Balancing Law with your Life
Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed a significant increase in frantic late night Facebook status updates regarding exam material and premature plans for getting unapologetically drunk. And while most of these are likely just harmless displays of frustration and regret for having the organisational skills of a seven year old on a red cordial high, I just want to take a second to remind everyone that it’s important to have a balanced life. Plus, no one likes weirdo workaholics.
There’s always been something that’s bugged me about the idea of growing up, spending 13 years at school, then 3-5 years at uni, only to work the best years of your life away so you can get old and retire. Unfortunately, if you are someone who is passionate about the law, this is most likely the lifestyle you have signed up for. This is exactly the reason why it’s so important to have balance.
No one ever sits on their death bed and says “I really wish I got better grades”, or “I wish I worked harder”, or even “I wish I made more money”. You know what they say? They say, “I wish I didn’t waste the best years of my life” or “I wish I spent more time with the people I loved”.
Law students have a tendency to put aside all the other aspects of their lives and prioritise their studies above all else, which, for us being a bunch of fairly intelligent people, is a really stupid move. Law is one of those things that can consume you so it’s a dangerous slippery slope if your balance is thrown out of whack.
Declining attendance at social occasions slowly turn into such a rarity that your mates may as well have befriended the abominable snowman, where sightings are carefully documented and retold as folklore. Meals become unhealthy, infrequent and sporadic, (and mostly in liquid form). Strength diminishes and muscles atrophy to the point where carrying anything heavier than a Commercial Law textbook and a 24 pack of NoDoz is a significant strain. You grow a mad beard. Hygiene is reduced to a bare minimum, and any shower time is spent reciting sections of the Australian Consumer Law. You’re irritated all the time (I have loudly exclaimed a string of very vulgar profanities in the law library after incorrectly spelling ‘unconscionable’ one too many times). Perhaps the most detrimental: your relationships with friends, family and loved ones deteriorate.
So relax. Take a breather and get some perspective. Your law degree (as with everything else in life) shouldn’t define you. It should complement you. Here are a few suggestions as to how to avoid becoming the guy who keeps fresh shirts and a toothbrush at the office:
Humans are seriously inefficient creatures. When we are faced with problems, instead of knuckling down and getting some results, we stress. This is not only unconducive (and often detrimental) to getting things done, but really annoying to anyone in your immediate vicinity. If your rate of speech is faster than 4 words per second and louder than 30 decibels, relax.
Don’t write off relationships
If someone says “Oh I don’t have time for a relationship because of my studies” I immediately put them in my ‘unhealthy emotional validation and dependency on studies’ mental filing cabinet (the cabinet happens to be labelled ‘crazy cat collectors at age 30’). I think that’s crap. If you don’t have time to form relationships with people, you need to free up some time. Plus, besides the companionship (and consultation/note thieving if they also happen to be a law student), if there’s a degree where you might need someone to vent to or who reminds you to eat, law is it.
Take care of yourself
Eat well, exercise and look after your body. Besides looking good, feeling healthy and being confident, no one wants to get sick when you have stuff to get done. Trust me, having a Kevlar strength immune system comes in handy when you are working night shifts, going to uni, getting next to no sleep and there’s a bug going around.
Words cannot describe how unfathomably awesome a travel experience can be. It’s not easy being a law student and trying to save up the pennies for a trip but it isn’t impossible. Besides the awesomeness of cheap food, booze, availability of hammocks (seriously, why are there not more hammocks in Australia?) and a bunch of really new and exciting things to do, what it does to your perspective is incredible. You start worrying a lot less about whether the readings you didn’t do will affect your exam results when you meet landmine victims who have wrinkles from smiling so hard.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
Whether your figurative egg is happiness, validation, or simply a hobby to keep you occupied – spread it out. Did your parents hide all your Easter eggs in one spot? I don’t think so. Have other passions in your life that aren’t related to law. Go out, travel, meet people, learn salsa, bungee jump, eat obscure foods, take up a new sport, hit the gym for some stress relief, buy a kayak, walk the dog, watch bad sitcoms and invent a drinking game, solve a Rubik’s cube, whatever. Just make sure that your degree doesn’t become your whole life.
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