[untitled poem about summer clerkships] by David Knobel

David Knobel is an Honours candidate at the University of the Sunshine Coast, and a planning, resources and native title law clerk at p&e Law


We are the new leaders
Constantly told we’re world beaters
So consumed in our narcissism
We won’t let anything defeat us
Or beat us down.

But the downside of staring at our own reflections
Is that rejection becomes much harder to take
When we vale our values in grades
We measure our success
With marks on a page
Or gauge our futures with a calculation
Of our GPAs.

We stay silent
When our friends ask if we passed
Cause even though that pass in the past
We’re concerned they will surpass us
On our path.

We pursue extra-curricular activities
So that we can add them to our CVs
And when we network
We talk about what we do
And what we’ve achieved
Not who we are or what we believe.

We manage our anxieties with medicine
Suppress our fear
And caress our expectations
Like they’re an old friend
“I think I can, I think I can, I think can.”

And then darkness.

When the letter comes and it’s distressful
“We’re sorry but your application was unsuccessful
We had hundreds of applicants that were all excellent
We can’t give you any feedback
Cause we haven’t got time for that.”

It’s at that time we take a step back
We tell ourselves
“I may mourn this lost opportunity
But I will not let it consume me.”

We take a healthy dose of humility
Remind ourselves that fragility makes us human
And, oh man, though they hurt
Rejections are just lessons in fearlessness
And unless we let them
They do not define us.

And neither do our finals.

And yes, it’s true
We shouldn’t rest for second best
And yeah, we should expect respect
For great results that reflect
Hard work, aptitude and intellect
But unless I’m mistaken
Our education is much more than just marks on a page.

So even if it’s a 4 or a 7
A 54 or a 97
These grades are just pieces
Of the people we portray.

All they say is
How well we met some criteria for a test
And how inferior
Our criteria for success actually are.

They say nothing
About the battles we faced to get here
Or the demons we slayed to get here
Or the friends we made to get here
Or the dreams we made to get here.

So if we view our lives through the prism
Of another person’s success
Or live for another person’s respect
Or live with another person’s expectations
Without patience
Or a gracious acceptance of our own limitations
We are seeking an imitation of greatness.

Because greatness is only great
If we are gracious and grateful.

Our education is a privilege.

If we demand dedication and diligence
We won’t die as dilettantes
But don’t die with illegitimate
Derivative dreams either
Because they limit us.

So once our dreams are limitless
And our paths out ahead of us
Anticipate the hurdles
But, just remember that, sometimes
Even the greatest hurdlers fall
But that doesn’t make them any less great.

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