Life After Ripon – Nathan Held ’14

Chapter 1: The Beginning of a New Journey

[Editor’s Note: Nathan Held ’14, Sophia Kaounas ’14, and Adam Myers ’14 are writing rotating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]

T. S. Elliot wrote once, in one of his many weirdly melancholic poems, that the way the world ends is “not with a bang, but with a whimper.” The world seems to begin in the same way, at least for me. In the fabled world that we enter after college, I found neither earth-shattering change nor the security that is in part promised to us many years from now. More than a month after the Class of 2014’s commencement and departure from Ripon College, my life has certainly changed, even if I haven’t very much.

My summer began with two weeks at home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – where spring is winter, summer is spring, and basically the entire idea of seasons is a bad joke – before I packed up my life into the back of a Ford Explorer in need of electronic repair, and drove with my dad across the western US from Houghton, MI to Eugene, OR. The trip was around 2,500 miles long and was comprised of stops at beautiful, though crowded, national parks and time spent at nifty, vintage rest stops that had stood under the Montana sun, seeing ever fewer people since the 1960s. I also saw the colossal mess of the oil boom in North Dakota where buildings lay strewn across the countryside and the horse heads of the jackpumps incessantly peak over the top of the buttes that until ten years ago had been empty and quiet. The shale operations must have been set farther back from US 2, but the industry made its presence known easily enough. My move to Oregon for law school to study environmental law, including land use law, gave me an opportunity to see all that was right and wrong with the way we allocate and utilize land in America.

In a bid to find better rent and a reasonable job, I came to Eugene about two months before the orientation begins at the University of Oregon law school. I found the better rent, a cozy and quiet one bedroom apartment a few blocks from downtown, but the job has been troublesome. When did employers suddenly start looking more for full-time employees than part-time? I don’t know, but part-time work that pays enough is difficult to find, especially given the cost of law school. I did however find a job. After a few weeks going through the interview process, teaching a demonstration lesson, and putting a lot of effort into writing well-formulated emails someone would read only once and forget, I was offered a job as a German teacher at a charter school about fifteen minutes from where I live. I was ecstatic at the idea, but a quick trip to the registrar’s office at the law school has put the breaks on any hopes of working in the next year, let alone as a German teacher every morning. So, while the job search was frustrating, annoying, and ultimately gratifying, I have found I will not have the time to work this year after all.

This new freedom, not having to look for a job, and instead living very frugally for a year, has given me an opportunity to reconsider my future plans. A concurrent JD/PhD in philosophy was my plan for about a year, before I decided I was only going to do a PhD, then decided, no, I was going to do only the JD. Now that I’ve spoken with people at the law school, and considered other options, as well as that fact that I really enjoyed teaching during the interview process for the German teaching job, I am again reconsidering the concurrent degree.

It is now early July. The sun shines brightly in the Willamette Valley, and the rains I’ve been promised for the fall and winter seem to be keeping to their seasonal borders. The sky is a beautiful blue and the winds are just a little too weak to cool my second floor apartment that has no air-conditioning. It is still another month before law school begins and I can delve into the depths of things like civil procedure, contracts, and torts. I’m looking forward to it, and in the meantime, I am working on rewriting and producing a polished paper on the nature of determinism and morality. It’s fun. It seems the whimper comes before the bang for me.

To close, I send my sincere wishes to my fellow alumni, both recent and not, that your summers are going as well, or better, than my own, and I thank you all for your attention and interest.

Nathan Held ’14

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