Here’s how I ended up in law school: I lost a bet with my dad. I told him that if he helped me finance a small business and it doesn’t work out, I’ll study law as a back-up. He agreed. The business failed, so I found myself taking an exam. Obviously, I got in.
Please don’t read too much into what I’m about to say, but I’m really not accustomed to failing. I’m one of those people who never had to try hard to excel. And in those few instances where I really did my best, I usually came out on top. The fact that the business failed wasn’t that big of a deal for me because, at least this was what I thought; first, I didn’t really try, and second, I felt that if I really tried, it would have been successful. I figured, whatever, it doesn’t count.
Besides, I really had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and lawyering seemed as good a job as any.
When I started, I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. I’m sure that the other 249 students felt the same way too. Which was why we were all so shocked. At the end of the first year, almost 50% quit, or got kicked out.
Here’s the thing. The first lesson law school teaches you is how to handle pain. Mind-numbing excruciating pain. Physical pain, in the form of headaches and ulcers because of sleepless nights and skipped meals due to non-stop studying. Psychological pain, because the professor will make you feel like an idiot for every mistake you make, and you’re bound to make a mistake each and every day. Emotional pain, because each day is a battle between your sense of worth, and the constant pressure to do better. In law school, there is a tendency for you to be defined by your grades. The school will not look at you as a person who is artistic, or interesting, or charming. It can only see you as that guy who failed Obligations and Contracts, or that girl who got a perfect score in Negotiable Instruments. It’s very difficult for a normal person not to question his significance when every day they give you a number as a yardstick for your value. “Here, you’re 74, the guy who almost passed."
There’s a reason why half of the first batch of law students leave or get kicked out; not everyone can handle it.
“Sleep is for the weak,” one professor said, and we believed him, at least when we were freshmen. We never slept. We had no choice, there was too much that needed to be read, or written, or understood. Each morning I woke up wanting to quit.
But I didn’t. Which surprised me to my core. How can the perennial quitter, that guy who never failed because he never truly attempted anything, stay the course for something this difficult? It was mind-boggling.
But this is where it gets weird: the more difficult the course got, the more I wanted to finish it. It became an obsession. Every morning I woke up thinking “fuck I want to quit,” and then I’d change my mind right after. Against all odds, it became a dream. I plodded on, with 3-4 hours of sleep, a couple of Red Bulls, and a Venti Caramel Macchiato everyday. I was miserable, but I wanted it so badly the idea of failing was unimaginable.
It came with a lot of sacrifices. My then-boyfriend broke up with me. I fought with my friends. I barely saw my family. My social life was practically nonexistent. And my already short temper was made even shorter. Every day, I blew up for no reason at all. I almost lost my best friend.
And why sacrifice so much? Why would I put myself in a situation where I could fail in the truest sense of the word? Why would I put my heart and soul into something so badly that I sacrificed so many other things that were also important? Why would I do that?
The answer was simple: Because I wanted to, and it was my dream.
The idea that one can achieve something significant or important in one’s life, grabbed me. So I took a chance. I’m still taking that chance. It’s very possible I will fail, but I will make sure, at least to the extent of my capacity, that it will not be because I did not give it my all.
There are successful people, and then there are successful people. I want my success, if I would be given the opportunity to reach it, to be defined by the idea that I took a risk, and won. That I poured my heart into something I really, truly thought was important, and I managed to come out on top. I don't want my success to be an accident. Success, without the real risk of failure, is not success at all.