Honestly, I’m in disbelief that I was able to write a post and publish it while in the trenches of my first year of law school. About ten minutes ago, I was in the middle of studying for a quiz in Criminal Law when I talked myself into taking a break. The material started blurring in my head and I felt things were getting stale, so I figured I’d shift my energy to something creative and write. I’ve neglected my writing to focus on school – and I mean writing on all fronts, not just for this blog. Something’s been on my mind, though, and I told myself there was no better outlet to discuss it than this one. Here goes.
While I’ve been happy overall with school, how things are going and my overall journey to becoming an attorney, I’ve noticed that lately I’m constantly forced to choose between self-care and studying/working more. Do I rest or do I keep studying and outlining, making flashcards, drawing diagrams, reviewing notes, the whole nine yards? Naturally, I want to keep studying. I enjoy it. I don’t feel miserable like I have in the past with other ventures. I love to learn, and best of all, I love what I’m learning. I find the material fascinating. Challenging in all the right ways. Yet, there’s the reality that stares right at me: while I’m a law student, I’m also disabled. You know that already. I’ve talked about in every single post. Being disabled is what drives this blog. What that means in this context, though, is that it takes me three to five times more energy than someone non-disabled to do literally anything. And yes, that includes sitting up at my desk and studying for hours on end. Why? My guess is because of my SDR surgery. Great decision – but one drawback is I get back pain if I sit up for too long in the same position. That means I have to take more frequent breaks, which takes away from studying. I know breaks are excellent for productivity, good for you, blah, blah, blah. It’s a balance. In my case the balance feels tipped. Uneven. I wonder how many breaks my non-disabled colleagues and friends have to take when they study. Do they get back pain from SDR? Probably not, because they didn’t have SDR – and how do I know that? Because to be eligible for SDR, you need to have CP. As far as I can tell, I’m the only one at school with CP. At least for now.
I know comparing myself to others isn’t helpful. That’s true in any situation. But I’m human and sometimes I can’t help it. The dichotomy of working more and taking care of myself is elevated because I have different concerns than everyone else. It can be very isolating. But It’s a reality. I have to think about taking more rest breaks, how the heck I’m going to get to class or get back home if it starts raining…the list goes on and on. I build rest breaks into my schedule because I’m usually exhausted after my commute home and a full day of classes. Do I want to rest? Not always. My instinct is to get to work right away. Back in high school my classmates called me The Machine for a reason. Sometimes, though, I have no choice. My body commands me to rest. I can tell, through my aching feet, throbbing ankles and knees, knotted back, tight hips…so I head to my room to lay down when I get home. This is your reminder to always listen to your body. For me, the most effective way to rest during the day is to elevate my feet, without socks, water bottle handy (hydrate) and maybe a good snack or two nearby. And, of course, an episode of Friends or Seinfeld or The Simpsons playing. My break = one full episode of one of those shows. Sometimes, if my hamstrings or calves feel really achy and tight, I stretch them, too. I leave my IdealStretch by my bed so I remember.
I’m laughing to myself, because I just said listen to your body and now I’m going to say this….I only let myself rest for about half an hour on any given weekday before I study. 30 minutes is my max. It can’t be more than that, because if it is, I won’t get out of bed. Just like I force myself to take rest breaks, I force myself to end my rest breaks and study. Even if my body’s still in pain, even if the circles under my eyes go on for days…I get up and work. I have no choice. This is it. This is the grind. I’m really not trying to romanticize or idealize productivity and all else…but if I’m being real, this “grind” is what’s required for me to get my J.D. I want the degree. I want to eventually be an attorney. You can’t be an attorney without the degree. So I have to work for it. Period. End of sentence.
It’s not going to be pretty. Some days will be hard. Some days have been hard. I’ve tried to look at it like this: sometimes the days will be hard regardless of whether or not I’m in law school, because this is life. So I might as well be working toward something meaningful and fulfilling to me in the meantime.
The other night I was sitting at the dinner table, slouched over (my posture sucks. #CPLife), my eyes barely open with those famous dark circles. My old babysitter used to call me the little raccoon. But that’s another story for another day. My mom sat across from me at the table and said don’t worry. You’re going to make it through.
Though weary, I smiled. Coming from my mom, who was initially upset and disappointed – though she’d never admit it – that I abandoned the pre-med track, those words meant a lot. Side note, she may or may not be already telling people I’m an attorney…..relax, I correct her and say law student…I know she’s proud. I can feel it. And it feels good to be making those around me proud. Even if this journey takes a great deal of sacrifice.
All this to say, it does take three to five times more energy for me to complete tasks. That’s probably not going to change. Neither will feelings of isolation from time to time. Maybe even feeling like I have something more to prove to people…who knows. But I want to add and end on this note: During a check-in, I talked to one of the deans at my school, honestly and frankly, and told him about how all this was not only mentally exhausting but physically exhausting, too – for all the reasons I just mentioned. And he said something that stuck with me. Well, even if it does take you three to five times more energy than everyone else, it sounds like you’re three to five times stronger for it.