• Marie Iskander

Dropping a Subject: Admitting Defeat?

As it approached 3am and I embraced my oversized Federal Constitutional Law textbook in bed, reading and re-reading how the High Court defines the trade and commerce power, I realised that I just couldn’t cope with the demands of this subject at this time. I had neglected the subject far too long to think that I could wrap my mind around 12 different topics before the 40% mid-session assignment.

The demands of my other law subjects, as well as my various employment roles, extra-curricular activities and (attempts) to have a social life this semester simply got in the way of finding time to fully equip my mind for the intensity that is studying constitutional law.

It’s not that I hated the subject. Quite the contrary, I love constitutional law (nerd alert). I think it was my love for this subject that helped me to make the tough decision at around 5.30am and only a few pages of reading later: I had to drop this course and re-enrol again when I was ready.

Maybe it was my fault for accepting far too many extra responsibilities this semester. Maybe it was my fault for selecting four extremely dense law courses in one go, knowing full well that it would be a challenge. Maybe it was my fault for spending a lot more time writing about my study of law this semester, than (at times) actually studying law. Or maybe I just knew that I wouldn’t be happy with a ‘pass’ mark in this subject. Whatever it was, it had got me to that moment where I decided that it would be far better to withdraw from this course now than complete it to a standard that I may regret.

Upon reaching the final decision, I consulted a good friend (more for affirmation than advice). A hard worker himself, with very high standards, he admitted that he saw withdrawing from a course as a sign of laziness. I know my friend only had the best of intentions, but this made me feel uneasy. Maybe he was right, and I was running away from my problems rather than tackling it head on. Maybe, I was being weak.

I’ve never thought of myself as lazy before, so confronting the idea that perhaps I was just giving up too easily because I had this 40% mid-session assessment looming, really unsettled me. Regardless, I had already made up my mind and I knew that I could not continue with this subject and give it the justice it deserved.

Sometimes as law students we think that we are super-human, that tasks can keep being thrown our way and we can achieve it all. Sadly, I’ve discovered this isn’t true, and as mere mortals (believe it or not) sometimes if we continue to work ourselves into the ground with the belief that we can do everything at the standard that we desire, we may end up doing more harm than good. At some point we need to draw a line and realise that we can’t do or have everything, and that everything comes at a cost: lower grades, less sleep, a decline in our health, or the breakdown of our relationships.

Perhaps my decision to drop Federal Constitutional Law was not me being weak, but perhaps it was me being strong – strong enough to accept my own abilities and to make a tough decision to choose what is right for me at this current time.

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