Learning to find your balance is a struggle, made only more difficult by attempting to reach your happy place, while putting your mind through grueling law school courses. You may find yourself asking “how does everyone make it look so easy?” The best answer I can give you is this – they’re great actors. Let’s be clear – law school is a drama-filled think tank with the best and brightest in their respective classes. Everyone is wound tighter than Shirley Temple curls, and nobody has time to deal with your shit. So trust me when I say that your peers are putting on a façade, to make you feel inferior. It’s an intimidation tactic. What these students are great at is striking a comfortable balance between varying shades of frenzied mayhem, and some are better at it than others.
Some students excel at being selfish, which is fantastic, because law school is where being all about “Team YOU” comes in handy. Put yourself first. This step in reaching a happy medium is crucial. Your family wants time with you, your boss needs you to focus on the task at hand, your significant other begins to feel neglected, and the people in your life start to get upset because they feel you are tossing them aside. But, what they may not realize is the number of balls you juggle is more than they could handle, more than most anyone could. You made it, gained admission to law school, and now have to bust your derrière to stay here. You will likely work harder than ever before, or you’re truly gifted and don’t have to study at all because you’re brilliant. [On that last bit – I call bullshit. You need to study.]
Finding your balance means you will likely lose a friendship (or more) while working through your legal career. The unrelenting assignments, extra-curricular activities, and study group sessions will consume you – if you let it. I found that the most successful law students are well-rounded, and skilled at balancing their tasks. Taking the time out of your day to work out, read a book, or watch a movie allows your brain to re-set and re-focus on its goals. It is critical to understand when your brain needs to rest, because it is in those moments where you strike the perfect balance between your studies and passions. Otherwise, you’re going to burn out. I experienced true burn-out after my 3rd final during our first semester of 1L year. I walked out of the exam, took a few minutes to grab a coffee, and sat back down at my computer to read through notes. I must have read the same sentence 3o times before realizing I’d shut down. There was simply no energy left to process anything. So I packed up my crap, trekked to the parking garage, and drove myself to a movie theater. You have to know when to throw in the towel, because breaks are part of that school-life balance.
During my 1L year, I felt flustered because there were so many panicked voices in the halls – all trying to figure out how to study, when to study, how to brief, should they brief, is the assignment actually graded, is it ok to take a lunch break? The tension was palpable, and I simply could not be around it. Realizing my own stress-level rising reminded me that I needed to step away from it all for just an hour a day.
When I need for the questions or worries of my day to fade away, I turn to running. I run at least two miles to clear my head, three times a week. On top of running, I choose to rock-climb. It is essential to have my brain focus on my feet hitting the pavement, or finding the next hand-hold on a wall. My balance involves shutting the world out to let in my inner-peace.
I strongly recommend you find your balance, whatever makes you happy and re-centers you, before the semester begins. Make sure to make time for yourself, every single day. If you are in a positive place, then studying will be easier and you’ll grasp the concepts quickly. However, an angry or frustrated mindset will likely land you in a crap-tastic mood and that’s a recipe for failure. Always re-focus.