At the end of my first semester of law school, I did an update about how law school was going, but I never did a second-semester update! So, today I wanted to share with you a review of my 1L year in its entirety. But before I share with you the year, I want to share a little before the year even started. My best college friends and I took a trip to Lake Tahoe before we all went our separate ways (I moved to Virginia, one moved to Boston, and the other went to the East Bay to attend Santa Clara Law). While on the trip, my friend, Evelyn, who you may remember from my law school spotlight series, asked me if I was nervous. Of course, she meant for law school because all we had heard about it from SMC alums and other law students we knew was that law school was hard. We’d seen The Paper Chase, and we’d heard the stories of classmates who suddenly drop out because they have mental breakdowns. Of course, despite all of this, we still had a little doubt. We’d been successful thus far, how could law school be different? Well, it was different.
As I outlined in December ‘16, 1L fall semester was rough. I struggled a lot. There’s really no other way to put it. I am not someone who falls apart or doesn’t know how to study. However, I think I let too many voices dictate how I worked. I tried to listen to too much advice, and I lost my self-confidence and drive. I worked as hard as I could, but I was having health issues from all the stress and I was extremely homesick. The word “transfer” was popping into my head on almost a daily basis. I called my sister and my mom crying almost daily. It was a little embarrassing, especially because I am the one who always has it together. The things that kept me going? My family’s confidence in me, my group chat with my two best college friends [mentioned above] and having supportive roommates, who despite not knowing me very long, tried their best to accommodate my horrible mood swings, constant illnesses, and random crying. Now, not everyone struggles with law school the way I did. Some people totally flourish. However, I was not one of them. I think the combination of various factors [the already listed homesickness, sickness, and debilitating self-doubt] really killed my first semester. I’m not making excuses for anything, I’m just trying to be honest that I was very sure law school was right for me in August ‘16 and very unsure it was for me in December.
Then came Christmas break. I finally got to hug my parents and see my sister and brother-in-law, and all the stress and unhappiness melted away. That sounds cheesy, and maybe it was, but I was happy. For the first time in months. I spent three wonderful weeks at home, and by the end, I felt sort of ready for another semester. When I landed in Virginia, I entered a new mentality: I’ve been successful, I know myself, and I’m going to trust myself. You could say I entered the second semester with the mentality Elle Woods has after Warner tells her she isn’t smart enough.
Right after Christmas, I started heavily applying for summer jobs, and I got one fairly early in the process, doing what I wanted to do for my first summer in law school, and it was in my hometown [what what?!]. That was a confidence boost because someone, an employer[!], saw something in me, and felt I could do legal work. I also started studying the way I always had and even more. I worked from 7 or 8 am to 8 or 9 pm every day. I also studied on weekends [Friday afternoons became my most productive time, just as they had been in college while I waited for my friends to get off work]. I started working out, which became a huge stress reliever. I felt less homesick, and I found my footing in Williamsburg. For the first time, the little Colonial hamlet felt like home. The semester flew by, and I wasn’t as stressed while it passed, I was feeling confident in the subject matter, and for the first time I felt like I was going to make it.
Now, the second semester had a few hiccups. I still had trouble finding my niche of friends. I had a horrific cold call in my constitutional law class. However, with each week, I started figuring it out. I took better notes for Con law, and I started saying no to things I didn’t want to do and saying yes to the things I did. There may have been a night where I was crying into my roommate’s shoulder, eating birthday cake from the pan. But that was the only night I just flat out cried and it was because of the dumbest thing, so that’s definitely an improvement!
I studied so hard and tried to ignore when self-doubt inevitably crept in. I stopped talking to people who made me feel less than, and I enjoyed study dates with people who complemented my study habits. Then grades came and they were higher, and I was so happy. I also made a law journal [more to come later]! After trying for three different law school organizations/leadership positions and being denied, finally getting to be part of something made me feel like myself again. That may sound odd, but I just wasn’t used to not having some sort of involvement. In college, I was so involved, that not having anything other than membership in clubs felt so foreign. I think that’s maybe the biggest adjustment in law school: learning to feel like you’re sleepwalking through someone else’s life. By this, I simply mean, if you aren’t one of the people who immediately adjusts to law school, you may feel disconnected or like you chose the wrong path. However, if you stick with it and trust yourself, you’ll succeed.
I felt so distant from who I was in May 2016 that I was struggling to be me. But somewhere in January, I decided to listen to myself, and only take on good while pushing out bad. It was a game changer mentality to have. By June, I had so much more confidence and felt like I can definitely do law school. So, while 1L was sort of terrible for half of it and pretty good for the rest of it, I am excited for 2L. I feel much more equipped to handle law school, and I have a better outlook on how to balance social and academic responsibilities.