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“I Am What I Am, and What I’m Not”

Jeremy Levesque / Tulane University, Boston College


The path that has led me to this essay, at this university, has been anything but easy. I am the son of a truck driver and a homemaker, and the day that I arrived at Tulane University as a terrified eighteen-year-old boy broke a tradition, or, perhaps more fittingly, a curse, that had clung to my forefathers’ backs since time immemorial. The particular line of Levesques whose very blood flows in my veins represents a fiercely loyal, hardworking tradition. Yet, it is a line of soldiers and carpenters, of men making a living with calloused hands and sweaty brows. It was with these vocations in mind that I entered the world, and I would’ve followed these paths were it not for the fact that my father wanted more for his son. On a blistering August afternoon in 2010, he and I together moved a Levesque into a college dorm room for the first time.

I feel that I represent a type of person who is few and far between. My soul has been nourished by a rigorous Catholic upbringing and education. My hands have been calloused by many a hard day’s work in the ancient art of carpentry. My mind has been sharpened by my education. My backbone has been straightened by the United States Army.

My story is one of perseverance, of carrying on when everything around me came undone. I have clawed and scratched my way through classes that students of my major are not supposed to take. Sometimes, I succeeded, and sometimes, I failed. But no matter the result, I regret nothing of these struggles, for they make me who I am today. We do not know who we really are until we have looked ourselves in the mirror and realized that despite our best efforts, we lost. Our best simply wasn’t good enough. Life is filled with these little battles, and it isn’t how we react when we win, but who we are when we lose, that defines us.

Looking back on my four years as an undergraduate, I recognize that those long nights on field training exercises in the Mississippi wilderness studying chemistry by the soft red glow of an Army flashlight gave me more than any letter on a transcript can possibly convey. I learned to fail, and I am stronger because of it. I am what I am, and what I am not.

The battles in the classroom could never prepare me for the trials I would face in August of 2011, however. On the 11th, I parted ways with my father as he made his way to work on his motorcycle. He waved, and in my heart I can’t remember if I did too. I awoke on the 12th to find out that my dad was never coming home. To use an old cliché, everything changed in the blink of an eye. I went to sleep a boy and woke up with the responsibilities of a man thrust into my hands. I wrote an obituary. I carried my father down the aisle of a church. I gave a eulogy. Less than a week after saying my final goodbyes, I was back at school. Family and friends told me I wasn’t ready, and to be completely honest, they were right. I was, for lack of a better description, completely broken. But, I knew it was then or never. That year, I found within myself more strength than I ever thought possible.

No matter what I face in my life, law school included, I will succeed. This is not to say that I’ll be without failure, however. I know that I’ll struggle, and at times my best just won’t be good enough. But this will not, and cannot, stop me. I will be the first Levesque, or O’Donnell, for that matter, to graduate from law school. And when I receive my diploma, I will do so with the knowledge that my father is smiling down on me with pride.