Wednesday, May 13, 2015

1L: lessons learned

My first year of law school, wow, it's over. It's amazing to me how swiftly this time flew by, especially compared to last year, but it's disheartening when I remember I still have two years to go before I can get in the trenches with clients. I love school, school is great, but it's intriguing to feel a new pull on my heart, a desire to do something other than sit in a classroom.

As with any academic endeavor, the whole point is learn stuff. And I've learned a lot about the law and our judicial system and how exactly the USA has gotten to where it is today, but I've also learned some personal things. I have made note of them here, in hopes that my own lessons may serve as perspective for you in learning yours.

  • I learned that I don't adjust to new things as well as I thought I did. Adjustment takes time. Maybe more time for me than the average person. But it is what it is. Being depressed that I require time to settle into things does not make time tick by faster. 
  • You have to be okay with sounding like an idiot when you talk in class. And so what if everyone thinks you're an idiot? I am constantly being surprised by classmates I thought had empty heads but are actual leagues smarter than me. So either I am actually an idiot, or sooner or later people will figure out I'm not the airhead I seem to be. 
  • And to dovetail with that, there is nothing wrong with being an idiot! So you're not smart, fine. Being smart does not make you a better person. Being uneducated or even being ignorant doesn't mean you have committed a moral wrong that you deserve to be punished for. There is an aura of intellectual elitism that pervades Boston, because to be fair, education is a huge industry here! But there's an unspoken assumption that education makes people better people. I have a coworker or two who openly mock rednecks and think that the southern accent is uneducated. To be honest, I used to be that person. I'm trying not to be anymore. 
  • I usually think of my year in Kazakhstan as ruining me; when I came back to the USA I was a basket case and this year being back has been THE HARDEST year of my life so far. But I don't give KZ enough credit for preparing me for life in Boston. In KZ I learned how to cook, go food shopping, take care of a leaking sink, teach English, live with another person, survive the cold and snow. All those things have benefited me enormously this past year. 
  • ATFQ. Or if you don't know the answer, don't say anything. Word vomiting all the information you know is not what gets you a good grade. Answering the question does. Because that's what lawyers do. And even though the answer is usually "it depends", that's what keeps you in bread and butter. This has become my new life philosophy. 
  • There are a lot of political philosophies out there, all of which spitball about the best way to structure a government. And I used to be a big proponent of limited government, balancing federal power with state power and limiting judicial review (or, I think we called it, judicial activism.) I joke that I'm a liberal now, but what it really mean is, I'm less worried about our nation going to crap. It's not the structure of our government that keeps us from turning into whatever country is spinning a global cautionary tale, it's the daily actions of the people who govern us. That's why voting's important, y'all. (I'm glad there are people who care about politics. I want them to keep caring. I want liberals and conservatives to keep fighting, because between the two extremes reality eventually falls in the middle.)
  • If you're sick, rest. It was Wednesday and I felt like a raisin stuck to the bottom of a boot that kept slapping the pavement. It was bleh. Thursday I climbed into bed and when I crawled out Monday morning I was healed. It was like magic. I never tried the whole resting thing cos I just didn't think it worked. Why rest when Theraflu and Dayquil exist? Rest because it works!
  • It's okay to need people. I am possibly allergic to asking people to do things for me. I can't cope with the feeling that I am inconveniencing someone by asking them to do me a favor. I feel icky that I'm somehow "using" others for my own personal gain. And yet, life is easier when you have people's help. The heart of the difference here is humility. I don't need people as pawns to reach my life's endgame. I need people because I flounder on my own, and sometimes those people are my endgame. I can't say I'm comfortable with this entirely, but I realize I need to get comfortable with it, which is a sizeable step for me.
  • Build community where you can. Without this it's really hard to flourish; the loneliness of this phase of life is robust. Still, I am realizing that despite my myriad character flaws, insecurities, and lack of social graces, I can still make community by being open to the people around me and initiating. Don't underestimate yourself. You can't force a life-giving community to flourish, but you can help construct little safe havens along the way.

I made a lot of mistakes this past year:

I didn't get plugged in with a spiritual community.
I didn't get involved with any school activities.
I didn't befriend any of my classmates.
I didn't handle my first ever relationship right.
I didn't go to my professor's office hours. (This still shocks me, because that was my hallowed MO in undergrad.)
I didn't send thank you notes after any interviews.
I ate too many peanut butter M&Ms!

But it all worked out because God is good. And that's it. I'm not good. But God is good. And grace means He gives me things I don't deserve, even when I muck it all up. That's hard for me to swallow. That doesn't seem fair, in fact, it isn't fair. But it's not about me, it's about a God whose goodness needs to be known and recognized by all. So all I can do is testify. I survived 1L. My God is good.

No comments: