Marriage

I got married last June, and I didn’t even know it. Not that I had a choice — or that it would be forever. When I entered the UP College of Law, I signed up for the evening block, which has all of its classes either during weekends or in the evenings. It was meant for working students, who have to work during the day.

Look at your seat mates, I was told during the Freshman orientation. Love them or hate them, they’d be with you for the next five years, unless you drop out or get kicked out. It wasn’t exactly a shotgun marriage, but I found myself in a relationship for the next five years, with no desirable way out.

Now the College is proposing reblocking — from the survey I’ve read, the first year law students will be in blocks, but it would be everyone for him/herself second year onwards. We get to choose our schedules, classes, professors, classmates. Evening students will be given priority when enrolling for the evening classes, but even day students may enroll in an evening class.

Is the marriage about to come to an end? I really don’t know. First, I don’t know if and when the college will push through with the reblocking. Second, I intend to stay with the evening students as much as I can.

Sometimes, when I come to class early, I watch my classmates come in through the door, and wonder at their strength and perseverance. These are people who work during the day, who have families and children to take care of, and yet who still manage — somehow — to read and prepare for the class.

I wonder how they manage to do it, juggling at least two lives, that of a worker and a student. And their jobs are not easy — they’re accountants, paralegals, office managers. There are few jobs you can leave at the office: even when you don’t physically take work home with you, you think of the problems and the work you have to do even after you’ve left the office. Work, if you like it and if it helps define you as a person, stays with you 24/7.

Except at the UP College of Law. You leave work somewhere on the college steps, and definitely outside the classroom. Once inside, we are all students expected to have read all the foot-high readings the professors have assigned and done research on the backgrounds of those cases. There is no such thing as “physically impossible” — not as long as you’re alive and enrolled.

At least four of my classmates have quit their jobs, and some are looking for “easier” jobs, which would give them more time for schoolwork. Two have dropped out altogether. August, the ghost month, was a bad month for us: that was the time one dropped out. I think September is almost as bad, with many of us nursing a cold or a cough. One even had to have a hospital checkup.

In UP, there are no excuses allowed, I heard Arturo Tolentino say in a kapihan long, long ago. And so we soldier on, forgetting the rest of the world as we focus on the cases assigned to us. But for some of us a question lingers on at the back of our minds: Is it worth it all?

We’re giving up families and friends, for that is what you do when you pass up on family and school affairs, play time with the children, dinners with friends. But what is a law degree for, or the practice of law? If it is meant to serve others, aren’t you serving others now? And are you saying that a stranger you’ve never met is more important than your family?
If it’s just a better job, and you’re looking forward to making money when you become a lawyer, does it mean then that money matters more than family? One of my classmates is thinking of quitting law school precisely for this reason. I’m missing out on time with my family, s/he says, time which s/he can’t take back and which a law degree can never give back, regardless of the many other things it can give to you.

The cases are fascinating, the discussions engaging, the professors admirable. But somewhere out there is a world in which we used to belong, and which still calls out to us. We have friends there, families, loved ones. As in any ordinary marriage, sometimes I wonder why I want to stay married.

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