Monday, May 26

My 1L Year of Law School

Since I've been home, practically everyone I've talked to has asked me how my first year of law school went. Which I guess makes sense, since it is a very obvious question... and yet, I realized I hadn't talked about it! 

1st Semester
At first: 
At the beginning of the semester, I was so nervous and excited to start everything. It made me feel better that we were all basically in the same boat: scared out of our minds and wondering how law school really was. It literally took hours to do each reading assignment, and I couldn't find a case brief style I liked. But everything was new and excited and I was inspired and motivated to keep going.

Briefing cases got easier throughout the semester, but homework still took a really long time each night. It's hard to know how much you should be studying. You don't want to overwork yourself for no good reason, but you also want to get good grades. It was really hard to find a balance first semester.

It was also hard to figure out a good place to study. I like studying at home, but there wasn't much room on my desk. The kitchen table was a good size, but it was in a shared space and I didn't want to get in anyone's way. The kitchen chairs are also relatively hard, so it wasn't comfortable sitting there for an extended period of time. I didn't like going to the library to study, so I mostly just studied in my bed.

I was living with brand new people, and it always takes some adjusting to figure out a system and keep everyone happy. Taking care of and snuggling with James was the most relaxing thing for me. 

I made a few good friends at school, but since we were still separated in sections, it was hard to get to know people in the other section. I felt like people in my section had already made friendships, and it was hard for me to put myself out there and try to broaden my friendship circle because I was insecure and lonely. I really wanted close friends, but I was so stressed because of school and home stuff that it felt like there was no point.

It's not like I didn't have friends. I liked almost every single person in my class. UNH Law had some killer parties, like the Halloween party. I hung out with Abby a lot, and Stephanie and I went to Siam Orchid a lot for girl talk and great food. I don't want to downplay the great friendships I did have - just that I felt isolated.

I really loved all my classes, but it almost seemed like I was missing something - like, I was doing all the reading and even reading supplements (especially later in the semester), but it certainly didn't feel like I was an expert in any subject. Torts was a really fun class and probably my favorite, but I also really liked Civil Procedure. Since I was a file clerk/legal secretary for years, I came into it knowing what Motions and Answers and stuff were. It helped put things in perspective.

I also never made a fool of myself when I was cold called, so that was nice.

Truth time: I was the most lonely I have ever been in my entire life.

I missed my family, I missed my boyfriend, and I missed my friends. I'm typically a really independent person, so I thought moving out here on my own wouldn't be a big deal. I think I underestimated the difference being truly alone can make. While I had friends at school, it just wasn't the same thing as having friends that have known you for years and you feel comfortable snuggling with. No one touched me for months. I felt very isolated and I missed the people who loved me the most.

My grandparents came to visit me about halfway through the semester, and I cried when they left. I visited my parents in September, and cried when I left. When I came home for Christmas, I spent it with J's family, which was great because I love them and obviously I love J, but it wasn't the same as spending it with my family. My mom sent me my stocking in the mail... and I cried. There was a lot of crying last semester.

I lost about 15 lbs last semester. I don't know if was because of stress or because I was sad, and I don't want to imply that it was "healthy" or "unhealthy." It just was. I don't eat when I'm emotional - I stop eating, which probably explains my weight loss. I think I worked out once the entire semester.

2nd Semester
At first:
I was a little bummed coming back because my grades weren't very good from first semester, but I was also determined to get them up this semester! I came back much more relaxed. I already knew how to case brief, how to read legal textbooks, and how to study. It wasn't like I had to learn anything drastically new - just apply those learned skills to new classes.

The homework load seemed so much more do-able this semester. I wasn't surprised by the amount of reading, and I always got my homework finished before 11pm every night. Since some of my grades were lower 1st semester, I knew that I needed to change up my study habits and put more effort into preparing for tests, even months ahead of time. I started creating outlines before midterms, which really, really helped at the end of the semester for finals.

In the future, I'm definitely going to take my outlining more seriously throughout the year. The more I study and understand during class and during the school year, the less stressed I'll be for finals. I still don't have most of my grades back, so it's hard to tell how much my study habits improved this semester, haha. The one grade I got back was excellent, so I think that's a good sign. :)

James was a little more trouble this semester. He started scratching on my door 1st semester, but the scratching habit got way worse this time around. He started scratching on my roommates' door too, which obviously wasn't ideal. I think he's just a nosy cat (like most cats are), but it was still really annoying. I put up some sticky pads that were supposed to stop him from scratching surfaces. They worked really, really well for about a week, but then he just ignored them and went right back to scratching. *sigh*

I realized that half the reason I was so lonely last semester was that I wasn't putting myself out there. Like, I can't be sad that I wasn't invited out when I'm not going out or inviting people out either. I tried a lot harder this semester to hang out with people from school and invite others to hang out with me. The result was that I was infinitely less lonely, I felt so much more connected with people, and I made some really great friendships that I had only started developing last semester.

I'm sure it helped that my class was all getting used to each other, so it was easier to form friendships and have intimate conversations. Regardless, I think it was really important that I started putting myself out there. If I had done this more 1st semester, I think I would have been so much happier.

Classes went really well this semester. I worked really hard to keep up with my outlining (as a I said before), which made me feel like I was understanding the material better. I really liked all my classes, and I loved that we got to do more experiential learning! Even if it was stressful and confusing sometimes, I think it was really good for me to be forced to speak and argue in front of my classmates. I even got to argue in a real courtroom at the end of the semester!

Along with forming closer friendships 2nd semester, I also felt much more connected to J and my family! Everyone did a really fabulous job of making me feel loved and supported. J even flew up to see me this semester, so he got to spend a week with me in New Hampshire. It was sooo good for my soul to see him and have him in my little world. My mom also flew up to see me this semester, so I spent a long weekend with her! She hadn't seen my school, my apartment, or Concord yet! I think she really enjoyed seeing my environment and knowing who I was talking about when I mentioned names. All in all, it felt so much more natural and safe with my loved ones visiting me. It made such a huge difference!

I gained some weight back over Christmas break, which was probably good for me. I lost a little more over the course of the semester, but not nearly as much as 1st semester. I felt really healthy and good about myself. I still didn't work out a lot, but I did yoga a handful of times and ate pretty well!

There were times both semesters when I seriously thought about quitting law school, or at least transfering to Drake, back in Iowa. Only once during 2nd semester, thank goodness. I'm so glad I stuck with it. I really love my school, even though it's so far away from my friends and family back in Iowa and South Carolina.

All in all, this was a confusing, stressful, challenging, fun, exciting year of law school. I grew so much as a person, as a girlfriend, as a daughter and sister, and as a future lawyer. I think I learned how to "survive" on my own, and became stronger with the knowledge that I could be self-sufficient if I needed to be. I'm so grateful that my friends and family supported me over this past year, because it was not easy. I cried a lot, I stressed even more, and I was not a walk in the park. I'm sure I was not easy to live with, even without James scratching on doors. 

Despite all the negative, I think I learned to embrace positivity more second semester and tried hard to find the good in situations. I laughed at myself a lot and tried not to take things too seriously. Ultimately, I think it was a rough year, but one that was absolutely necessary for my own self-growth. I am definitely better for the experience, and I can't wait until August to go back!

((Just kidding - this is gonna be an awesome summer!))

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