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Why having a Semester off isn’t a Big Deal

Pens in a row

Let me just premise this by saying I've had a tough year. As in, a really tough year, and it's set me back in my studies quite significantly. And while taking time off from law felt like a huge deal at the time, I've come to realise that there's a reasonable chance that many students will have set backs throughout the course of their degree. I mean, let's face it, even in a perfect scenario a law degree takes several years – and lives are not perfect, in fact they're unpredictable at best.

So what happens when you are faced with one of life's curve balls? Well, if you're lucky, the damage will be contained and dealt with, and you'll dust yourself off and be back on track in no time. But sometimes those curve balls are massive, mean and messy - they're not just hurdles, they're the Great Wall of China.

My curve ball was the deterioration of my mental illness. It effected me mentally, emotionally, physically, financially, academically, and socially, as well as effecting my family in just as many ways. The devastation of my situation was not localised; there was shrapnel everywhere, and picking up the pieces was going to take a long time. This meant that I was faced a decision: to defer from law school and take my time getting well, or return battered and bruised and hope for the best.

Although I desperately wanted to get back into the swing of things, pretend I was okay and get on with all that learning, it came down to a very simple 'cost versus benefit' analysis. Option A: I could go back while I was still in recovery and I wouldn't lose a semester, but there would be a high likelihood that my illness would see me not do very well, fail, or perhaps even relapse completely. Or, Option B: I could take the rest of the year off and take my time getting well which would set me back in finishing my degree, but there was a good chance that when I did return I'd be much more capable of getting the grades I wanted, and the likelihood of relapse would diminish significantly.

Although the choice may seem obvious now, it wasn't at the time. A lot of us have the tendency to over complicate decisions such as these, which is why it's important to get back to the basics: would it be more beneficial or costly to steam ahead with your studies in your current situation? For me, the answer was a resounding 'No'.

So, I'm a year behind in my studies. And I've made the decision to study part-time here on out, which means I'll be even further behind. But, guess what? It was the right decision. I've taken my time to rehabilitate and get back in control of my mental health. I've learnt new coping strategies, and I've learnt a lot about myself in the process. The nature of my illness means that I will be faced with relapses, but because I've taken this time out, I know I will be more prepared for the next wave, and I'll be able to ride it out much better than I did this time. That is a comforting realisation.

But you know what the best part is? After all I've been through this year, I still want to study law. Now, that's a better love story than Twilight.

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