by Murtaza Khwaja
As fall strikes Atlanta, with cool winds blowing away the long summer days and bringing us a cornucopia of pumpkin flavored everything, from our coffees to tree leaves, students in the law school may be feeling trapped, overwhelmed, overworked, or a variety of these and a dozen or so other emotions.
Well, at least for the 1Ls and us 2Ls.
3Ls are either still in bed or out golfing, so for all intents and purposes they can be considered outside the scope of this blog post and in some far off fantasy world where coming to the law school 5x a month is not only socially acceptable but expected.
For the rest of us and our complementary Boeing 757 of emotional baggage, we still may need the rare or occasional or periodic or frequent or … ok, ok, the daily reminder of why we chose to embark on this journey and whether or not it is all worth it.
To address these constant doubts, I think it helpful and, in fact, prudent for us to take a step back and look at things from a larger perspective.
First, before the worry and stress cause us too much grief, take this quote from Robin Williams’ beloved movie, Jack, where the titular character, a 17-year-old in the body of an elderly man due to his suffering from an exaggerated form of an aging disorder, says simply in his valedictorian speech:
“Please don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer night when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness turning night into day, make a wish. Think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.”
What a beautiful quote from a beautiful soul. And true as well, life IS fleeting. We should all take the opportunity to make the most of our time here. Far too much of the world is engulfed in conflict or poverty or situations of dire need for us to be killing ourselves over the difference between a B+ or A- in one professor’s class, in one university’s eyes. Not only can this subjective determination not accurately be determined by an outsider, but at the end of the day (namely our days) we will not be regretting having studied too little but rather having lived too little.
Not that these two things are mutually exclusive. Much of our time in law school should be cherished as a life experience we are unlikely to relive. Such experiences are not only essential to making us stronger as individual people but are a constant reminder of our humanity and our mortality; two concepts that link us all as a species. To remember our own is to remember that of those around us and that is the essence of the human spirit.
Far from being soul-crushing or joy-killing, law school is, rather, liberating. While we all may have different stories, I know that many of us share sentiments, likely stemming from our embodiment of the human spirit and strengthened in our time in law school, of wanting to use our study of law to make a difference in the world. As such, our legal education is taking us one step close to achieving that goal and giving us the tools we need to start our endeavors. While we will encounter great hurdles and obstacles, these struggles – whether they are writing a memo or taking an exam or being called on in class – are actually opportunities for us to showcase our talent and character. We would do well to remember these lessons outside the classroom as well.
As the Muslim Imam, Ali ibn Abi Talib, said, “Do not let your difficulties fill you with anxiety; after all it is only in the darkest nights that the stars shine most brightly. ”
If and when difficulties do arise, seize the moment for what it is, an opportunity.
So for now, sit back, enjoy the crisp fall air and all the pumpkin colors, lattes, and pastries as you prepare for final exams, and the opportunity to shine brightly together as a school, and in the future, as people.