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Well, I waited until the last possible moment to do this blog post, I guess that’s part of who I am now? Ladies and gentlemen, it is the night before 3L starts and I am here to reflect (and cathartically close the door) on my 2L experience. It was a doozy. It was as if my Saturn Return came 2.5 years too early. Almost everything in my life completely imploded. I’m talking one thing after another after another. A metaphor I’ve used to describe it is this: it’s like, for my entire life, I’ve been able to “hang my hat” on certain things holding true. For the longest time, I hung my hat on being a “good student,” which mainly involved being a fairly intelligent child and adolescent who was really really good at following rules. This was where my self-esteem came from, and for a very long time, it worked. I performed above average without killing myself in the effort department, and especially during middle and high school, but also during college, I rooted nearly all of my self-worth in this quality. Then I came to law school and realized very quickly that I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was – or rather – that there were a lot of people out there in the world who were much smarter than me. I don’t mean this to talk down to myself, but rather to touch on what can be a very painful and jarring experience: to wake up to your sense of identity being rocked to the core.
My incessant efforts to get a summer job were met with a majority of crickets. I’m usually fairly good at having the “when God closes one door, he opens another” attitude, but sometimes when nearly every single door is closed in your face in almost all areas of your life, you start to wonder whether any open door even exists out there for you. There’s another quote that says “when God closes one door, he opens another – but it can be hell in the hallway.” The best way to describe 2L was that I was permanently stuck in that hellish hallway. It was profoundly isolating and exhausting. And it went on for months on end.
Oh, and as if that wasn’t enough, my personal life (both romantic and platonic) fell apart in a way that is honestly fitting for a screenplay. I won’t get into nitty gritty personal details here because this is not the space for that, but it was ridiculous to the point of hilarity. Everyone says that 1L is the worst year of law school, but I’m here to proclaim that, for me personally, 2L was the worst of the worst. So why am I writing this post? It’s not to make the two people who read my blog feel sorry for me (hi, Mom!), nor is because writing is my predominant source of catharsis, but truly it is,because there were profound spiritual lessons to be learned in the most painful year of my life.
I was listening to this podcast from 2015 while I meal prepped and ate dinner tonight, an interview with one of my absolute favorite writers, Jedidiah Jenkins. (Side bar: when I found out a few months back that he was a lawyer before becoming a writer, I nearly fell out of my seat! To say he is an inspiration to me would be the understatement of the century). Anyway, during the interview, he says:
“There are lessons universal to the human experience and the rules of the Universe that are exposed only through experience. The more things you do and try, the more lessons you can extrapolate from that.”
And this, my friends, is the basis on which I live my life. My spiritual or religious beliefs may ebb and flow, changing shape depending on the particular season of my life. My self esteem and sense of identity may ebb and flow, changing shape depending on the particular circumstances of my life. But the one thing that I always hold on to is this deep spiritual truth: that there are profound lessons to be learned even and especially from the painful experiences, the setbacks, the disappointments, and the heartbreaks of life. This is my religion. Maybe it’s because I’m a Sagittarius, but I have been on this spiritual quest of sorts to excavate the lessons from my pain since I was in college. I love to analyze and reflect and find patterns and get to the root of what something represents for me. This is who I am. When Jedidiah said how these lessons are only exposed through experience, it struck a chord. I took a chance a few years ago to go to law school, and exactly two years ago at this time, I was honestly a fetus. I thought that I understood life and myself and the world around me, and I understood maybe a fraction of a fraction of anything. I had the courage to listen to that still small voice inside that always wanted me to go to law school, and I can honestly say that I have never grown as much as a person as I have in these last two years. While 2L was particularly profound in the ‘pain transforming into growth’ department, 1L expanded my perceptions of myself and the world around me as well. And with that, instead of making this post a sad story of how life and people “did me wrong” during 2L, I present to you, my dear reader, the lessons stemming from the year in which my life was turned upside down:
- Rejection is God’s protection. I had a birthday birth chart reading with Dani Beinstein for my 25th Birthday in December, and she said this to me and I had somehow never heard the phrase before. Sometimes, it can take months (or even years) to realize why a particular door was closed to you, or why a rejection took place, but there is something beautiful about trusting that whatever rejection you are facing is God protecting you from something not meant for you. This quote by Tim Keller sums it up pretty well: “God will either give us what we ask for or give us what we would have asked if we knew everything He knows.” It’s easy to look back with relief at a door that was closed to you when the right thing seems to materialize shortly after a rejection, but in all honesty the longer it takes to rebound from seemingly never-ending rejections, the harder it is to have faith in this concept. However, it most definitely can be done – even in the face of incessant rejection. Another great mantra I love that touches on a similar concept is “trust the timing of your life.”
