October 5, 2010
What's love got to do with it?
When I was in law school, I had a love affair with the study of law. However, I had a love-hate relationship at times with law school itself. Law school was daunting on occasion when juggled with two part-time jobs, student organization responsibilities, and financial concerns.
I was lucky to attend a law school where the professors and deans really cared about their law students and their learning so the environment was more humane than many institutions during the 80's and 90's. Their enthusiasm for the law and encouragement helped to keep things in perspective for me. And if I started feeling sorry for myself, I plunged into some community service in my town to remind myself that my life was really good in comparison to the struggles many people faced on a daily basis.
Sometimes law students will confide in me that they love studying the law and/or law school. They often will end these declarations with "Don't tell anyone." They are embarrassed to admit they can love something that is challenging, exasperating, exciting, and fulfilling when others seem to dislike the experience. They fear that other law students will laugh at them or consider them strange.
Mind you these same law students will have bad weeks when they get a bit overwhelmed and lose confidence in their abilities. But the underlying love affair with the law will get them through those times. As long as they can keep focused on the bigger picture, they will prosper.
Some law students, however, are consistently miserable during law school. Perhaps they are here because of a bad economy, parent expectations, or a misconception as to what law school and the legal profession entail. In some cases, their self-esteem has been knocked hard as they get grades lower than any in their prior experience. Often these students will tell me that they are going to stick it out because "they started it" or "they don't know what else to do" or "they will be failures if they leave."
My heart aches for these students because it is so difficult to continue something in life that has become pure drudgery. A few students are able to turn around the situation once they learn better study habits. As they become less overwhelmed, they are able to capture the love of the law that they missed sight of before. But for others, the misery goes unabated.
There are times when we learn more about ourselves and our goals in life from what does not work out than from what does. Personally, I think we all deserve to love our life's work. There is no shame in saying that a graduate program or a job is not a good match. It takes courage to walk away when the love is gone from our work or study, but it can be the wiser choice.
I wish that all of my students might have a love affair with the law. I hope that they will have more "love days" than "hate days" during law school. And if the law is not the best match, I hope they will have the courage to seek out the alternative path that will give them happiness in their work and lives. And, I hope that they will come talk about their struggles. As ASP'ers we can often serve best by listening. (Amy Jarmon)
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