MARY MICHELE CONNELLAN
Volume 10, Issue 1
This is my story, the lessons I've learnt through coping with ‘failure’, and measuring (and re-measuring) my success. I hope some of it will be helpful for others. When I started LMR I was invincible, proud of my accomplishments and fairly arrogant about the fact that I was fluent in three languages and had tons of international experience. I thought no doubt I would breeze through the JD and continue along my well-travelled path of ‘success’. Then life happened, and stresses I had previously been able to handle, like moving home, relationship break ups and family issues, all become overwhelming. I simply could not manage the rigorous schedule of the JD and life's problems.
So, what was I doing differently? Why couldn't I cope with the JD when previously I had managed a Masters in a foreign language and worked on projects in conflict zones? It's a question I am still trying to answer but the most important thing I learnt was that I was not ready and able to deal with the JD programme and manage life's problems because I had a skewed idea of how to measure success. I had to be the best and anything less than that was not good enough. The lesson I would like to share is that at some point, no matter how good you are (at everything) you will face failure, and it is so important to be ready for it.
Last year I was open about the fact that I had failed Constitutional Law, a subject I enjoyed and knew really well. I wanted to let other people who had failed the subject know that they were not alone and that it was okay. It was a healing experience for me because I had made a conscious decision to change my mind set. I didn’t have to win everything, being the best was not about getting the best grade but about being happy with who I was. There are lots of reasonable explanations as to why I failed Constitutional Law, my notes were far too dense, they were badly organised, I had over studied and was completely sleep deprived on the day of the exam (traps that lots of law students fall into) but I was also out of touch with who I was, what I wanted and what was important to me. I had put the JD above everything and everyone in my life, not recognising that I was the resilient person I am because of these relationships, and I needed them to remind me of who I was.
For anyone who is struggling with failure or everyone who at some stage will face it: never, ever lose touch of who you are and what is important to you. Quite frankly, you need to be more than someone with good grades if you want to succeed in life. Be kind to yourself and to others. Being a good human is more important than having a ‘good average’. If you can do both then hats off to you! And finally, I commend those of us who have failed at something, learnt from the experience and grown as a result. Honestly the more you fail, the better. As Samuel Beckett once said: "ever tried, ever failed, no matter, try again, fail again, fail better."
Mary Michele Connellan is a second year JD student and the second year rep of the Later Law Student Network
Henry Dow, Erich Chang and myself will hold a support session mid semester for students repeating subjects.
The Later Law Network is actively involved in assisting students with family commitments and external stresses, contact them for on going support.
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