“The most meaningful thing someone said to me after my father’s death was the following: ‘be kind to yourself. This phrase, although simple, is truly powerful. You may be angry, depressed, tired, happy, manic, etc. This is all okay. Allow yourself to feel. Do not be hard on yourself…There is no timeline for loss.’”
I received that email early the morning after I had learned that my father had passed away in the fall of my 1L year. It was from a 3L who I barely knew. And yet rereading the email today, I realize that not only was he right about the whirlwind of emotions that comes after loss, but how badly I needed to receive the message when I did.
It is one of those things that is never talked about, and yet when I brought it up to friends, even professors who I barely knew at the law school, I always received that reassuring, comforting nod: I’ve been there too, and I know what you’re going through.
That is why I wanted to write about my experiences coping with grief. Death is one of those things that unites us all. Losing a loved one, whether unexpected or not, hurts. And yet, until the pandemic, for many it was rarely talked about, especially for people my age who had yet to lose someone close in this early stage of life.
During the past two years, I have experienced both forms of death: unexpected and expected. Nonetheless, it has taken me all of this time to write about my experiences. I originally wanted to write about coping with grief during the height of the pandemic—a time in which many people have been suffering. If there can be a silver lining to the past year and a half, it has been how discussions about grief have been brought to the forefront of our personal lives as we have comforted each other in our time of need. Sadly, I was not able to get myself to put pen to paper until now, ongoing proof that my grief persists. (To this point, my family still mourns on the same day every month.) In fact, because none of my losses were Covid related, I think my story shows the necessity of facilitating this discussion outside the time of a global pandemic. For those who needed this message earlier, I apologize.
I did my hair, threw on my dress, and took a picture of myself that would inevitably end up on my mother’s Facebook. It was time to make my way to Stuart House for a very important milestone.
No, not for my first day at BC Law. It was Newton Prom, a coveted event for the Boston College freshmen that live on Newton Campus–and I was one of them. While I sit and review case briefs in the Yellow Room today, I can’t help but reminisce about the middle school-esque dance party that I attended in the same exact spot five years ago.
I graduated from Boston College in May 2020 from the comfort of my living room. On March 11th, 2020 at approximately 5:20 pm, I received an email telling me I had four days to move out. My time at Boston College was cut short–by 64 days to be exact. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Fast forward through a year of attending Zoom School of Law, I clicked my heels three times chanting, “There’s no place like home,” and I was sent back to the Yellow (Brick-less) Room.
Travis here: today I’m hosting a guest post from my friend and classmate, Tong Liu, Class of 2023.
The start of a new experience can always be nerve-wracking, with law school being no different. Diving into a new environment, meeting new people and navigating the complexities of pandemic life each brings a whole host of challenges. Some, like learning how to use Zoom properly, are easy and usually overcome within a few days. Others, like figuring out how best to prepare for classes, can take a matter of weeks. However, one of the most difficult challenges for me is determining how much of myself I can share with others.
Going into law school during a pandemic, I knew that in-person interactions would be limited. Half of my classes were going to be on Zoom, and the in-person classes had everyone masked up and socially distanced. I was also commuting about an hour and a half round-trip for classes, making it difficult for me to meet up with classmates who lived near campus.
Still, the commute ended up becoming a blessing of sorts as well. I was able to have a period of zen before and after classes as I drove, jamming out to an eclectic mix of songs. Safe within the confines of my car, I could take off my mask after a long day in class or at the library, and belt the songs out loud without any shame.
525,600 minutes. Daylights and sunsets and midnights and cups of coffee. I’ve always found that Rent offers a beautiful melodic sampling of ways to conceptualize this fickle thing we call time. But the question, however harmonized, remains: how do you measure a year?
Thinking too long on this subject brings a heavy lump to my throat. It’s been one year. We’ve lost so much and so fast. Tearing apart businesses, families, and entire communities, the pandemic has stripped us of so much of that closeness our society once had: a handshake over a new business agreement, a scorched smile over too hot coffee on the morning commute crammed in a subway car, a visit to see a loved one, a high five with a stranger over a touchdown at the sports bar. We were told to be, for an undetermined amount of time and with no warning, alone. And yet, the very science and expertise unto which we cling to guide us through this madness is debated like the merits of contemporary art by politicians. Some people believe this is a globally orchestrated hoax. Our democracy is still in the ICU. This year has, as a great mentor of mine says, given our entire society a CAT scan. It’s shown our inequities and injustices. It’s shown the unyielding power of the few and the overwhelming lack of access for the many.
