I have rarely been in a room with so many bright and academically accomplished folks as I have in these first eight weeks of law school. I may be at the extreme high end of the age spectrum among my classmates, but I am nowhere near the high end of the intelligence spectrum. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel bad about that. As has been pointed out to us repeatedly, most of us were the top of our classes in undergraduate school, meaning we were all “the smart ones.” The competition is steep here and the curve is hairpin-tight.
These last few weeks, I have been feeling like a fish out of water. Part of that, of course, is the very ordinary process of adapting to new surroundings, new people, a new routine (or lack thereof), and an ever-increasing academic workload. The other part has involved a keen awareness of the ways that I am not akin to my classmates. The obvious one is my age, but that’s not really a big deal. It was for a few weeks, but I think everyone has gotten over it now, me included. No, I’ve been feeling lonely. I see so many of my classmates hanging out together, posting pictures on social media of their weekend cavorting, and generally seeming to have bonded. I was feeling left out, even though I knew before I got here that much of that college-style socializing stuff would not be for me. That’s young people doing what young people do, including the drinking and hooking up and whatever. I’ve gotten some insights from a professor or two who were kind enough to share their perspective, and I’ve had time to process all the changes. I don’t feel lonely anymore.
Why? Well, for starters, for every classmate that seems to be involved in the great neoplasm of 1Ls, there are even more who I don’t see. Like me, they are not hanging out at the school or cramming themselves into a party at a classmate’s tiny apartment or doing the bars. Nope, at least half of my classmates seem to be doing exactly what I’m doing: going home to study, doing their best, and trying to find their way in this foreign territory called law school. They are tending to their family and the friendships they had before they got here. They are taking a minute to check out their new surroundings. They are struggling to balance sleep and study with other responsibilities and interests, just like me.
I referred to my classmates as “kids” with someone my age recently and was reminded that, though they may lack maturity, even the youngest of my classmates is technically an adult. It was suggested that I check my views and prejudicial stereotypes. Fair enough. Along that line, it’s interesting that some of the youngest folks in my class – those that just turned 22, for instance – are among the most mature and thoughtful.
So, as I work on losing “kids” from my law school vocabulary and return to the 10 hours of studies that are ahead for today and most every day for the next 2+ years, I count myself lucky for my 52 years on this planet. Unlike many of my younger classmates, I am not facing an existential crisis, only one of endurance, and I’ve got perseverance in spades.