Op-Ed: The Road Behind: Perspectives from a 1L

By Chantelle Ankerman

When asked by those outside the legal world what the first semester of law school is like, I am at a loss. Just as no one can really prepare you for what it will be like before you live through it, it is difficult to convey the significance of the experience once you have. Still, I can vaguely describe law school as a cure for any misguided belief you may have of possessing an above-average vocabulary, intellect, or stamina.

I found myself in a world where just about everyone I met impressed and interested me. I felt the borders of my mind expanding daily. It was scary, and sometimes painful, but in an exciting way. There were days when I was exultant: I understood the concepts and made some reasonably intelligent remarks in class. But there were also days when I felt hopelessly stupid, alone, and out of my depth. Those moments define the struggle of growth as much as, if not more so than, the times of triumph. Therefore, one of the most valuable lessons I have re-learned these past few months is not to fear trials, but rather to embrace them.

Throughout the semester, I constantly heard the seemingly benign iteration “I just want to get it over with,” in reference to classes, assignments, even the whole of law school itself. It is natural to want to avoid things that are stressful, and I do not think I have ever been so tired or worked as hard. But essentially what we do when we give utterance to that sentiment is to wish our lives away. The grains of sand in life’s hourglass are numbered for each of us, and once fallen, they cannot be reclaimed.

So don’t seize the day only to mentally dispose of it before it has begun. Putting off being happy indefinitely is a mistake. I made some big sacrifices this past semester: I missed pheasant season, attending a wedding, and a bachelorette. At the time, I felt that it was the responsible thing to do, but when faced with those types of choices again this semester I will try to choose more judiciously.

One last gleaning from my journey thus far is to never underestimate your network (I’m not talking 4G). I mean the people in your life who love and care for you. I have a small, tightly-knit family, and it was beyond hard for me to take a back seat in planning and executing our various gatherings. Before law school I was the cake-baker and the thank you card sender. Now I’m the bum who sends Christmas presents two months late. The spectre of inadequacy looms on occasion, but I am more often overwhelmed by the response of family and friends: “You’re in law school! It’s okay!” I have perceived a communal effort to bear me up with moral support, meals, and kind words. Despite how I might feel sometimes, this reminds me that I am not engaged in a solitary effort, and that the fruits of these labors are meant to be shared.