It’s true, without pressure you can’t make a diamond. This is one of my favorite quotes, often attributed to Thomas Carlyle, a Scottish philosopher and writer. So when do you know there’s too much pressure in your life?
We’re nearly a month into 2018 and I think it’s a good time to pause and reflect on the trajectory of the year thus far. For me, my last semester in law school is proving to be much more difficult than I had anticipated. My classes are more demanding than they promised to be. My schedule’s packed from the early morning until late at night. Sometimes I find myself forgetting to eat or to stop working so I can have a decent amount of sleep.
I should preface that I never though my last semester would be easy, but after five semesters, you’d think I’d have a hang of it by now. Nope, not at all.
If anyone ever suggests law school is a “good idea,” please don’t take their suggestion at face value. Yes, in theory, getting to spend three solid years of learning the law in a socratic environment with like-minded spitfires is wonderful. But what people don’t (or hardly ever) disclose is law school (or anything in life) is a great deal based on the amount of pressure you put on yourself.
Yes, there are deadlines and assignments and tests and whatnot. But beyond the academic semantics, you’ll only get out of it what you put in. It took me a good year into law school to figure this out. I spent 1L overworking myself into a tizzy until I realized everyone that works hard doesn’t get an “A.” Law school, like many competitive academic programs, cuts off how many people can get “A’s” in a class by using a model called a “bell curve.” Some people get A’s, many get B’s, and some have to get C’s. The grades are evenly distributed along this continuum, and in some classes I’ve taken, the difference between an A and a B is one-tenth of a point.
Talk about pressure.
So once you realize you can study all you want and still not get the grade you “earned” (compared to other graduate programs where there is no limit on how many A’s or B’s…if you get X amount of points, you get X grade), I think the pressure starts to lessen. Or at least it has for me, so naturally I’ve redistributed it elsewhere.
If I’m not stressed about school, then I should be applying more pressure to my personal life, my appearance, my goals, etc. At least that’s what I’ve always thought (& done). It’s only been in the last few days that I’ve come to a realization this is so unhealthy. I don’t need to be super stressed out in one part of my life just because I’ve eased up stressing somewhere else.
Case and point, family. You can either overthink everything they do and take it personally, or you can chalk it up to “that’s just what they do” and maybe ask in a non-confrontational way why they did something that upset you. I realize the only person I can change and improve upon is myself, but it drives me up the wall when people act so counterintuitively, I can’t even fathom why they acted the way they did.
I had a great conversation with my guy the other day about this and pet peeves we’ve developed about one another over the years. I had no idea certain things I did bothered him so much. Inversely, some things I thought for sure pissed him off were non-events.
I was applying pressure on myself for things that he didn’t care about and now I’m redirecting that attention to things that do bother him (& will be making a concerted effort to not do them anymore). If we’re being realistic, I’ll probably cut down the annoying habits by 80%, but that’s better than 0% improvement!
This month has really given me an opportunity to ruminate on where I’m at in life and what I want to do next. For the first time in many years, I’m not enrolling in an academic program. This is the first time in, well, probably my whole life that I won’t be having another “first day of school” moment. Not that that’s a bad thing, but for me, that’s how I’ve always focused my attention. School has set expectations and requirements, so what do you do when that framework is no longer applicable?
It’s a strange transition period and I think that’s why I’ve felt so overwhelmed. I want to soak up all the good bits of finish law school, but that’s hard to fathom with the state bar exam looming shortly after graduation. I know it’s going to be a rigorous summer of studying eight to ten hours a day, but it’s not forever.
I like to think that the quote “no pressure, no diamonds” indicates something good will come out of all the pressure, eventually. That’s how I’m framing these next seven or so months until the bar exam. I’m going to make a more concerted effort to take these reflective moments. I’m going to try to practice more self-care and self-love, because I’m coming to find too often we short-change ourselves of that positivity and that’s how we become overwhelmed by all the other pressures in our lives.
How do you maintain balance when your life feels like it’s becoming unbalanced from all the pressure? What do you do to decompress and stay sane?