It’s official – after 5 (long) years, I can now say that I’ve graduated from law school.
When I saw the notification telling me I had completed my course, I felt elated.
But only for a brief moment. The euphoria lasted two minutes before I threw myself back into my work meetings with clients and fulfilling deadlines.
In my mind, I was already done with uni in February. I had firmly closed that chapter of my life and moved onto the next one. Having to log back into my student email felt like I was moving backwards when all I wanted to do was charge forward.
But then a friend reminded me to reflect on what I had been through. 5 years, after all, is a really long time to spend in one place. The person I am now is completely different to the bright eyed 18 year old who was once filled with hopes and dreams of being a lawyer.
So, looking back, here’s what I would tell my first year self.
Many people will tell you that university will be the best days of your life.
This is the grand expectation you carry with you into your first year of uni. You truly believe that if there was ever a place to fall in love, make friends, and build a thriving career, it’s here – a random campus in the middle of Clayton.
You’re bright-eyed, innocent, and ready to throw yourself into anything and everything. If there was a party to attend, you were there in a flash. If you sat next to someone cool in your lecture, you asked them out to lunch. If there was a competition to participate in, your name was the first on the list.
Hold on to this energy as long as you can. After a while, you’ll find that uni has a way of sucking joy and enthusiasm out of its students. Eventually, other people’s cynicism will rub off on you. So for now, really savour it.
For the first semester, uni really does feel like the best year of your life. Everything is shiny and new. People are overly friendly and are probably carrying the same grand expectations you have. You make friends who you firmly believe will be your ride or die. You exude confidence you didn’t have in high school. You are well and truly peaking.
But where there’s a peak, there’s inevitably a fall.
By the time you hit semester 2, the gloss has well and truly worn off. Now, you realise there’s actually work to be done. People are sick of each other. Parties start to feel the same. You get caught up in endless bouts of other people’s dramas – which was almost always about boys.
“I thought everything would be different when I started uni,” someone tells you. “I thought my life was going to change.”
You don’t know how to respond because you feel the same way: you thought your life would be better.
Then comes the breaking point: 2nd year. If you had a bird’s eye view of your life, this would be the point where you see a black line separating who you were before and who you are after.
You learn that people will come and go from your life with no explanation. You now know that that’s just how life works: we don’t get to keep people in our lives forever. But at the time, it feels demoralising. Like something must be inherently wrong with you that turns people off. Left unchecked, these lies start to invade every part of your life until you truly feel there’s no way up from here.
But where there’s darkness, there’s always light.
Light comes in the form of two friends who help you navigate the darkest time of your life. For the first time, you learn what ride-or-die truly looks like: showing up for the other person even when things aren’t pretty. You find out that you’re deeply loved by your Creator. For the first time, you feel joy.
In your third year, you re-enter with a newfound sense of confidence. You are given a golden opportunity to travel across the world to damp and rainy England. Your flat mates are all energetic first years and you get a chance to relive your first year all over again. Except this time, you know your limits and you stick firmly to them. Your flat mates embrace the freedom that comes from living away from home, and you watch as they make the same youthful mistakes you once did. Now, you get to offer the comfort you always wish you had.
When fourth year comes along, you’ll sign up to a program for the purpose of padding your legal resume. That program will push you to start a blog for law students and it’ll re-spark the creativity you once buried. That spark will become the catalyst for you to start publishing your stories on this corner of the internet, and you’ll realise that you were never ever meant to be a lawyer. That program is also where you end up meeting your future client, friend, and mentor. She’ll be the first person to invest serious dollars in your words and she’ll push you onto a path where you can truly do work that fulfils you.
When you try something new, support will be limited. Know that it’s because people love you and want to protect you. But anything worth pursuing will often means that you have to run in the opposite direction from safety.
Fifth year is truly your best year – but not for the reasons you think. You worry less about what other people think and focus more on the friends who have consistently shown you support. You won’t ever find love within the different levels of the library or continue with a career in law, but as it turns out, you were never meant to find those things in Clayton anyway.
You’ll notice that there’s no mention of study. That’s for a reason. The friendships you make and break, the coffee catch-ups you initiate, and the boys that kiss & ghost you, will teach you far more than what your lecturers ever will. For that reason, don’t be afraid to throw yourself out there. Even if it does lead to tears at the time.
Above all, know that none of it was a waste of time. You complain endlessly that it is, but without it, you wouldn’t have had the chance to meet the people that have shaped you into who you are today.
Encouraging you always,