Statistically Weeping: The Role of Fear

Take a moment to picture your average law student. They look like your typical twenty something, still fresh faced out of undergrad, right? Let that student list off their credit hours, and explain what that translates to in terms of hours spent reading and briefing each night. Listen to her describe the hours she spends in clinic each week on top of editing for a journal. Or maybe he’ll tell you about the internship he travels across the city for every day while he keeps up the co-presidency of a law society. I’d be willing to lay down good money that those things are just a fraction of the plates these students keep spinning in the air. Many more will also have children or spouses to go back to and care for at the end of the day. And can we really say we’ve scratched the surface in offering these students support?

As this student runs through a typical day in the life, do you feel tired listening? There are meetings after classes and office hours after the meetings. Sprinkled without are chances to grab coffee and talk to a professor or fellow student about any other class/activity/internship opportunity. Every half hour chunk of time counts. And those are likely the “off” days, where there is no internship or externship to go to.

It’s all a very fine balancing act. The days need to move along like a well oiled machine. And for many of us, It’s unfortunate that our minds and bodies won’t do the same.

There are reasons why law students take on schedules that seem to punish. Most of them are good, and supported by intentions that reflect it. It all comes down to furthering the concepts in the classroom, and learning about the practicalities of lawyering. There are many different routes to becoming an effective attorney, and that path is not uniform for a reason. Add in that many of us have been painfully high achievers our entire lives. It’s often said that upon walking into a law school class, the kid who has always been the smartest in the room now finds herself surrounded by her own kind for the first time. As anyone can imagine, there are a few different ways the law student can choose to handle that.

I don’t suggest doing what I did.

One more thing. Surely taking on one more thing, that will be the thing that unlocks the other things. It’s all going to come together to prove my potential. The thing that leads me by the hand toward a job. Move faster, jump higher, do more things. You might not be smarter than everyone else, but you can absolutely overbook yourself to look busier.

Panic set in mid-2L year after taking stock of my schedule and realizing I wasn’t doing as much as some of my peers. For that brief moment, I recognized the weight of my stress, but acknowledging it in that moment did me no real favors. I had only allowed it to be temporarily present, in consideration of whether I could keep burying it in order to make room for more. I understood I was in trouble, but not well enough to do anything about it. Nothing was going to veer me off the course that ended in a major depressive episode. The fact that almost everything I ate made me sick to my stomach never registered as concerning.

I allowed my fear to lead me. And fear makes for a poor leader. Do not choose it for yourself.

No person can possibly keep up with the pace fear demands. You will never be good enough for your fear. And until you deliberately take yourself out of its way, it’s a race you’ll never finish.

Trying to please the voice that whispers, “Not good enough.” is a painful lesson. I’m still learning how to tell it no. And some times, I have. This is a good thing, because when I do it successfully, I can clear the air clouded with my self-doubt. I can stand on my own.

And I make space for what can be, rather than what I fear I can’t.

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