I went to Shabbat service at the Wilshire Boulevard Temple as part of an educational "field trip" for the Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Studies course I'm taking. We learned about Judaism and Catholic-Jewish relations, and it was such a revelation. I had been to temple once before, back when I was thirteen for a friend's Bat-mitzvah, but I don't remember what it was like. My mom remembers it being long, and she was right. Our Catholic mass is 1 hour long, this service we were at was two and a half hours! Although, that's also because there were two bat-mitzvahs at this service.
I just wrapped a 23-year career in education. Okay, so I totally included preschool in that count, but I totally learned things in preschool. In fact, probably the most important thing I learned in preschool was how to write my name. You know they give you 40 or 45 points just for showing up and writing your name on the bar exam…for each part of the exam—so that’s 240/270 points!
Anyways, I really don’t like graduation ceremonies, because they’re long and hot, and long and hot, and did I mention long and hot? However, leading up to commencement I was thinking about how important graduation seemed to be for my family, and I can’t complain. Their unconditional love and unfailing support is invaluable. I am extremely blessed.
I mean, the fact that they wanted to celebrate my graduation more than I did means a whole lot to me. And it wasn’t just my parents who were insistent on me walking at commencement and also having some kind of family gathering, but it was my aunts and uncles, and my cousins, too.
So, even though all the singular attention makes me really uncomfortable—and I mean REALLY uncomfortable—I realize I have an incredible support system. I always have. When I was little, my aunt and uncle, or my grandma would take me to gymnastics when my mom couldn’t. And nowadays they’re all still always there for me in other ways.
In the end, I’m very glad I decided to walk, especially after seeing my grandma’s reaction. Plus, I know how much it meant to my parents. We celebrated that evening with a huge Persian feast. We’re not Persian, but damB we love Persian food. Well, we love all food.
The wine was flowing, the laughter was roaring, and my cousin and his girlfriend brought over the best ice cream cake ever. Two of them! One in the shape of a bumblebee, and one in the shape of a ladybug! It was marvelous. The funniest part was while we were eating, my cousin pointed out that we all had black teeth because of the black frosting, and we all busted into hysterical laughter. It was magnificent. It was exactly what I needed before I head into two of some of the hardest months of my life. So, I’m very grateful they all forced me into celebrating.
Getting through something like law school and then getting through something like bar prep requires a really strong support system, and I realize that not everyone has that. Next to any traumatic situation you may encounter, God forbid, law school and studying for the bar are a couple of the hardest things you will do in your life, if you decide to do it.
So, since I’ve been asked several times, here are some of my tips to anyone considering getting a law degree:
1) You have to REALLY want it. I mean REALLY, REALLY want it, because it is a HUGE mental, emotional, even physical, and financial commitment;
2) Once you have decided, you need to fully commit yourself, or you won’t make it out—realize it absolutely must be a priority;
3) Know that your friends and family will NOT understand what you are going through unless they have been through it, too; and
4) Don’t get a law degree to make money.
BIG LOVE & HUGS
At times, the road we choose can be extremely lonely, even if we’re not the only ones walking it. I was really starting to feel all the stress and pressure of the bar, school, and work, and I started to feel so alone—the second loneliest time I’ve ever felt in my life, and that's saying something if you know me. I mean, I could feel my head pulsating, and I was listening to classical music to keep me calm.
Obviously, I’m not the only one under these stresses right now. I’ve got friends in class me with me, going through the same things. But then again, we’ve all had different experiences in law school, so there’s not necessarily anyone who REALLY knows what I’m going through. It doesn’t help that my family doesn’t understand—I mean, they’re supportive in their own crazy way, and I love them, but they just have no clue. Thankfully, I have a few friends who are extremely supportive and they help me escape the madness every now and then.
There is however one person, who I knew would know exactly what I’m going through, who I could confide in, and who could give me the reassurance I needed to restore my faith and confidence in myself. She knows my ups and struggles in law school. She knows how hard I work. She also knows how to talk to me like a human being. So I went to talk to her today, and suddenly all that negative energy just melted away. I mean, I still can’t help but worry, but it’s not the kind of worry that will not hinder my performance.
