.

Not resentment but momentum, as we wait to tumble.

I’ll make sure I’m worth the wheat.

Articling