May I Grant Myself Freedom: Immediate Reactions after HLS Decision

Today I got my acceptance letter from Harvard Law School. The letter says that HLS has selected me as one of the first members of the class of 2024.

Of course I am overjoyed by this. But more than that, I am relieved. This decision has given me some space and time that I so desperately needed. The most essential thing that is necessary for a free life is the chance to fail. The news that I have received today has given me a big chance to fail and, thereby, a chance to explore. In the two years that I will defer my admission by as a part of the JDP program will possibly be the most exhilarating time of my life, because I will explore, experiment and to venture to my heart’s content in that time. And hopefully, I will be able to continue doing so during and after my time at Harvard.

I say this because there have been long chunks of my life where I have felt shackled. A lot of times, the shackles have originated from my own egotism and a lot of time from the behavior of others. And most of the times, those two were so closely intertwined that I could not separate one from the other. I couldn’t separate what was my own doing, my own aspirations from what was ascribed to me by my the conditions of my existence-my chaotic, messy existence defined by my circumstances.

Because, when I really think about it, my decision to come to the United States was not entirely my own. I was certainly not elated by it. It was ascribed to me by my existence. My emotions, ambitions, and aspirations drove me away from a land and the people that I loved so dearly. But who do I blame for this loss? Yes, I wanted to study Political Science instead of Engineering as my parents wanted. But it wouldn’t be so prohibiting if I could swallow my pride and whether the storm of social prejudice (he must have been bad at maths; he probably didn’t get into engineering schools) that comes with studying the social sciences in Bangladesh. It wouldn’t have been so hard if I could settle for the Engineering degree and have engaged with political activism and research as a hobby-like many of my esteemed friends and colleagues do. But I had to choose both. I couldn’t compromise on any front. Because I was a coward. I wanted to be a social scientist but I was afraid of the society. And so, I fled.

But what I fled from came with me. I was still one from the society that I was so afraid of. Therefore, while at times I was bothered when my mother would complain about my HSC results or a random student would ask me if I could advise them for getting into a better college than my own, most of my chaos came from within. Any grade lower than the highest would shake my self-esteem to the core and I would question my intelligence all over again. Some nonsensical comment of some nonsensical people would play in a loop inside my head, “He just got out through a hole in the system”  or”He was just too afraid to do it the right way.”  Sometimes, even I thought that maybe they were right. Maybe I just faked my passion for social science to flee from the all-important admission tests of Bangladeshi colleges and engineering schools. Maybe I wouldn’t get into those schools if I had to take the tests. Maybe I knew that. I was always very bad at taking tests.

This kept bothering me and I kept going. I spent night after night working, reading, writing. But all the satisfaction of my work still felt made up to me. I thought that the only reason I was doing all of this was to prove myself to others and to get into a name-brand school so that I can brag to everyone.

Of course, that is not the case.

But maybe it is. I still don’t know.

I just know that I have done a lot of things that I wouldn’t do if I wasn’t thinking of my law/grad school application.

I just know that I have not done even more things because I was thinking of my GPA.

The only time I let myself (somewhat) go was during my exchange semester at Columbia. My GPA was at an all-time high and I was going to a name-brand college. Even though the arts er chhatro noise was still there, I could let go of it in the stacks of Butler. I could forget all about my phone calls home during my sleepless nights with Athena. So, I dared to take classes outside of my area of comfort and somehow got a place into a senior seminar on Postcolonialism and Pan-Africanism taught by two of the greatest professors at Columbia: Dr. Mamadou Diouf and Dr. Gayatri Spivak. I won’t go into the details of what I learned in that class, but it suffices to say that it shook and shaped my entire worldview.

It was then that I realized the joy in failing and the joy in struggling. Of course, I passed the class with less than a perfect grade but I also had the pleasure of seeing Professor Spivak write the word “excellent” on one of my papers. And even more than that, I was shown what I did not know and what I must learn, and better yet: what I must unlearn. It showed me that I was nowhere close to being ready to do what I wanted to do for my country and my world. It showed me the long path ahead. And I was happy to learn that I was an idiot.

So pure was the joy of failing with intent!

I am writing this piece not to tell you all about this very particular class, but to caution myself against my own thoughts. I know that the greatest avenue of my self-consciousness is my public life (which is another testament to the great role of my ego in my ownhood). So, I write this so that I don’t forget what I felt on the moments that followed right after I got the great news from HLS. I want to remember these moments of blankness, of the distance from my chaos, of the serenity of myself detached from my ego.

And I know that this would go away. And I know that my doubts will creep in and make me do things that I would rather not do. I know that my ego will make me care about things I shouldn’t care about. And I know that I will again be afraid to take chances, to learn and to venture.

But I write this uncharacteristically personal blog as a reminder to myself to not be selfish against myself.

I wish that everytime this would pop-up in my feed again, I would be reminded of the happiness of uncertainty and the freedom that I could ascribe to myself from my chance to fail that so few get in life. May this uncommon chance-to-fail, granted to me by my class privilege and pedigree, at least also grant me the taste of freedom. May I be free and may I grant me happiness.

It would have been easier to blame my Bangla Medium schooling or my overbearing parents for this fractured self that I live in. But I know (or at least hope) that there is more of me in my serfdom than the things beyond my control. And so, I hope that this moment would give a chance to redraw my own limitations; and maybe better yet: to erase them altogether.

This is my greatest chance.

I thank all of those who have helped me come this far. I do not say it lightly when I say that I could not have done this without you. I would have sunk and been lost without the help and guidance that all of you have provided me with.

Thanks to Professor Ali Riaz for advising me through my research and providing me with guidance on the various issue with amazing promptness. Thanks to Arpeeta Shams Mizan for proofreading my statement and other essays, you were the only person I knew who had gone to Harvard Law and I would have been lost without your help. Thanks to Sara Anjum for getting me through the tough hours of final submission and reading my essay for the last time before submission. Thanks to Thasos Athens and Theseus Schulze for reading my horrible first draft, my heart goes out to you. Thanks to David Meyer-Lindenberg, who doesn’t have a facebook account and should go to jail for that crime, for also reading my essays and imbibing his European sensitivities in me. Thanks to every one of my cohorts at Cato who covered for me encouraged me during the application process over the last semester. Thanks to Revana Sharfuddin Ame for being my best friend and mentor. Thanks to Rafat Hossain for always being a reminder of myself away from my chaos. Thanks to my friend group from my teenage (“নষ্ট বন্ধুরা”) for always reminding me that some things just never change in this crazy world. Thanks to all of my juniors from Rajuk College for always making me feel as though I meant something. I could never surmise how important you have been in my life.

Thanks to my Dr. John Cotman, Dr. Brandon Hogan, Dr. Robinson Woodward-Burns, Dr. Philip Oldenburg and Dr. Sahar Khan for guiding me through the process, writing me amazing letters of recommendations (I hope) and giving me the foundation upon which I stand. Thanks to Howard University for investing so much into my education. From paying for my GRE and LSAT courses to taking a mock interview before my big day, my college truly has been my greatest resource for grooming, inspiration and advise. Thanks to my honors advisor Dr. Kari Miller for helping me to bring my diverse interest together into a focused future plan. Thanks to Ms. Traci Wyatt of the COAS Honors program for making a home for me in the campus away from home where I could unwind and manage my chaos.

Thanks to my parents and sisters for not abandoning me on the streets somewhere for being an annoying little ass.

And thanks to all of you on Facebook who have gotten me through some very tough times. Your admiration and encouragement have always been the thing that has kept me going. I don’t think I could ever thank you enough for that.

I hope that this day has been as joyous for all of you as it has been for me.

Thank you all.

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