I spent all of High School knowing I was going to Law School. That’s right. I was that really extra kid on Career Day who knew exactly what grown-up job I wanted and how to get there. But once the excitement of actually getting in and going to endless social events wore off, then the dread began to take over.
I’m pretty sure I’ve had an existential crisis every semester about whether or not I belonged in Law. I would begin the semester motivated to attend every class and do all the readings, but with every lecture that flew over my head and for every mediocre grade, fear and anxiety would start to kick in.
“Fear would taunt me into believing that the very thing I’ve spent my life working towards was the wrong path, or that others would think I wasn’t smart enough to hack it. I dreaded the idea that I’d racked up thousands of dollars in student loans for no reason and would have no job to pay it off.”
What made it worse was that everyone else seemed to be coping really well, getting better grades, and being selected for legal jobs while I was constantly questioning if I was even cut out to be a lawyer or if I should just cut my losses and switch degrees.
But after getting real with many of my close friends, I realised that at least 80% of them have had doubts about whether they chose the right degree. I have friends that are only here because they got the ATAR and didn’t know what else to study. Others spent years trying to transfer into Law only to transfer back out again. Many people experienced the frustration of investing hours into studying, only to still receive average marks. In fact, the very people who I thought were having it easy were the ones freaking out the most.
Here’s the thing: You’re not a failure because you have doubts about studying law. It doesn’t mean you’re not smart enough or qualified enough. It doesn’t mean you’re a cop out. It just means your passion lies elsewhere. You might not know exactly what that is yet but don’t doubt that you have very unique talents and abilities. You have to trust that if you’re here, and you’ve made it this far, it’s for a reason.
Sleep on it.
Don’t make any major life decisions when you’re feeling overly emotional. Assess if these feelings are only coming up because of a bad grade, you don’t know how to do the Corps assignment, or because exams are coming and you haven’t studied properly. If those stressful times or that horrendous unit is over, and you start to feel fulfilled and motivated to become a lawyer again, then the anxiety was probably just tricking you into thinking you’re not capable.
Be honest with good people.
Get real with your friends about how you feel. Chances are they will have also felt the same doubt you do. It’ll make you feel less alone. Seek advice from those who know you best. Some people just have a knack for seeing the best in us and where we thrive. They’ll help you figure out where you’re supposed to go.
Begin to explore your other hobbies.
Figure out what your passions are. Figure out what breaks your heart about this world and how you want to change it. If having a law degree is the thing that will help you achieve your passion, then just hold on to this bigger purpose while you stick it out.
Map it out.
Look at the course map and see how many years you have left. If it’s just a couple more semesters to go, then it may be worth sticking it out. Look ahead and ask yourself: what do I want to be doing in 5 years’ time? Adjust your trajectory as necessary.
Take a break.
Maybe all you need is a breather from the heavy law readings and assignments. Many people have deferred a semester or even a whole year of Law to chill out and assess their options. There is no shame in taking time off to look after yourself and pursue other interests. The break might motivate you to come back stronger than ever or it might be the confirmation you need that law isn’t your thing.
There’s nothing wrong with realising this degree isn’t it for you. I don’t have all the answers and I can’t tell you whether to stay or go. But when anxiety whispers you’ve stuffed up and it’s too late to change, remember that all things work out for good-no matter what decision you make. Your time here is not wasted, and the things you’re going through now will have a purpose.
For anyone on the brink of their existential crisis or for those who are currently in it, welcome to the club. Everyone feels lost sometimes, but take heart- this could just be the launch pad into the life you’re supposed to have.