The thing is, we’re never really alone unless we let ourselves be. I could have kept everything to myself, try to let this episode of panic subside on its own, but this time I knew I couldn’t. For those of you not in law school, or who haven’t been to law school, it’s totally normal to have mental breakdowns every now and then, leading up to the bar. Normally my “moments” take care of themselves, or I do something to take care of it somehow; but this time was a little different.
I think I just have a lot more on my plate at the moment, and I could feel myself burning out, but I was desperately trying to fight it. I can’t burn out now. It’s way too early to start burning out. I can’t burn out until after August 1st! After that, I can burn out in the Swiss Alps, on a lake in Italy, or on some centuries old cobblestone road in France. I don’t care.
So just remember, when you feel alone, know that you’re not and find the one person who knows exactly what you’re going through. That’s what “Love, Justine” was created for—a place for you to know that you are NEVER alone. Also, have at least one or two people in your life who help you escape, even for just an hour or two. When I get together with these friends, we do not talk about school—at least not in detail. We talk about guys, love, relationships, people, history, faith, happy things, human things, whatever. And of course, just take care of yourself. Know yourself. Know what works for you. This week, classical music worked for me. Next week, I may go horseback riding.
Have faith, and choose to be great :).
BIG LOVE & HUGS
When I started law school, and even now as I’m about to finish law school, most people are always surprised when I tell them I didn’t choose to go to law school to become an attorney. If I wind up being an attorney, then cool. If I don’t—awesome.
So then, people ask me, “Why did you decide to go to law school then?” Well, that’s simple. I wanted the degree. I wanted the education. The way I see it, education is an incredible opportunity, and I’m going to seize every opportunity I can to make sure I make the most of my life, and make the most out of me. The major nerd in me gets super giddy when I feel like my mind is being challenged and further opened, so I always knew I would seek higher education.
You see, the thing is, free education is not universal. Okay, so law school and undergrad were not “free” per se. They both cost a lot. Some private grade schools cost as much as a public undergraduate degree. But the point is no one can stop us from going. No one can stop us from choosing to get an education. In fact, we are encouraged to get an education. If we need student loans to help us get our degree, then they are there for us…despite the massive interest rates attached to them. If you're afraid of paying back loans though, then you better make your education damn worth it.
I grew up singing and acting, doing musicals and Shakespeare. There was a time when I thought that’s what I’d be doing my whole life. You don’t need an education for that. En contraire, I believe that every chance you get to challenge and open your mind, is a chance to make you better at whatever it is you end up doing. And going to school is part of that. So going to college was never even a question in my mind. Of course, don't get me wrong, I don't believe that sticking your nose in a book is the only way, or even the most efficient way to learn. Real life experience is still the best educator. However, school provides you with valuable tools and discipline. For example, law school teaches you nothing about what you'll actually be doing as an attorney, only experience will. What law school teaches you though, is how to think. Law school forces you to think in a way, that sometimes feels less like opening your mind to a new way, and more like twisting your mind in all kinds of directions. It's wonderful. I love it. Besides, if you look at the top of the A-list Hollywood actors, they’re all smart cookies, whether or not they finished their degree. Natalie Portman—Harvard. Reese Witherspoon—Stanford. Anne Hathaway—NYU. Robin Williams—UC Berkley. Gwyneth Paltrow—UC Santa Barbara (my alma mater, yay!). Matt Damon—Harvard. I could go on, but where people went to school does not matter. What matters is that those who thirst for knowledge, and who thirst for constant growth, are the ones who will be great.
However, not everyone who thirsts for knowledge and growth is allowed to quench that thirst. In some countries, girls are not allowed to go to school. If they do, they risk their lives. They risk their families’ lives. Remember 15 year-old Malala, who was shot in the head by the Taliban this last October, because she had promoted girls’ education? Thankfully, she survived and continues to get better. She also continues to speak out for and support girls’ education in Pakistan. Educating women reduces poverty and improves health, not just for women, but for their families, too. Thus, educating girls is one of the first and most important steps in making this world we live in, a better place to live.
Here in the U.S., we don’t always appreciate how blessed we are, but I hope you will now appreciate it a little bit more.
Happy International Women’s Day.
BIG LOVE & HUGS