Volume 10, Issue 6
This year I have been thinking a lot about well-being. Being part of the MULSS Mindfulness Program has given me the amazing opportunity to have students feel comfortable to talk to me about how they are feeling, the issues they are facing and what they think about the Law School environment. Based on these discussions, my practice in Mindfulness and my research into well-being (yeah, I am boring like that) I have come to the conclusion that there are three things that radically need to be changed in order to improve our environment for ourselves and each other.
1. Number Crunching
This is something that is mostly self-inflicted. We let numbers rule our lives (what marks we get, how much we weigh, how many hours we spend studying and how much extra-curricular time we spend buffing up our resumes). There is a very obvious problem with this – we let our identity become what we can brag about on a resume (and being frank, to each other). This was something that radically changed my self-worth in first year, going from a H1 Arts Student to a H2B-H3 Law Student. And I remember feeling so angry with myself, but eventually I finally got to the point where I was like really Gab? You are that mad at yourself over 10%?
The point is, screw numbers. You are still fu#@ing awesome. So in case no one ever told you this, you are more intelligent than that mark you get, you are more beautiful than a scale tells you and you have way more talent than can be quantified on some scale. The great thing about getting to know so many people is finding out how insanely talented you all are on the side. Some of you guys run your own businesses, write your own music, work for NGOs and so much more. You’re kicking life’s ass, don’t let your WAM or the competitive spirits of gloaters tell you otherwise.
2. Bragging about our achievements, but being silent on our failures.
This one is something that affects everyone - it has a trickle down effect. I only noticed this one after having a conversation with some first years at a party. They were saying all the second years they have spoken to were talking about how they got a H1 in this subject, a H2A in this subject and how many hours they put into achieving those marks. It was easy to tell those kids were shit scared. Now before you get all defensive, I am not saying do not brag. Brag away my friends! But also let’s be honest about the subjects and marks we did not do so well in, let’s be able to say “man I really struggled with that assignment, I think I made my mistake by doing A, so try and avoid that when you are writing your assignment”. By acknowledging that we do not all do so well, it will enable us all to not feel like total drop kicks when we don’t get what we want, and hopefully enable open discourse about failures.
This is a two limb well-being analysis (shout out to the kids who are sick of these freaking Trust limbs) not only do we need to be honest about our marks, we need to be honest and acknowledge how we are travelling throughout the semester. At someone’s birthday someone asked me the usual question of how I am going. I explained that between work, readings, volunteering etc, I have fallen substantially behind and I am freaking out a lot. Instantly the people around me started to squirm and swept my response off with the usual: “oh don’t worry Gab you will get there”, “I am sure you are more ahead than most people don’t be modest”. Well, no I am still not there, and I am behind most people I have spoken to, just being honest. We should not be uncomfortable when people feel like they are not on top of things, and not being on top of things is not something we should be ashamed of. S*it gets in the way, and if someone is honest about it, acknowledge it and don’t invalidate their feelings. It should not be a set standard at Law School to be on top of everything in your life.
3. Trying to make the Subjective Objective.
So most of you have probably agreed with me so far, and this might be where I lose you, but please read till the end and hear me out. We all come from different backgrounds, life experiences and emotional thresholds (duh). But this means that we will all have different interpretations, emotions, solutions to problems and will find different things funny or offensive (yup, still with you Gab), but I feel we all seem to forget this consistently when discussing controversial issues (or issues generally), and rather than having an appropriate and intellectual conversation, we try to impute our interpretation, solutions and emotions on others, completely disregarding our differences (don’t be a Kanye, let me finish). I think if we can all flashback to everyone’s discussions about the Women’s Space and Online Lecture Recording sagas (please don’t restart this after reading this sentence, pretty please), we see some perfect examples of people loudly invalidating the proposed solutions of others, whilst propping up their own as the only one which could solve a broad range of problems
I just wanted to highlight that there are intellectual ways to have a conversation. When discussing these topics remember that everyone’s solution is based on their own experiences, so don’t underrate someone else’s opinion when speaking, acknowledge it and try to communicate your own based on a good point, NOT a personal attack. A facebook discussion is not a d**ks out competition of who can make someone else feel worse.
In mindfulness we were told that Justice William O. Douglas of the US Supreme Court said “where I work, 90% of our decisions are based on how we feel about things. The other 10% is used to justify our feelings”. And this is true for most things and most people. So let’s get in the habit of acknowledging other people’s feelings and not pushing ours on them, and justify what we think without having to denigrate someone else’s completely different understanding.
As a side note, I honestly do not think FB is an appropriate forum or way to discuss any issues of the nature above, and in highly stressful times it easy for us to get carried away. I suggest that the LSS look into the current media policy and that we have alternative ways to have such discussions more proactively such as De Minimis interviewing people for and against and posting an article or the LSS hosting forums for open, intelligent discussion.
I am not saying the culture will be perfect, and I am not saying I am not guilty of committing these things myself. I am not suggesting we become a censored society. I am saying that the place will just be that wee bit nicer if we took these things into account. There is a difference between having a conversation and having an argument, between coming up with a solution and making an attack, between making a joke and making a joke at someone.
We can all catch more bees with honey. So don’t be a Kobe. Stop hogging the ball, bragging about how awesome you are, how you make the team, so much so that sport writers write about how they are shocked that you even acknowledged other people helped you when you retire. Be a Steph Curry who builds up your team, makes the other players better, makes cute tweets about his wife and always gives credit to his coach. Because at the end of the day our law school would be a much better place if we saw each other as a team, not as individual players (no shade on Kobe, just an illustration).
If any students are facing wellbeing issues please contact the LSS team at firstname.lastname@example.org or make an appointment via SAS to see the Faculty at https://unimelb-insight.symplicity.com/students/index.php?s=home
Mindfulness Meditation is on at 1pm every Thursday in Room 317, free hugs from me guaranteed if needed.
Gabrielle Verhagen is a second-year JD student.
Disclaimer: This is not the opinion of the LSS or GLSA and should not be seen as endorsements by them of any of the above comments.
The rest of this week's issue: