Last Thursday afternoon, amidst a flurry of tears, I made the difficult decision to withdraw from law school. I wrote on the paperwork that I’d only be gone a year. Right now, that’s my plan. I had spent nearly the whole first week of my 2L year struggling with a furious cold of green snot and my stomach issues had resurged after nearly a whole week of no puking. However, once the stress started to set in, so did the indigestion and projectile vomiting.
The triggering event that prompted my departure was an exam conflict in December. Two of my classes had final exams that were less than 12 hours apart. It seemed near impossible to ask me to take an exam from mid-afternoon one day, until 9pm…and then a second exam from early morning to mid afternoon the next day. I asked for an accommodation and the law school told me to drop one of the conflicting classes. Okay, after a week of going to this class and ordering books and making it work in my schedule, now I’m going to drop it, be several units short, and somehow find something else to take that I was moderately interested in taking.
Needless to say this change brought about my worries for the semester and whether or not I would be able to cope. My stomach problems were coming back, the coursework looked unforgiving, and my body was giving up. I met with the health center on campus and was assured some changes could be arranged for my finals, but maybe not. I called my mom and bawled on the phone at the idea of putting my health before my anticipated graduation date in two years. After much thought, I decided to put the next year to work creating a regime where I can get healthy and robustly bounce through my 2 and 3L years successfully.
I timidly walked up to one of professors I had worked closely with since I became sick and burst into a flood of tears when I told her I’d be leaving. She asked if it was just over the exam conflict and assured me it could be fixed. When I told her I was so sick, even getting to school was difficult, and staying in classes was painful, she understood. I assured her I would be back and she told me “of course, now go get better!”
Feeling more confident, I walked into the dean’s office and was greeted by the director of student affairs…clad in just shorts and a tank top. Caught off-guard by her casual appearance (normally she wears a suit), I asked for the forms to take a leave of absence. She informed me that I could still graduate on time and could think my decision over. As she handed me the paperwork, I asked for a pen. Surprised, she asked if I was sure, and I was-if I didn’t do it now, I’d ponder it over until I went crazy…so I committed to my decision.
Surprisingly enough, the form was very simple. Name, non-school email, phone, and anticipated new graduation date. The school would (apparently) reach out each term I am gone to ask about my current plans on returning, and I would plan accordingly. Perhaps if I had been withdrawing permanently, confetti and ballerinas would have appeared. Alas, I quietly walked out of the office as swiftly as I had come in.
Moments, literally moments before I signed the paperwork, I received a phone call from the masters program I’m in that I’d been approved to take one more additional course this term. I had asked about this possibility when I considered taking a leave, as I didn’t want to be without any kind of educational structure for the coming year. Now, I’ll finish the masters degree in the spring with plenty of time to prepare for restarting 2L.
Now, I have 365ish days (unless I take law school summer school, which I might to accrue extra units), to strengthen my heart, my morale, and my stomach. I know I can’t make these changes overnight, but I also know that I couldn’t have gone on with law school in the condition that I am now.
So for now, schooling will be via computer while I’m still getting sick so frequently. I hope to build up the strength to finish everything I’ve started, but not all at once. I probably shouldn’t have started law school last summer, as sick as I was…but I wasn’t ready to take the “plunge” and ask for help. This year I did, and now I’ve spent the last weekend and the upcoming weeks clearing out my beautiful apartment to move home and be closer to all of my doctors appointments and treatments.
Growing up is hard to do (pretty sure that’s a song), but I’m finding that there is strength to be found in the most harrowing of choices. Sometimes the best choice isn’t always the easiest to make.
Spoonie Adventures in Books, Beauty, & Bullshit
I'm a twenty-something year old recent law and business school grad living with a chronic health condition. Follow along on my shenanigans.