HOW LAW SCHOOL ALMOST KILLED ME

By Jocelyn Chidsey

My 8 week old son and I were bravely setting out on a 13 hour drive from North Carolina to my hometown in south Florida. He was usually such a happy and complacent baby, but on this particular trip, he did not want me to listen to anything on the radio….not music, the news or even books on CD. The only thing thing that kept him quiet was the sound of ocean waves that played endlessly on his portable sound machine. And as anyone with a newborn knows...you do whatever you can to keep them quiet...so waves it was! With nothing else to keep my mind preoccupied, I started thinking about life in general and assessing my overall level of happiness.

The disturbing result was that I wasn’t happy at all. I thought about all that I had, an amazing husband, the deepest love for my newborn son, a beautiful home in the country, a well paid job, etc...but when I really thought about it, I wasn’t happy. I realized that the source of my unhappiness was rooted in my professional life. At the time, I was managing a prestigious medical practice in the area, and had the support and respect of my colleagues, and my boss. I had a nice flexible schedule, which was great for our growing family, and a very nice paycheck. But that drive made me think not just about my current job but other jobs that I had in the past, and I realized that as fulfilling as the work that I did was, I always felt like I had hit a glass ceiling and that I needed and wanted to do more for the people I was helping.

When I told people that my plan was to go to law school, I had a lot of support...especially from my husband. The only negative feedback I ever got was from myself. I was so excited about the prospect of attending law school and becoming an attorney, and all of the major life changes that would need to happen along the way, but also terrified of the changes, like the financial and time sacrifices and at many junctions, thought I could never do it!

When I first started school, I did not really understand the level of commitment it would take to keep up. For the first week or so, I was still trying to come home at 5PM, and play mother and wife, and I quickly learned that the schedule I had been used to, was over! Law school required me to be on campus by 7AM, and although home for dinner, demanded most of my evenings until late in the night. Regardless of your personal or family status, one of the hardest parts about being a first year law student, is that it is like NOTHING you have experienced before….not work, not graduate school...not anything. The learning curve is a very high and in order to keep your head above water, the time frame to mastering that curve has to be very short.

Balancing family and personal time was difficult for me, especially for the first semester because there was so much work to do, but gradually, I learned to manage my time better and be more efficient so that I could spend time with my family and time for myself. Now that I look back at my first year, instead of thinking that having a family would be detrimental to the experience, I can say positively that it made me a better student. I had to work a little harder and plan a little more than some of my colleagues who were single, because I didn’t have a minute to spare and I wanted to have that time at home to be a wife and mother.

While most of this focuses on the sacrifices I made as a student, no one sacrificed more than my husband. I know that no matter how hard I worked or what I did to improve myself in school, I could not have done any of it without him. Lucky for me, when we discussed the prospect of law school, he had better foresight into what that schedule would look like. He immediately took over running our whole household. He came home after working a full time job, and most nights, did the cooking so I could have a little bit of time to play with our son, then he would take care of our son’s bath and bedtime routine so I could study. When he was finished with that, he would take care of dishes, and then pack lunches for the following day….he was a super husband, a super father and a superman!

Not only did he keep the household going, but he kept me going as well. When I wanted to give up, he wouldn’t hear of it, when I had extra stress, he picked up even more slack. He has been my greatest source of strength and support and conversely,  is one of the reasons I continue to work so hard. Despite all of his efforts and dedication, it was still hard. I spent many nights alone in the library crying about being away from my family so much and I’m sure he had his moments of doubt and loneliness too, but he never showed it. As a result, I finished my first year with flying colors. And while I still have a long way to go, I can honestly say that law school,  while the most difficult and challenging thing I have ever done, is also the most gratifying. And looking back to that long car ride down to Florida, I can say that for the first time in many years, I am finally happy!