Serves and school spreadsheets

My mother says Sparty and I both look dignified.

My mother says Sparty and I both look dignified.

Life hovers above my head like a tennis ball just before I serve. With a looping motion, I hit it away, along with blog ideas, career goals, my law school decision. Sometimes the next five months overwhelm me, but the future can feel like that, I suppose. Instead, I picture each decision and each change as one serve, falling into the correct box, right where I want it, every time.

I make sense of life through tennis; it distills chaos and choices into forehands and serves. A natural, if not slightly smug reminder that I need to slow down and hit one ball, make one decision, at a time.

This weekend I visited the Michigan State University College of Law in East Lansing. I had never been to Michigan, and it was my first law school visit as an admitted student. Campus is a sprawling web of beautiful, old buildings — obscured only by swirling wind and snow I had strangely missed all winter in Iowa.

Much of the law school application process is defined by an agonizing brand of waiting that bends time into fitful periods of refreshing my email followed by angstily turning off my phone at the risk I might hear devastating or elating news. Here, I was doing something. For the first time, I pictured myself as a law student beyond the iconic images of Elle Woods clutching her fuzzy, pink phone while lamenting ever going to law school in the first place.

I walked through snow and frigid wind to take a picture of this tower, and it didn't disappoint.

I walked through snow and frigid wind to take a picture of this tower, and it didn’t disappoint.

I’ll go on two more admitted student visits before I ultimately decide on a school by April 1 — just over a month (and an elaborate spreadsheet) away.

It’s a lot like the moment I get ready to serve. I bounce the ball several times, mentally preparing for what’s next. I toss it, having rehearsed the angle, arm extension, the release, all of it, so many times before. The wind and the spin often surprise me.

I went into this weekend’s law school visit with high expectations. In some ways, the school met and exceeded them; in others, it was not what I expected at all. I’m still not sure where I’ll fall in August, and I’m OK with it … most of the time, anyway.

* * *

I make contact with the ball, and it falls into the correct box. Not where I thought it would go, not exactly, but somewhere that still is exactly the right place with the right timing.

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