Bailing Out of Law School
I’ll try and keep the fan-girling to a minimum but I can’t help myself. Aside from being an incredible and self-motivated athlete, you’re an all around badass. You live life on your own terms and I really value that. I try to never lose sight of how important that is.
Having said all of that, I want to ask how you made the move to quit law school.
I spent six months roaming around the country, living in my car and jumping from crag to crag. I ended up living at the Red for two months, and now I live in an apartment in Virginia. I go to school in Washington DC. I don’t think I’m adjusting too well.
I’m trying hard to be okay with this. Some days aren’t so bad and sometimes I’m even interested in what I’m learning, but most days I feel so lost here. I’ve literally cried in the library because I feel so disconnected. I don’t mean to pour my heart out to you, but you were ballsy enough to call it and quit school.
I guess I’m just wondering what made you think about quitting and what broke the camel’s back.
I think its rad that you’re down to connect with whoever comes across here and I know for sure that you’re busy doing really awesome stuff, but if you get a minute to drop a line my way, it’d mean a lot. Plus it’d be really dope to know that I got a chance to actually talk to you.
I’m sorry to hear you’re in a bad place–I know how that is. It’s always hard to give advice to people about this kind of decision–stick it out or break loose. I don’t think there is a simple answer. I joke about it now, but the truth is it was really terrifying and really hard when I made the decision to cut away from my academic life (after finishing my Master’s degree and doing 5 days of law school…). I often make huge life choices very quickly, based on my feelings, and they haven’t steered me wrong so far. I had major doubts from the moment I decided to enroll in law school, and over the first days of classes the feeling that I was doing the wrong thing got more and more powerful until I literally had no choice but to bail.
I truly had no idea what I’d end up doing, and I was pretty scared about what I decided to do, which was live in my car and wait tables. It was also really frustrating sometimes working in a restaurant after I’d been teaching college writing as a teaching assistant, because I didn’t get a lot of respect as a waitress and I had no control over my schedule–if I was told to come in at 3 pm and roll silverware or vacuum, knowing I’d be paid $2/hour until I got my first table at 6 pm, I had to do it. I was super broke and made buying choices like a bag of flour instead of tortillas (I’d roll out my own on a square of plywood). Rest days were also tough because I had time to wonder what I was doing with my life and also get a little bored sometimes, feeling unproductive and wishing I had some work I could do on my own time, as I’d done when I was in school. But, the freedom I had to go climbing and to just spend time in places I wanted to be was worth all of the downsides, to me at that time. My life still is pretty nontraditional. I have a lot of control over my schedule and the work I do, but the flipside is that I literally never clock out, and I’m extremely busy all the time juggling a lot of different balls in the air. As a freelancer of any type, you never leave the office and you have to constantly hustle and do everything yourself, from creative work to accounting, which can be overwhelming at times. But, the freedom I have is worth it to me.
I generally think it’s a good idea to keep as many options open for yourself as possible (i.e., take a break from school at the end of a semester rather than in the middle of one), unless your feelings are so powerful that you have no choice but to follow them. I kind of struggle with my beliefs about following your passion (which I definitely believe in!!) versus making careful decisions so you don’t lose your freedom by being totally broke. My solution to this dilemma has been to keep my overhead low, stay out of debt, and value time over possessions. That’s why I liked living in my car–extremely low overhead.
Being completely miserable is never a good option. The final straw for me with law school was that I didn’t enjoy the classes at all (I loved school when I was a grad student). I’d almost chosen to go for a PhD in American Studies (which I probably would have liked better, but during my Master’s I’d figured out that getting a PhD in humanities would probably lead to a rat race of assistant professorships in places like Oklahoma, and that just wouldn’t have worked), and I quickly realized that I was more interested in the human stories and motivations behind the cases we were discussing than preparing myself to work in a law firm. I was only going because I’d scored well on the LSATs, I didn’t know what else to do, and I thought it might be a “good” career that I’d be happy with 5 years in the future. And then I realized that I actually had no idea what I’d want to be doing in 5 years, or even if I’d still be here in 5 years, and it didn’t make any sense to be miserable right now for something I didn’t even know if I’d want later. This is kind of the antithesis of having a 5 year plan, but it’s how I see things–who knows what you’ll want to do in 5 years! Personally, I think people who are smart with computers and language should learn coding, because you can work from anywhere and there’s seemingly endless demand for those skills.
These kind of choices are very big and very personal. Life is short, but it’s also long, so you need to listen to your heart and to your head. What I know for myself, is that if I don’t have passion for something I’m not going to have the dedication to stick it out when things get really hard or frustrating, which they do a lot. If I’m passionate about something, I know I’ll never give up and I’ll work as hard as possible for as long as it takes to succeed at it. I also know that freedom is my top priority, closely followed by security, so they both have to be considered. And that’s why I have to follow my heart first, but my head a close second.