Thursday, April 21, 2022
Sometimes, if truth be told, we often feel out of place. That was never truer than when - a few years back - I interviewed for my first law school academic job, hoping to earnestly pursue a career as a legal writing professor. As those who know me know, that didn't pan out. But for perhaps not the reasons that you might image.
The interview trip started off uneventful. I flew across the country and the law school put me up in a very nice hotel just a block from campus. All seemed well, that is, until the next morning - the day of the interview.
With an early start, I had a nice breakfast and went back to the room to suit up, so to speak, for the interview, dressed in my finest linens (not really that fine but the best I had). Shirt, socks, pants, etc. With just shoes to go, I sat down on the bed and grabbed my two black shoes. The first one went on smoothly but not the second. You see, I had mistakenly grabbed two black shoes...for two left feet.
Panicked, I tried my best to take a few steps around the room, most uncomfortably. But the show had to go on. So I tumbled out the hotel, hailed a taxi for what was supposed to be a quick walk to campus to try to save my feet as best as possible, and made it to the law school on time for my all-day interview, as you might imagine, a bit tussled.
Frankly, the interview went much better than I expected, that is, until the library tour.
You see, libraries, at least to me, are like big canyons of exploration, with shelves upon shelves of books. With normal shoes, navigating such canyons ought not be too cumbersome. But with two left feet, I wasn't sure I could maneuver. I might just find myself boxed in by an apparently impenetrably canyon. That's because left shoes point right, making right turns quick tame. But if forced to turn left, I thought, I might just have to put myself in reverse and back out. Well, to cut to the chase, I survived the library tour no worse for the wear. All right turns as had it.
Then came lunch.
Now, for those of you not in academics, the lunch talk is whether one gathers before the faculty, with the faculty munching while you are talking, presently some fabulously creative and elucidate lecture on some astonishing topic of interest to legal educators. I gathered my balance and took off full steam ahead with my topic, but I couldn't help notice the stares. Lots of them. And not quite at me at all. Rather, the faculty seemed entranced at staring at my feet.
Not one to be stared at, I just didn't quite know what to say, so I just finally blurted out that, "yes, I have two left feet." Needless to say, in a crowd of academics, that didn't seem to even get a nibble of laughs.
I ended up, to my surprise, getting a job offer but needless to say went elsewhere. But I did learn something important about myself. Not to take myself too seriously. That's it's okay to not be perfectly put together (I never am). That I've sort of made peace with myself that I am just, well, quirky, as one person recently told me.
And I think that is quite good to know because, if the truth be told, there are no ordinary people. There are no normal people. We are all, in some ways and in marvelous ways, out of place but right in place where we belong. As CS Lewis put it, we are all extraordinary.
So as I share this story, I hope it helps you to be at home wherever you find yourself, and that it helps you help others be at home too in your presence and in your communities too. That's something extraordinary wonderful to share with each other. (Scott Johns).