Vol 13, Issue 1
My rollercoaster strategy has always been to push my body out a little when the attendants come around to do safety checks, so the harness is loose and I can experience a short free fall on that first big drop. It’s an adequately safe practice. Nothing can really go wrong, in a case of that much steel and engineering.
My first big drop at MLS was exhilarating, but I got knocked around too much, so I’m going to be a bit more safety conscious this year. I learned a lot about myself in 2017. I managed to pick up a couple of things about the law, but I wasn’t able to learn as much as I’d hoped, as it turns out.
I really shit the bed second semester across the board, but boy did I ever bomb that god-forsaken Consti exam. I don’t believe I’ve ever done so poorly at anything in my entire life, and it was my favourite subject. That makes me sound more masochistic than I probably am.
My midterm intuition—that I had no hope of measurable improvement on my first semester marks—proved true, when I saw that my WAM had dropped 10 points. Then there it was; a score so low there would be no point in looking into my options.
I did not even bother to find out if my AEAs should have been applied. By the time my exam timetable had been sorted, I couldn’t bring myself to ask.
The reality is that I could not demonstrate I understood a word of the Constitution, much less how it should be interpreted. That’s being quite harsh on myself though, because I could have had an extra four hours. So the real lesson is I should have asked!
This bears repeating: I am ready for a fresh start at law school. I said this to myself at the beginning of last semester, and I’ll probably say it at the start of every semester until I graduate.
In earnest, my first semester at MLS was the most stressful period of my life. I’m sure most of us can relate to that sentiment.
I bit off more than I’ve ever chewed, without hesitation. Tossing aside my ‘career’ that has something to do with websites, in favour of hoping to become a lawyer, is one of the more inspired impulse decisions I’ve made.
Working three days a week in a new role I’d basically created myself, trying to churn out a new company process—for which I am still awaiting recognition—was unfortunately not the best way to dive into legal studies.
At the first of the year, I was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe ADHD, so along with law school and my intense job, I was settling into a new lifestyle of taking a modest fistful of drugs every day and subsequently eating next to nothing. My exercise regime went straight out the window, and I’m still unsure how to pick up the habit again.
Despite running on precious little fuel, I am sure I would not have otherwise made it this far (without medication and Special Consideration). In addition, I finally I have some sort of answer to the question of my life, What is wrong with me? (Answer: nothing, neurodiversity is like a wildflower garden, with creatures!)
Whilst my projected total weekly hours seemed entirely doable, it wasn’t realistic for me to put the required energy and focus into two very unrelated, high-cognitive-load modes of work. In particular, I don’t manage my time well, and my default is generally not to look after my health.
The importance of making a plan cannot be stressed enough; although, as it turns out, knowing the meaning of the word ‘plan’ is not the same as actually planning.
For three years, I managed to hide from my boss that I did not have a conceptual grasp on ‘planning’. This has made my job as a project manager even more tedious than necessary. There are no templates for law school as far as I know, so I chose to avoid doing what needed to be done and I suffered for it. Facing my brain’s resistance to learning certain things was a slow-burn breakdown that naturally came to a head during assessment time.
As a Later Law student—and your friendly Second Year Representative of the Later Law Student Network—I have come to learn that I have a certain edge over the fresh graduates among us. Namely, I have a professional history, and other big grownup stuff. I also have some clear disadvantages I have only begun to appreciate.
For one, I would gladly move back in with my mom if her house weren’t 16,000 km away, because renting in Melbourne is dark. Then I might have been able to quit my job, rather than cutting back to three days a week. Maybe I should have done that in the first place, and applied for assistance, but that is exactly what I’m doing right now. (#Pray4Sam)
From March to May, I was couchsurfing because I was silly enough to think 6 weeks of house hunting would result in finding a new rental that was a bit more affordable. Conservative estimates indicate I cried more in those miserable three months more than during the last five years.
Coming to grips with my newly recognised impairments, I can see that I am not as lazy as I’ve always thought; I just have a smaller bucket of energy than some folks. I also realised that although I have been working 8-hour days in an office for the last 10 years, I still don’t know how to manage an 8-hour block of time.
Unfortunately the professional skills I should have gained by now are not going to become less useful, so I have to keep at it. I have been given some strategies that are supposedly foolproof if anyone is interested in swapping hot tips.
I don’t care if it takes me twice as long as it should, or if the end product is incomprehensible to anyone but myself—I am planning this entire semester up front*. I acknowledge that I am only faking it when I sit down to make a plan, but at least I’ve got cute stationery and multiple calendars to keep me on track.
I am happy to re-take Consti, but I am kicking myself a little about paying for it twice. I’m really looking forward to doing a deep dive into the JD, but I can see the mountain ahead and I can feel the bumpy ride of weariness, joy and despair already. What if I do have proper time and space to study and still don’t get it? Here’s to buckling up and eating my vegetables in 2018.
*At the time of writing, my Semester 1 plan is on my ‘to-do’ list. That’s a pretty good start.
Samantha Marks is a second-year JD student
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