This piece has been written by Anonymous.
Dear First Year,
It has been nearly two months in this place now for you, and I am sure you are tired of being inundated with contradictory advice on how to survive (or thrive) in this godforsaken place. But bear with me, because my advice is fairly simple, and has the advantage of being delivered by someone who is not a stud, so don’t think it is unattainable. It is this: do not, under any circumstances, become like me.
I entered this place with all the realism of a child, expecting everything to magically fall into place for me. When things went wrong – as they were bound to – I went overboard trying to prove I fit into this place. I quit chasing the things that actually mattered to me, the things that shaped me, and went after grades and committees and social status. But I did not do enough for any of these things either – I abandoned moots halfway, and crammed the syllabus at the last minute. I became a receptacle of nothingness, unchanged by the learning that was so easily available to me in this place.
But not only was I untouched by the good parts of law school, I began losing the few passions I did enter the place with. My writing was, if I may say so myself, once filled with allegory and beauty. It has now become a rehash of everyone else’s, echoing all the crap that I am reduced to reading online. The language that was once a source of solace for me has begun to wear me down. Where I could once read Guy de Maupassant and Victor Hugo in the original, I now struggle to switch between the three simple tenses and accord my verbs and adjectives. I no longer sketch or doodle for the heck of it, but as a means of killing time and to avoid studying the next order or bare act. And my reading? Well, I suppose I shall always have books, but they, too, sometimes feel like one more chore to finish.
I can’t even claim to have any character. My ex and (once) one of my closest friends, who once told me he loved me for my ferocity and bravery, has virtually cut me off because he couldn’t stand to see me function as a shadow of the person that I used to be. My convictions and ideals have suffered, and the people around me will not hesitate to admit that I am neither revolutionary enough, nor passionate enough for the causes I profess to believe in. And I am weaker than I ever was – two years at the counselor with no sign of progress, a lack of money the only barrier between me and alcoholism. I long for a smoke every day even though a cigarette has yet to pass my lips.
The truth is, dear First Year, that I allowed the madness in the place – the competitiveness, the bitchiness – to seep inside me and take root there. I let it shake me out until I was insecure about even the little things that did not matter, because every time someone got ahead of me in any area it was like conceding defeat. And I let it wring me dry of any passion or emotion, turning me into the kind of person who, instead of seeking love or friendship or any meaningful human connection, contents herself with the increasingly elusive orgasms from jacking off to shitty porn.
All I have now for companionship is anxiety and envy, and I only have myself to blame.
For those few seniors who will read this and accuse me of self-pity and seeking attention, to those who suggest that I am overly defeatist in my attitude: I haven’t given up. I’m fighting myself every day: telling myself life isn’t all a race, getting things done, pushing myself to come out of my shell, seeking out new experiences, trying to rediscover what I once loved. But I have reached a point in my life where I have to run just to remain where I am without moving forward. God forbid if I were to stand still. And I know as well as any of you that being seen as weak – publicly – is the last thing that is likely to get you help in law school. The only reason I’m writing this is because most of this harm is self-inflicted, and possibly also systemic and cyclical, and I want to serve as a cautionary tale, if I can do nothing else.
The gist of my letter, dear First Year, is this: law school provides you opportunities to grow as a person. Use them. Find yourself, find new people, learn new things. But do not let the madness get to you. Hold on to who you are – the good parts of who you are – in the face of whatever challenges law school and life will throw at you. Because if you truly give it a chance, law school can do so much for you.
Do not be me, the one dumbfuck who allowed it to wreck her.