By Brenda L. George • November 07, 2017•Writers in Residence, Law School, Choosing a Career and Landing a Job, Curriculum and Classroom Dynamics, Other Law School Issues, Issues, Balancing Private and Professional Life
There are times in every person's life that can leave them feeling so different than everyone around them that they don't quite fit in. This is perhaps the one thing that we all have in common - we have all experienced this isolation on some level. Law school has left me feeling that on numerous occasions, but most certainly during my 4L year and second pregnancy.
I have been thinking a lot lately about how law school can make you feel isolated from your pre-law school circle of friends, and your family. And, unique to my own situation, pregnancy can leave you feeling isolated from just about everyone…even other expecting families. This is due to the nature of pregnancies, children, and family dynamics - they're all different. So, putting these two things together, I have felt doubly isolated: my friends outside of law school cannot relate to my situation, and my friends in law school cannot relate to my situation (there are a few parents in law school that I know, but I only know two women that have had children while in law school, and one other woman that is currently pregnant in law school). It doesn't help that most of my classmates have already graduated.
And, to be honest, when they were on campus, I rarely saw most of them because we are all pursuing different areas of law and extra-curricular activities. However, that aside, their absence on campus is, strangely, very apparent to me. Even outside of law school, as we get older, life just seems to get busier and it never feels like there's enough time for anything, let alone trying to match two busy schedules so you can spend quality time with a friend. It is far too easy to conclude that you are on different paths, and stop trying to make it happen. With every change in your own immediate family dynamic, the more complicated it gets.
Both law school and pregnancy can leave you feeling isolated from your immediate family as well. I dread being asked if I can do something remotely relaxing or leisurely, because I know what my reflex answer is: "No, I need to study." But, the answer really should be, "yes, I absolutely have time for that." This has me recalling my mantra, that I need to fit law school into my life, not fit my life into law school. This is one of the hardest things to remember when you are under a mountain of stress. When I stop and think about this, I feel so selfish. What have I put my husband through during these last four years? And, what have I put my first born through during the first two years of his life? Lastly, what am I going to be putting my second born through during his first year of life as I embark on bar prep and job searching? And yes, many will say it is all worth it, and that is likely how I justify it myself. But where is the line? I am very conscious of this most of the time, but more so when I visit my grandparents and they say "we haven't seen you for so long." Sadly, we live just a couple of miles apart.
A story that I read for my Law, Language, and Literature class originally got me thinking about this, and the reality that early law practice might actually be just the same. I am entering a field that can demand 50+ hours of my time per week. My undergraduate experience was quite the opposite, full of social interaction, so I did not experience this during that time in my life. I went straight to undergrad from high school and played collegiate softball at Seattle University. Looking back, I am still so grateful for my teammates, but I can see how easy it would have been to feel isolated and different from everyone else in my undergraduate studies for reasons like not living in the dorms, commuting to school, being a parent, or being older than the majority of students. (You could apply this last concept to race, religion, gender, etc.).
While law school has evolved from the original uber-competitive, cut-throat education that it once was (at least at Seattle University School of Law, and in my opinion), there are still remnants of this and I don't anticipate them disappearing anytime soon. Moreover, a career in the field of law can have the same impact on your life if you let it. So, I am here to say that I will not let it. I will continue to fit law school, bar prep, law practice into my life rather than the other way around. And, how am I going to do that?
(1) I am going to continue to make time to spend with my husband. If I have to schedule it for myself, fine. As long as it happens! He deserves that, and so much more.
(2) I am going to do all the fun things with my kids, keep them with me as much as possible, and enjoy every moment of them growing up.
(3) I am going to continue to be active in the social groups that have helped me through my biggest life events.
(4) I am going to continue to pursue time with friends, even if it is every once and a while, and I am going to enjoy ever minute of it. And, I am going to put my family first. I will not allow my law career to consume me.
(5) Lastly, I am going to make time for me. My health is important too. Self care, and exercise will be a top priority.
Now, hold me accountable!