Here are some things people generally don’t like talking about:
Income, expenses, budget, dollars, cents, loans, debt, finances, investments.
Maybe you do like talking about those things.
I don’t really even like to think about them.
But, when making big life decisions, one thing that usually comes up is money.
[REDACTED] was hopeful when it came to law school and expenses. For him, all the quantitative data was reassuring. We would take out loans to pay for law school, and then after law school we would pay those loans back.
When I thought about law school and expenses and loans I wanted to scream into a pillow. I wanted to scream and cry and hit things and then never talk about it again.
For me, all the quantitative elements of law school were intimidating. Taking out loans for law school made sense, it was an investment in our future, but using loans to pay for our living expenses felt reckless.
[REDACTED] reassured me that the loans were supposed to cover expenses related to law school, and food, clothing, and shelter were all expenses that related to being in law school.
While [Redacted] and I scheduled tours to see the campuses of schools on our “Accepted” list, I put on a happy face and tried to imagine him in the classrooms. I tried picturing him walking the halls of the law school buildings, and hunched over massive law textbooks. I put the cost aside, and I imagined the experience of [REDACTED] being in law school.
It wasn’t just the money.
While juggling the swarm of emotions that went along with the qualitative facts and figures of law school and loans, I was equally focused on the qualitative ways that law school would change our lives.
It was challenging – the idea that my husband would be a student again. With student’s hours; a class schedule, homework, readings, and exams.
It was the responsibility that I would take on.
Up until that point, [REDACTED] had the job that provided our health insurance (and that health insurance meant access to affordable therapy and dentist appointments and other grown-up things).
Up until that point, I had the job that let me bring our dog to work. I had the job that made me want to stay late at the office, grab drinks with my co-workers, and sometimes work seven days a week.
While I expected to feel out of place visiting the law schools on [REDACTED]’s list, I challenged myself to have an open mind.
Reframing came in handy.
Instead of telling myself that I didn’t fit in a given place, I focused on being there for [REDACTED]. I couldn’t imagine myself at law school because I have no interest in going to law school. But I could tell that [REDACTED] did fit in the places we visited. I could see how excited he was by the different clinics, the summer internships and the clerkships the “2Ls” and “3Ls” talked about.
One school, I’ll call it “School X,” offered a scholarship that barely covered tuition, in a city where housing costs would be nearly double what we were then spending on rent. Plus, it was half-way across the country from both of our families. That was easy to cross off our list.
Another school, I’ll call it “School Y,” offered [REDACTED] a larger scholarship. It was generous – one of the largest amounts offered to any incoming student, but didn’t cover a good $14,000 in tuition, and that was before the cost of textbooks, transportation, school supplies, not to mention food and rent. If [REDACTED] went to “School Y,” we wouldn’t have to move.
The other school we were considering, “School Z,” was several hours away by car. It also offered [REDACTED] a scholarship. It was more than “School Y,” but also left a good chunk of tuition that would have to be paid out of pocket (or in our case with loans).
To his credit, [REDACTED] reached out to “School Y” and did his best to negotiate his scholarship offer.
He sent follow-up letters to our number one school – the one he was waitlisted for. No response.
I was desperate for someone to tell me what to do – to make this decision so that I wouldn’t have to. So, I set up meetings with some of the fearless women in my life whose advice I have always valued in the past.
I had a list of questions, including “Do you think it would be good experience for me to move?” “Have you ever left a job you didn’t feel ready to leave? What happened?” “Can you imagine me working in the corporate world?”
I had three meetings scheduled in my calendar. One with a professional mentor, one with my best friend from childhood’s mom, and one with my other best friend’s stepmom.
After my first meeting, I knew where [REDACTED] and I would go.