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Living, Coping, Improving / Fools Against Depression
|Subject: Check-in - some positive thoughts (VERY LONG)||Date: 1/26/2003 11:58 AM|
|Author: HoosierDeb||Number: 6054 of 15011|
Hi all, I'm back with a new name. Those of you who know me on other boards, I was lessob and now I'm HoosierDeb.
Feels like a much more fitting name (especially since the other was very much associated with my ex-hub).
These last two weeks have been a roller-coaster. Without meaning to, I was crying on the phone with my parents nearly every night, until about Wednesday of this week.
A lot of this had to do with my law school grades, which just came back.
I am finally able to say what they are, and not flinch too much. For those of you who were anal overachievers in school, you will understand how bad grades can put you in bed for a time.
I was an "A" student all through school. I got a "C" one semester in sophomore-year Chemistry, which would have destroyed me if I hadn't known that the teacher was an idiot who coached football on the side and made sure to help the football players and cheerleaders, but told everyone else who struggled that they were just "dumb."
College was not a breeze, but I did very well - kept a 3.9 in my major, and a 3.8 overall. I studied abroad at Oxford for a semester where I earned A's.
I chose a 2nd tier law school, even though I could get into a 1st tier school. I did this for financial and academic reasons. I got a full ride at my school, and I figured that at a top school, I might "only" be in the middle of the class, whereas at a "lower" school, I would be at the top somewhat. I was resigned to the fact that in law school, I might only be able to pull of a 3.5, and that was okay. I had to "prepare" myself for that inevitability. I thought I would do better than that, but was willing to put the pieces back together if it came to a "low" GPA like that.
Which is why, when my grades came back as follows:
Legal Writing: B
Civil Procedure: C
I thought, momentarily (okay, a two-week moment) that my life was over.
I am now a law student with a 2.8. I have to get that up to a 3.2 by the end of the year to keep my full scholarship.
Some side-effects of this stress: (and I know that my life could be worse; lecture me if you want about how horrible my life could be, and tell me to stop whining, but it doesn't change the fact that I am struggling with this emotionally)
- for the first time in my life, nightmares about exams and papers: being late/unprepared for exams; my legal writing professor laughing maniacally at me for not turning my completed paper in until a day later because I forgot
- very low self-worth, deeper depression than usual
- inability to concentrate on this semester's workload
A few notes about grades and self-worth:
- I was paid for "A's" as a kid
- I was the youngest in my family, and labeled early on "the smart one"
- I got a lot of attention and praise from teachers, all throughout, even in college
- I went to a college where the professors were available, and very close to me. Affirmation of my work was constant, even at Oxford. One-on-one feedback was a regular occurrence.
- I was the first in my family to go to college.
- My social structure is composed of people to whom education is "everything."
Does it surprise you then, that my self-worth is so closely correlated with my performance in school?
To combat these feelings, I took a few steps back. Over the last two weeks, I have done the following:
- re-assessed my goals in life
- re-assessed my reasons for being in law school (to help people who can't help themselves)
- examined why the grades were so important to me
- visited the Office of Professional Development at my school to talk about pro-bono and public interest jobs for the summer (something I had been leaning away from throughout the first semester for reasons I'll talk about in a minute)
- called my boyfriend's sister to ask for some therapeutic relief in the form of borrowing her dog
- created a new, less-strenuous study schedule with breaks and time for my own enjoyment figured in
- talked to some professors about how to do better on this semester's exams (there is no way that I could study more than I did last semester)
- I stopped freaking out about the possibility of losing my scholarship.
Here were some results of these actions:
- I remembered that in life, I want to do "good" in the world, which is not the same as doing "well" in school, or doing "well" by others' standards.
- I remembered why I wanted to go to law school in the first place. I decided on my own to go to law school, because I was frustrated by the lack of help immigrants were getting in their legal affairs; I was frustrated by the cost of legal services, and by the insane amount of knowledge INS expects every immigrant and non-immigrant to understand (even though most are still struggling with English, they are supposed to know all the Federal Code pertaining to people in their situation); I was frustrated by the trouble low-income people get into with consumer credit and ignorance of their rights; a lot of social injustices that I have wanted to fight my whole life became problems that I might actually be able to do something about with a law degree.
MOST IMPORTANT REALIZATION THIS WEEK:
My reasons for going to law school were different than the reasons people around me were trying to project onto me. In other words, my parents thought I just wanted to make a lot of money. My boyfriend thought I just wanted a high-powered, prestigious job. My other family members just thought I was trying to continue with what they consider my "high-and-mighty" use of my smarts. They all thought I was out to prove something, and/or make a ton of money.
Most people I care about (my family and friends) have a very limited idea of what a lawyer is and does . I let that get in the way this semester. I became infected with their projections, and began to consider working for a big firm, making a load of money this summer (do you KNOW how much a stupid corporate firm will pay a little 1L intern for the summer, if you have good grades? it's an insanely large amount of money.)
I got infected with that, and I kept that 3.5 idea in mind, AND I got infected with the competitive spirit at my school. The cockiness at law school is a sight to see. There are some real a$$holes who are out to make as much money as they can by doing whatever they can to people. And then there are some amazingly good-hearted people who want to see society improve overall. I came in with the latter attitude, and I allowed the viruses associated with the field of law get in the way.
- When I decided to stop trying to impress my boyfriend and live up to his "image" of me as a lawyer, and stopped trying to fit into my parents' and family members' views, I got excited again. The last semester had become a real drag - I had forgotten why I was excited to become a lawyer. Last week, I attended an "Equal Justice Works" meeting, and paid my dues. I signed up for a pro-bono opportunity in February, mentoring high-school kids in a thing called "Teen Court." I got in touch with the Property professors to get some ideas for work with tenants rights in Chicago this summer, affordable housing and urban development associations. I bid for interviews with employers at the Public Interest Law Career Fair in Chicago in a couple of weeks.
- Grades are important, but they are not more important than my ultimate goal. If I am doing this for the right reasons, my grades will come along, and if they don't, it only shows that I am not good at taking a 4-hour written exam. It doesn't mean that I can't help people.
- I decided to get away from the law school and its toxic atmosphere regularly: my boyfriend's sister has the sweetest dog that never gets enough exercise. She and I made a deal that I will at least once a week take the dog for a run at the dog park. I can't have my own pet because of my apartment regulations. I LOVE playing with Sara's dog.
- My study schedule now includes regular breaks, regardless of where I am in studying. These breaks include getting away from the school; going to eat with friends, taking a jog, watching a movie, etc. Keeping things in perspective, in other words.
- All my professors have emphasized the idea that your first semester grades do not define you. They reinforced some of my own thoughts I have just mentioned, and told me a few things I could do to improve this semester.
- The scholarship is important. But if I lose it, it isn't the end of the world. I'm not quitting law school. I will have to take more loans, but I won't be the only person in this world with high student loans. The rest of my spending and debt is under control, so it is not as earth-shattering as I had let myself believe.
Anyway - I could go on about this, but it's time for me to go study. :)
The point is, I feel much better after these assessments. If anyone else is in school or will be, my advice is to 1) know why you're doing it, and 2) keep things in perspective.
Sorry this is so long.
Thanks for letting me vent/explain.
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