By Jessica Chinnadurai • March 05, 2016•Writers in Residence
When I first met my boyfriend, we talked a lot about why we are drawn to certain people and what makes someone an individual worth knowing and having in your life. I remember him so perfectly expressing that it often comes down to their strength of character.
At law school, I’ve been honored to encounter a few people with incredible strength of character. One of my professors recently had to go on a short leave of absence to take care of her husband, who was diagnosed with a serious health issue and needed treatment in Boston. None of us really knew the gravity of the situation because this professor remained professional and pulled-together during class and never showed any signs of what she was going through, which I can only imagine was panic and sadness. The fact that she kept teaching until the last possible minute, because she valued our class and her position as our professor, spoke volumes.
In a situation that hit close to home, one of my good friends from the 1L class was also diagnosed with a life threatening disease, and she shared this information with me shortly after receiving the diagnosis. I’ve never in my life had someone this close to me, who is so healthy and optimistic, receive this kind of life-altering news. But I feel lucky that she knows I am here and will gladly go along every step of the way with her. She’s remained in school, coming to classes where the subject matter is particularly complex (cough, Property) and has a smile on her face every day. It’s been truly inspiring.
On a brighter note, this friend doesn’t have any family in the immediate area, but one person in particular here at the law school has really taken her under her wing. She’s driven her to countless appointments and held her hand as doctors discussed her diagnosis and treatment options. This person actually works for the law school and adds so much to the community because of her beaming positivity and friendliness.
It’s unfortunate that strength of character often becomes evident during periods of extreme emotional distress. But honestly, it’s also incredible – to witness people be strong in moments, both imperative and trivial, where I feel like I’d crumble. It forces me to analyze my own strength of character and ask myself what drives me to be better or more empathetic. Sometimes I’m motivated by the demands of a society that simply needs morally strong people. It’s all too easy for one of us to say “It’s not my job to be nice to that homeless woman.” But the one person that thinks “I can say hi or smile at her” could change everything for her, even if it’s just for a fleeting moment. She might not have any other reason to be happy for the rest of the day, especially if no one else cared.
Other times, I’m motivated to show someone who doesn’t have a strong sense of self-worth that they’re loved, and more importantly that they deserve that love. Because we’re humans and I believe, perhaps naively, in the reciprocal nature of humanity – if one of us is kind toward the other, especially if we have no reason to be, then maybe we’ll inspire everyone to do the same. I guess it doesn’t matter why you stay strong in character, so long as you try.
So how does this tie into law school, you ask? It’s especially important to surround yourself with people who are strong in themselves and won’t let the long and arduous days of being a law student affect how they interact with you or completely diminish their outlook on life. A tough paper or case that may be hard to get through in one sitting doesn’t mean that you’re a failure. I think it’s especially important to be reminded of that whenever you can’t convince yourself.