home           about           blog           archives           domain           exits           ask

The semester that was.

These last few months have definitely been the most difficult I've had so far. That's probably the biggest understatement of the year. I expected law school to be nothing like my undergrad, sure, but I did not realize how tough it would be on me, mentally, physically, and emotionally.

I started law school in a bad place. I just came from a break up literally a few days before school began, and I was feeling so insecure about myself (Am I not pretty enough? Not smart enough? etc etc). I realize now that that is the worst state to be in upon entering law school, because law school will do nothing but make you feel insecure about yourself. I had all these classmates who were cum laudes and magna cum laudes, who got into exchange student programs abroad, and who were active in their orgs and student politics. They all had something going for themselves, something that prepared them better for the study of law. Somehow, my background in literature just did not seem enough.

And on most days, it really wasn't. Just because I had a higher tolerance for lots of readings did not make things any easier for me. In fact, sometimes it just made things worse. When I read short stories or poetry for class, I took the time to take them all in: the characters, the plot, the setting. I tried to do the same for the cases - I tried conjuring up the stories in my head to make them interesting. It worked for the first few weeks. But the amount of cases just kept on piling up that I had no time to completely absorb everything. I had to resort to just skimming through them, or just reading the digests, or worse, skipping them altogether. It seemed like a bad idea, but on some days, I had no other choice.

The recitations took the most time to get used to. Aside from the initial oddness of having to stand up while you recite (something we never did in undergrad), what's worse about the recits is that you are always on the spot. And it almost usually is a one-shot deal. It's either you know the answer to the question or you don't. It's either you get it or you don't. It's either you read it or you didn't. Professors do not always give you a second chance, and even if they do, it does not take away the failure of your first one. The pressure is always there - in class, you never know when you're getting called and how long you're going to be reciting. Some profs ask just one case, while others let you recite for the entire period. It's tough, because professors usually give the highest percentage in the course grade for recits - and of course, no one wants to give a bad impression. But of course, that's bound to happen, sooner or later. It's just a matter of how well you can recover.

The exams, however, are a different creature altogether. I won't go into any more detail, because quite frankly, they really are just one-part MCQs and one-part essay. Nothing new there. But just to give you an idea of what we had to suffer for an entire week (and actually more, if you count the preparations): We only had one exam per day, but each exam lasted from 1:00 to 8:00 pm. Yep. Seven hours.

More than the recitations and exams though, it's the everyday grind that proved most difficult and exhausting. Every single night, we had to read cases and understand them down to the last detail. We had to give up meeting up with friends to prepare for class. At some point, we even had to give up social networking (yep, I deactivated my Facebook for a time), if only to be able to say that all our focus is on acads and acads alone. It was tough. There were days where I would just wake up in the wee hours of the morning, panicking because I spent precious time sleeping when I could have been reading. All my money went to readings. I had no time nor energy to deal with stuff other than law school. I couldn't afford to.

But at the same time, all I wanted to do was escape. For the most part of the semester, I found myself asking if I really wanted this. If this place was only making me miserable, beating up my ego every day and making me feel like the most stupid person I know, then is it worth it? Is it worth the trouble if I don't really enjoy it that much? I thought I wanted to be a lawyer for the longest time - but now that I got in, I started questioning if this was really something I saw myself doing for the rest of my life. I wanted so badly to just go back to the way things were - back when I was in CAL and literary criticism took up most of my time, back when I read and wrote about stories that interested me and that I actually liked. I wanted to feel affirmed and validated again, because every day, law school just found ways to make me question my faith in myself. Every single day.

My blockmates are the probably the biggest factors to the equation. I will never tire of saying how grateful I am to have been in Block D. I always thought that law school would be a highly competitive place, to the point that it will get unhealthy. And considering the number of intelligent people in our class, one would think there can be no room for friends. But the thing about our block is we never feel the need to compete with each other. At least I don't. In fact, it only encourages me to do better. More than that however, I'm glad that we can say we really are good friends. We just click. We get each other. It's the kind of comfort that one truly needs in law school. The amount of ego-bruising we have to go through everyday can only be healed by a certain degree of familiarity and togetherness - and I'm glad our block has that. I can say the same for my group of friends too. There are times where we spent almost all our waking hours together, to the point of clinginess, I guess. But it's comforting on so many levels to just have people who understand you completely, and who believe in what you are capable of. I could not imagine surviving law school without a solid, steady, support group.

Block D 2016 with our Persons prof, Atty. Kat Legarda


Now we're here, at the end of the semester, and I still can't say if I'm over all those insecurities. I probably never will be, not any time soon. (Waiting for the release of our grades isn't helping at all.) But, I guess, for all the difficulties that I've experienced in the last four months or so, I can truly, honestly say, that I did surprise myself quite a lot too. The fact that I've been so down and so depressed only made me realize how there's no other way to go but up. I challenged myself more than I ever did. I pushed myself to work harder. I convinced myself that I was still good enough and smart enough (and yeah, pretty enough, despite all the eyebags) - because I am still here, am I not? Despite all the anxiety and tension, I've managed to pull myself out of bed every single day. And maybe for now, that should be enough. I don't need to be good at it - I just need to feel that it's something that I can take on myself.

My mom was right. Law school may have knocked out the confidence in me, but it also gave me something to fight for. And perhaps this is just what I needed: a struggle not against anyone, but against myself. The first sem is only the beginning of four years of failure and stress. But I have to learn to believe again: that I can do it, that I can rise above this, that I am going to make it through. Even if it's only one day at a time.

First semester, I cannot be more glad that you are over. But I also cannot be more thankful. Here's to looking forward to the next one. (P.S. Please be kinder.)


Labels: ,