- You cannot earn someone’s love / Love is not a performative act. This was a HUGE and life-altering revelation that I had over the Pisces New Moon in March (don’t ask why I remember the when so specifically). For my entire life, I’ve subconsciously (and consciously) believed that if I were just somehow better or prettier, or able to follow a set of rules to a T, that I would then (finally) be worthy of love – that if I just worked harder, I would be loved. I am here to yell from the rooftops that this is a toxic and flawed way of thinking. Why did it take me until age 25 to realize this is the only question I have. The truth of the matter is that the right person for you, will love you just as you stand, without you having to fit into a little box of what you think will make them love you. It will be easy. There will be no second-guessing or questioning or posturing. I saw this quote on Twitter but I couldn’t find who originally posted it – but it hit home for me on the deepest level: “At your absolute best, you still won’t be won’t be good enough for the wrong person. At your absolute worst, you’ll still be good enough for the right person.” – Karen Salmansohn.
- Be very discerning when making new friends. I’m a pretty friendly person, and although I can be judgmental, I generally like to see the best in people when I first get to know them. Law school is a weird environment that everyone compares to high school (the rumors are true), and it can be easy to become friends with people who initially seem well-suited for you, only to find out later that your concepts of friendship are very different. The biggest lesson for me in 2L regarding friends was (1) to maintain strong ties with my true friends from outside law school – not only to remind ypourself of who you are outside of this experience, but to feel deep connection to people who truly see you and get you, (2) to take your time getting to know people in a new environment, and (3) to set boundaries if and when you realize that a friendship is toxic or unfulfilling for you on any level. I generally don’t like disappointing people, so setting boundaries is always a personal challenge, but for me, once trust is broken in a friendship, I’m out. I also learned that my first impressions are generally wrong. I used to consider myself pretty perceptive upon first meeting someone, but there’s something about the culture of law school that has thrown me off in this area. Either way, it’s important in life to be discerning when it comes to building connections with new people – this goes for platonic and romantic relationships alike.
I’m sure there are about 20 more lessons I learned during 2L, but those are my top three. There are so many other things that this year taught me that I’m choosing not to get into within this space, but I knew I wanted to do this post before the start of 3L so that I could look back and remember the year that everything fell apart, and the mosaic that I was able to build from the rubble. The mosaic contains the lessons above and countless other unnamed lessons, it contains too many tears to count (I’m talking crying-on-the-bathroom-floor-listening-to-Death-Cab tears), but it also contains a lot of laughter at the absurdity of it all, and most of all, it contains humanity. I thought I understood pain and suffering before this experience (and I am human and I do acknowledge the difficult seasons I’ve faced in the past – I’m not trying to downplay the painful years of middle school, high school, and parts of college), but boy is it funny to think that I understood life , suffering, or what pain really felt like before 2L.
It was ridiculous and hilarious and pretty much became slapstick comedy at a certain point (did I mention I gained 10 pounds and broke out in acne all along my jawline? hello second puberty! luckily I spent the summer working to balance my hormones and will continue to heal from that this Fall). It was ridiculous. It was horrifying. It felt like it would never end. But you know what? It made me human. It made me a more empathetic person as it opened my eyes to a fraction of what others must feel like when the walls seem to be closing in on them. It also think it made me funnier, and more humble, and more willing to freely proclaim how imperfect I am (all while remaining aware of my inherent worth despite those imperfections).
I’ve now come to the conclusion that it’s a right of passage for your entire life to fall apart at the seams at least once in your life. The only choice you have is whether you’ll sit and stew in the disappointment and pain, or constructively use it to grow and learn about yourself and the world around you. Glennon Doyle said something incredibly profound on Super Soul Sunday about pain that I really connected with:
“Pain is a traveling professor, and it goes and knocks on everyone’s door. And the smartest people I know are the ones who say ‘come in and don’t leave until you’ve taught me what I need to know.’”
How beautiful is that? It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. I think this is everyone’s job – it’s the absolute last thing any of us want to do – but I deeply believe it is the essential work of life. Throughout 2L, my phone background was a quote with five simple words: This is happening for you. I
wanted needed the daily reminder that life wasn’t happening to me, but for me – that every closed door and every bottom that fell out was supposed to close, supposed to fall. It was a daily reminder to somehow find the strength to be grateful in the midst of disappointment, rejection, and heartbreak. And as I sit here in my incredible apartment, my sanctuary, really, after having spent months healing, processing and releasing anger and grief and sadness both in this space and at home in New York this past summer, I am deeply grateful for the lessons that 2L taught me amidst the pain, but even more grateful for an official fresh start in 3L tomorrow. I’m hoping and praying that this year will be less of a doozy (and I have a good feeling that it will), but if and when that traveling professor knocks on my door (because I know he will, just maybe not as frequently), I’ll have a cup of tea waiting for him so that we can get right to the painful but worthwhile work of being human.