When I wrote my last substantial post two years ago, I was winding up for my first year of law school, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and ready to take on a new journey. Well, now I’m two years in and have one year left and I can say that going to law school has been the best decision I’ve ever made. Having said that, this path has been complicated and at times, my experiences have overwhelmed me. For the first few months of my first year, I barely slept. Being back in school after a five-year absence was strange, especially considering the fact that I was not always the most studious person when I was an undergrad. That changed pretty quickly, as did my ability to cope with difficult topics.
For those that don’t know, in law school, all first year students (called 1Ls) usually take the same classes, which include Legal Research and Writing, Torts, Contracts 1-2, Civil Procedure 1-2, Criminal Law, Property, and Constitutional Law 1. Those are all very disparate topics which I am convinced are a collective attempt to stretch your brain in as many different ways as possible at once. After your first year, you are usually encouraged to find a legal internship to do during the summer. I was an intern with Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, a legal aid organization based in St. Louis. In addition to that, I began working as a research assistant for a law professor, so most of my free time during the summer was taken up by doing research.
As if that wasn’t all enough to keep me busy, I was also accepted on as a staff editor for the Saint Louis University Journal of Health Law and Policy after my 1L year. In that role during 2L, I had to do research and proofread papers before they were published in the journal, and I also had the opportunity to write my own health policy paper. I am so excited to talk about that on this blog in the fall, so keep an eye out. Being on this journal has been amazing and I have learned so much in such a short amount of time over the last year. This next school year, I will be the Technical Managing Editor and I’m looking forward to understanding more about how the legal academic system works!
Throughout my law school experience, I have been dealing with a lot on the disability side that I don’t talk about much with my law school and other able-bodied friends. About six weeks into my first semester of 1L year, my aide quit without notice. The journey to get to law school was exceptionally difficult and my aide was specifically vetted and found to be someone who was unlikely to quit and leave me in a lurch. My aide would drive me to and from school, would help me throughout the day with my books, laptop, bathrooming, eating, and getting around the building, and essentially allowed law school to be possible for me. So when she quit, it really threw me for a loop. Luckily, and with the help of many friends and family, I am still in school and managing things day by day. My coverage since that time has been piecemeal to say the least. As hesitant as I am to say that anything good has come out of the coronavirus pandemic, working and going to school from home has made it sting a little bit less when people quit. Since March when remote learning started, two of my aides have quit but I have been able to manage because I’m at home. I don’t know what will happen in the future when I have to go back to physical classes. I, like everyone, have had to become okay with not knowing.
On top of practical considerations, law school has really helped me realize that I have distinct physical limitations that are different than those of my classmates. Because of my disability, Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2, I consistently deal with physical fatigue and I need more sleep than most people do. Starting out in my first year, I was getting about six hours of sleep per night. My nurse was coming at 10 p.m., taking about two hours to put me to bed and get my medical equipment set up, then getting me up at about 6 or 6:30 a.m. in order for me to be ready to be out of the door by 8. In class one day during my first semester I overheard someone complaining about not getting a full eight hours of sleep the night before. I spent my ride home that day crying in jealousy and overwhelming tiredness. Brownouts became a daily occurrence where I was convinced I would fall asleep with my eyes open.
My soul was tired. From the time I had started thinking about law school, I had hit wall after wall after wall built by people who were telling me with their words or their actions that law school was not meant for someone like me. From the time I applied for accommodations for the law school entrance exam (LSAT), I was continuously discouraged from attending or continuing to attend school. I wish I could say I felt a deep, enduring bravery or that I had a moment where things clicked into place and started getting a lot easier for me, but I didn’t and that moment never happened. Every day I just woke up and did the best I could. I began the slow, sometimes painful process of cutting out the parts of my life that were slowing me down and learning how to get through each day as best I could.
I did learn some tips along the way (maybe that can be a post I write someday once I’m out of school). I learned to give myself time. I learned to sleep in the car on the way to and from school to get an extra nap if I needed it. I learned to put down my books and computer while eating or trying to fall asleep. I needed to give my brain a break, and my experience has gotten a lot better once I started to do that.
Part of that learning process, unfortunately, meant that I had to take a break from blogging. Just while I got myself together and got more organized with my life. While things still aren’t perfect, I’m a lot more organized than I was, and it’s much easier for me to now compartmentalize my different tasks and issues, and still have time to do what I want and fulfill my different responsibilities.
Please check back every Sunday for a new post, and also look at my upcoming posts and reach out to me via my contact page if you have any thoughts or ideas about things you’d like me to talk about! So far, I have plans to write on a ton of different topics, including a continuance of my review series and to start a new series called Someone Fix This, in which I discuss disability law and policy issues that need to be updated or fixed. I have a lot coming through the pipeline and I’m so excited to share it with you all. I’m so happy to be back.