Two days into my last semester of law school and I already have an exam (tonight), loads of reading in books that haven’t arrived yet (despite ordering them back in December), and an anxiety level of a 10/10.
Before I delve into why I’m stressed, I’d like to point out that in spite of everything going on, stress is something we can choose to give power over us. Something stresses you out because you care. If you didn’t, it wouldn’t bother you. It’s that simple.
That being said, I’ve yet to master the Buddha-level zen, so stupid shit that I shouldn’t let bother me still does, and then my body digests that stress into symptoms (like panic attacks, anxiety, GI distress, hives, etc.). So if you’re upset at yourself for getting upset at things you wish you wouldn’t, you’re not alone. Just know that learning to cope with stress is a process that’s learned over time.
I thought this semester would be easier – after all, I’ve done it five times before (law school is typically six semesters). This is also the first semester, other than my very first semester of law school, that I’m not dually enrolled in another graduate program.
The rest of my time in law school has been spent 50% law school, 50% doing one of two masters programs (both of which I started and finished between semesters two and five of law school)… so you’d think just doing one program would be less stressful?
I’d interrupt this with a snarky comment about being an over-achiever, because lots of people like to point it out as such, but the reality is my first semester of law school was extremely difficult. Classes were substantively hard. It was difficult to make friends because everyone was obsessed with outperforming everyone else academically. The classes were long (some, upwards of 2+ hours per class). All in all, it was a major adjustment and I wasn’t sure if it was the path I wanted to pursue after bombing my first Civil Procedure midterm…so I looked into other career paths and the degrees I’d need to pursue to get there.
Needless to say, I stuck it out…longer than most, as I took a year out between 1L and 2L; so by the time I graduate, it’ll be four years since I first started the JD program.
So, why’s it stressful? Well, I should note that the bulk of my complaints wouldn’t be much of an issue if I was the spry 20-something I was before I got sick. These days, I’m more preoccupied with making sure I can sit close to an exit (for impromptu GI distress), have room for my service dog to lay down (another broken person problem), and can minimize stress at every opportunity possible (not specific to having a disability, but this awareness is heightened when an ounce of stress can result in a week of symptoms).
The bulk of the courses I’m taking this semester are geared towards preparing for the Bar exam. It’s a dreaded test by lawyers and law students alike, but apparently a necessary evil to indicate competence to practice the law. That being said, I’m taking a class that focuses specifically on the multiple choice portion of the test.
The syllabus of this class reads: “there will be no seating chart…seating is first come first served EVERY class.” To anyone else, this wouldn’t be a big deal. BUT, in 99.9% of my other law school classes, we’ve had seating charts for ABA (American Bar Association) attendance requirements (so why is this one special?). Also, it’s kinda hard to navigate to a different seat every class if you need to be close to the bathroom at a moment’s notice (raises hand) and/or have a service dog that isn’t the size of a purse dog and needs a little space to lay down (but we’ve also done the “squeeze under my chair” thing and he wasn’t a fan of that for the short time we had to do that).
On top of the topsy turvy sitting situation, this class is also over-enrolled…so you’ve got 130+ people vying for 100-ish seats. Those that aren’t #blessed enough to get a seat because they a) work and have to drive to campus right before class, or b) have class right before and can’t stalk a seat an hour ahead of time, or c) dgaf (don’t give a fuck) about dealing with crowds and pushy type-A classmates (because, let’s be honest, you’ve got to have a smidge of it to want to put yourself through the physical and mental torture that is law school)…you’re shit out of luck and have to sit in a room where the class is played on a tv. But don’t worry, you’ll never be called on (and subsequently can’t ask a question), because the professor doesn’t care who’s in that “overflow” room.
OH, and did I mention we have an exam on the second day of class? Yep. It’s delightful.
One more thing, to be able to enjoy all of the accoutrements of this class, students like myself are paying the low, low price of $12.5k in tuition. Seems reasonable, right? Even though you’re “in” the class, you might be punted to a different room, forced to observe the class on a tiny monitor, without the ability to ask the professor any questions. I, and so many of my classmates already feel like this class and the way it’s set up is designed to stress students out (because there’s nothing worse than hustling to get to class, only to not find a seat..or worse, get a seat in a different room, have a question that you’d like answered, and you can’t because you couldn’t get a seat in the regular room).
The point of all of this isn’t to point out the administrative flaws of a law school. Instead, it’s to show that these are things that I probably wouldn’t have found stressful if I didn’t have to deal with a gaggle of health issues every single day, but because I do, they stick out like a sore thumb. Each of these are things I could (and have) stressed about in the last 48 hours, but at the end of the day, what does stressing get me? Nothing but a pile of shit (GI joke) and no tangible resolution.
SO, these are the resolutions I came up with to deal with everything:
- No seating chart, no problem. Ask the administration to help me out with a seat for my dog and I…or just go to the overflow room. If I have a question, I can always write it down and ask via email or office hours.
- No need to worry about stressing over seats other people have reserved/want… either arrive early or see #1 and go to the room that’ll likely have less coveted seating.
- The first exam is just a benchmark exam, so not worth stressing over. My skills are what they are and I can’t improve them by much over a night or two.
- Tuition is what it is – after all the schooling I’ve done, I’ve learned education comes with a hefty price tag, and you either pay it and shut up, or don’t enroll in the program. At this point, it’s not worth quibbling over.
All in all, this post, like so many others on here, is a way for me to tease out frustrations and stress to better regulate my own sanity. I hope others find my words helpful if you’re in a similar (or maybe totally different) situation. Stress is 100% caused by giving a shit, and if you’re not down with that, come up with a solution to resolve your perception of the stress or stop caring about it.
I know, easier said than done, but I know it’s possible because instead of worrying every class about finding a seat, I emailed the school and told them how the situation would affect my health. They promptly got back to me with a variety of solutions – but I wouldn’t have had that if I hadn’t spoken up.
Well, that’s all the wisdom I’ve got this morning.