Please excuse the title. It’s meant to be very tongue in cheek, but it summarizes what had been my approach to life for a very long time. When my mother died, everyone around me expected me to go into a state of extreme denial. After all, I was only a six-year-old little girl; how could I possibly understand the permanence of death, let alone be emotionally equipped to handle it? People thought they had to constantly explain it to me–every holiday, every birthday, well-meaning relatives and family friends would remind me why my mother wasn’t there. But I already knew. I knew why my mother wasn’t coming home from the moment my father picked me up from school and told me she had died in her sleep that morning.
I might have been a six-year-old little girl, but I was also the younger version of the left-brained, analytical future lawyer I am today. I might not have had the emotional maturity to cope with death, but I had the intellectual maturity to understand what it was. I knew I couldn’t press a reset button like I could on my Nintendo, nor could I pray to God or write to Santa to bring her back for Christmas. Gone was gone and I knew what that meant.
So why didn’t I cry?
1-Take Advice with a Grain of Salt
First-year law students love looking for advice and seasoned law students love giving it. It reminds us that we are no longer the new kids on the block and it makes us feel better about our overzealous course loads, far too many extracurriculars, and that interview we did two weeks ago that we’re still obsessing over. You want some advice, we’ve got it! The catch; that advice may not always be right for you.
Now, before you decide to purchase a garlic necklace to repel your friendly 2L and 3L mentors, hear me out. I am not saying the advice you get will be bad. We’ve all gone through 1L, most of us have passed all of our subjects, a few select unicorns have gotten A’s on those subjects, and most of us really do know what we’re doing. You should hear us out and try some of the study tips we give you–just make sure not to double down on them if they aren’t working. When a 2L approaches you and says, “this is the best way to study,” what they are really saying is “this is how I studied, and I did well, so it must be the best way.” Insert biggest eye roll here!
I have been grappling with the sometimes-tenuous relationship between my expectations and reality since I was a six-year-old girl, kissing my perfectly healthy mother goodbye before school. When I got off the school bus that afternoon, I expected my mother to be waiting for me at the bus stop, a snack to be on the table, and my father to be at work. Instead, it was my father waiting for me, no snack, and the news that my mother had taken a nap that morning and had never woken up.
Several years after my mother’s death, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, but I think emptiness is a much more complete way to describe what was happening inside my head. When people think of depression they think of sadness and tears, but depression is more like a parasite that sucks away all human emotions; happiness, anger, even sadness cannot exist as long as depression is present. Being depressed is like being locked behind a one-way mirror; isolated, invisible to your loved ones, and forced to watch them live their happy lives without you.