At its most basic level, a community is simply defined as a unified body of individuals. Anyone can be part of a community and, in fact, everyone is part of some community. But the power of community doesn’t arise from its mere existence: it’s created through shared values and consistent acts.
Recently, BC Law’s Black Alumni Network (BAN) provided amazing sweaters to students in the BAN mentor program. The creative sweaters happily surprised many students, but the impact didn’t come from the sweater’s creative afro-centric stitching. Rather, the impact arose from the thoughtful, intentional consideration of BAN members.
January 27, 2021 will always hold a special place in my heart. It marks my last first day of school ever! (Well, that’s the plan at least.)
We again find ourselves in hybrid mode, where larger classes are online and most smaller classes are in-person, with social distancing measures in place. We also are starting much later because of the school’s decision to cancel spring break. Needless to say, we have another unconventional semester ahead.
But as we kick off this semester, I wanted to reflect on some of the small things that I took for granted in pre-pandemic times that I hope return to BC Law as soon as possible:
I’m not sure it’s possible to actually prepare for the first year of law school. After I submitted my applications in the Fall of 2019, I concocted all sorts of ideas to prepare and “get an edge”. I started by reading several books including The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and some excerpts from Law School Confidential. I considered enrolling in prep courses to regain study skills. I’m pretty sure none of these tactics actually helped my GPA or experience (although both books are phenomenal reads).
As I wrote about in a previous blog post Act Like You Belong. Because You Do., the best strategy is to remain confident in your abilities that have propelled you this far. There is a lot of weight put on the competition in law school, which is not helpful. Plus, I’ve found within the BC community, my classmates want everyone to do well, not just themselves. My greatest mindset shift after surviving the first semester is that the only thing I can control is the amount of effort I put towards my studies. I like to think of my job as a law student described by three functions: academic success, professional exposure, and social network. After a semester under my belt, I intend to adjust course in three specific ways that correspond to each of those functions to boost my experience and performance at Boston College.
The travels are over, the holiday decorations are packed up, and Valentine’s Day candy is already on the grocery store shelves. So, is it weird that I feel ready to be back on campus?
If you are anything like me, winter break tends to fly by at some points but at other times feels never-ending. At the beginning of break, I knew I needed to take a few days to do nothing. These “few days” quickly turned into “a lot of days.” I found myself waking up unnecessarily late, last-minute scheduling doctor appointments before heading up to Boston, and realizing I had many more people on my list that I wanted to see while home in DC.
So, it’s safe to say I am ready to get back into some sort of routine. Although I’d be lying if I said I was excited about class readings, I have found that the structure of law school drastically helps me with time-management. Not only am I able to stay on top of my classwork and readings, but I am able to schedule time to do a lot more outside of school, including visiting friends in far-away places.
If you don’t believe me, try writing a paper over a break. It’s amazing how many more times you’ll refresh Instragram, offer to help your parents with grocery shopping, or rewatch a Netflix series you thought you hated. But, as I quickly realized, the paper is not going anywhere.
With that being said, (almost) welcome back to campus BC Law! I’m excited to catch up with classmates, meet new professors, and jump right into the second half of this year, and hope you are, too.
Courtney Ruggeri is a second-year BC Law student who loves to hear from readers. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am happy to host a guest blog today from Vincent Lau, ’97, on why BC Law’s community continues to make it the right choice.
I still remember the very first week when I was a 1L years ago when Dean Avi Soifer both informed and assured us that the Boston College Law School was an extended community. While I haven’t thought too much more about the actual speech until now, his characterization of BC Law was definitely accurate. Looking back at the different stages of my relationship with the school, I couldn’t agree more.
When I was accepted to BC Law I was very excited but also torn. At the time, I was living in California and was offered admission into one of the reputable state schools in California, with an in-state resident tuition price tag. And, having grown up on the East Coast, I wanted to stay longer in California. What convinced me was that all of the BC Law alumni with whom I spoke were very pleased with their education and the experience they received. In fact, they freely shared with me how much they enjoyed their time there. How could I say no?
While attending BC Law has been over 20 years ago, what sticks out in my mind about my experience is the access that I had to my professors. While BC Law attracts some of the brightest legal minds, these are also professors who are dedicated to the learning process and ensuring that they set aside time for their students. I was floored by the attention that I received. This you don’t find in many other places and again emphasizes the sense of community there.
You’ve already decided that law school is your next move. But how do you decide which law school? For me, choosing BC was one of the easiest decisions I ever made. And if you’re wondering why, I’ve summed it up for you in five points: