If you are looking for specific advice pertaining to law school, skip this blog. You’ll be disappointed. If you want to hear about a few life lessons, keep on reading.
Every fall, our recruiting season starts in Boston. We fly in from our corners of the country and like clockwork we meet in the hotel lobby at 9:30 on Monday and hop in the rental car. The travel season ends in Los Angeles a couple of months later and we head home to hunker down for the reading season. Year after year, season after season. We’re migratory creatures – like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano each spring, or senior citizens seeking the warmer temperatures in Florida each winter. If you’re lucky enough, really lucky actually, you end up traveling with a group of people whose company you enjoy immensely and whom you think of as your extended family. I found an old photo the other day – that’s Bill Hoye from Duke standing next to me, Rick Geiger from Cornell sitting in front of Bill, and Ken Kleinrock from NYU sitting in front of me.
When Rick mentioned to us that this past year was likely to be his last in the business, we sat in silence. Then, we tried to talk him out of it. Rick, being the good sport that he is, listened to us come up with all kinds of scenarios to keep him with us for a bit longer. I even offered up unlimited vacation time at our house in Hawaii. The house isn’t built yet and is just an idea, but the timing could be perfect, I said, if he put off his retirement for a while. I think we actually believed we had managed to convince him to stay one more year. In hindsight, though, knowing Rick, he would have thought it all out before verbalizing it to us. Once he put those words out into the universe, there would be no turning back. It was selfish of us to try to talk him out of it – we were thinking of what we wanted and of what we feared losing rather than what Rick needed and wanted. We were selfish at that point, but we eventually got on board as is usually the case with any family.
We’ve learned lots over the years from Rick. Let me just mention a few things that stood out for me. First, he’s got this uncanny sense of direction – an internal GPS. You will never get lost if you’re with him. He always turns and glances back to get a sense of the view from the other direction. What a great way to approach life. Geiger Life Lesson #1: Turn back every once in awhile and realize where you’re coming from. Find your “place” and don’t forget to look behind to see where you’ve been, where you’ve come from. Second, Rick became someone I regularly turned to for advice. We’ve known each other for a long time. In that time, trust was developed and, more importantly, trust was constantly reinforced. I was always on the receiving end of honest and thoughtful advice. Geiger Life Lesson #2: Find your trusted sounding board; find that essential circle of trust. In your life you will seek out advice from others and you will dispense advice to others. Don’t just pick anybody; pick the person who has shown himself or herself to be a steadfast and trustworthy ally. And remember that every circle needs care and tending. Third, when I suffered losses in my family, I found solace in my travel schedule. Of all places, right? Rick knew how much to ask; he knew when to let me talk; he knew when to divert my attention; he knew when to make me laugh. All three of my travel buddies were such rocks of support and provided a much-needed respite from my grief and, by doing so, allowed me the space to grieve. Geiger Life Lesson #3: Learn to be a good listener. When you listen well and carefully, you’ll know how to respond and you’ll know how best to help. Listen with your heart and you’ll hear what you need to hear.
Rick’s departure leaves a void. Plain and simple. And, it’s not just in our travel group. He’s had such a huge impact in the law admissions world. When we were last together early in the summer, we watched him very quietly say his goodbyes; we watched him leave our admissions world for his next adventure. He slipped that ring on his finger and disappeared. And now, here we are. It’s just the three of us. The posse of four rides no more. We sit at our desks – one here in Palo Alto, one in Durham, one in a tiny village called Manhattan – and we’re putting our fall travel plans in order. There is a void and we are feeling it. There is a great disturbance in the Force. (Lord of the Rings and Star Wars in one paragraph!) But, let me come back to the notion of family. When you think about your own family, you realize that family members are constantly moving in and out of the family sphere. You go to college, you strike out on your own. Yet, you come home for the holidays or for vacations or for extended stays. We don’t begrudge our family members from moving on. It’s just what happens. We let them go – to the next step, the next phase, the next adventure. So, Rick, see you soon. You’re hosting Thanksgiving this year.
I’m throwing in a short Simon and Garfunkel song to end this blog. Bookends. What a time it was.