By Rachel Kulhavy • March 31, 2015•Writers in Residence
This is the story of a girl who wanted to be a heavy metal guitar player.
Many people will ask you throughout your career, and especially when you first apply to law school, “What made you want to (go to law school, become a defense attorney, a prosecutor, a corporate attorney, go into real estate law, consulting, mediation, etc. etc.)?” Some people dream of serving their communities. Others, simply because they’ve always been drawn to the law, whether the research, reading, trial preparation, competition, or for a million other reasons that anyone becomes anything.
I decided to become a civil engineer and then an attorney (partly? mainly?) because I wanted to be a metal guitarist. When I was 12 years old, I heard Guns ‘N Roses for the first time during a summer theater camp. Was I a nerdy kid or what? Absolutely. I was also always a music lover. I started playing piano when I was 5, and subsequently learned oboe, guitar, and bass. When I heard “Sweet Child of Mine” for the first time, a circuit was flipped. I was hooked.
At 14, I got my very first pawnshop guitar, a pink-pearl beauty that I subsequently toted to Hollywood in the back of a Chevy Nova at 18, three weeks after graduating high school. Forever after that first encounter with Axl Rose and his super-coiffed, super-cool ilk, I cut my teeth on as much guitar and heavy stuff as I could. D.R.I., M.O.D., Iron Maiden, Suicidal Tendencies, Megadeth, Metallica, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani.
Maybe it’s the competitive nature of law and metal that mesh. The noise, the posturing, the “Step aside and watch what I can do.” I don’t know. But not long after, my priorities shifted. I remember staring up at the California sky one night and thinking, “I better go to college. This will not last.” Los Angeles was fun at first for a kid from Sherman, TX; living on my own for the first time, being surrounded by parties, musicians, dreamers, and chaos. But, sooner or later, the lights came up and the party was over. I wasn’t really serious enough to practice enough to play fast enough to keep up with my metal gods, most of whom played with monastic devotion.
I think my music background actually drew me to the evening law program. Maybe I could’ve quit my job, applied to a full-time law program, and been perfectly content. But, I don’t think so. Something about “night law” appealed to me. Night law was like hearing Slash’s guitar that first time. A bit of a roar in the ears, a bit of a, “Watch this!” attitude, a bit of a swagger.
My fellow evening-law students juggled jobs, careers, families, businesses, or a combination of all of the above. They were going because they wanted, they REALLY wanted, to go to law school. This is not to say that full-time law students don’t REALLY want the same thing, it’s just that I only come from the evening perspective, and my fellow students were hungry. But, in their hunger, there was always a lot of gleam in the eye, a lot of fun, a lot of inspiration. They were there because they wanted to be there, they had to be there, they loved it.
And, in the midst of all of the finals, the essays, the Socratic-cold-call method, and then the Texas Bar and Patent Bar Exams, I never quit listening to music, heavy or otherwise, because it kept reminding me why I was there, even if just in an abstract way. I studied for the Texas Bar with as much Iron Maiden as Beethoven and Lady Gaga. Pitbull and Thin Lizzy equally carried me through Constitutional Law.
It all goes back to that initial spark, that moment when that switch is flipped, and you fight for that dream as much as it fights for you, and you never quit listening to it, no matter what that dream sounds like.