It’s the long Memorial Day weekend here in America, and the official beginning of summer, according to local custom. Many of my friends and neighbors are enjoying mini-breaks and holidays but Jaeger and I are taking a different approach. Since my new little dog has spent more than half of his young life in an animal shelter he is happier right now with structure and a plan to control the variables. We decided to stay at home and use the time to catch up on some long neglected tasks, organize some runaway household projects, study, relax, and contemplate.
For me, happiness starts with organization and tidying up. Ordering things helps me think about other, perhaps unrelated, subjects and can be very inspiring. Sure enough, sorting through a filing cabinet full of work presentations from years gone by helped me clarify exactly what I want to achieve today. It also helped me to think about how to bring more order to my studies.
Like Jaeger Mister adjusting to his new home, studying law at the graduate level offers quite a bit of new material that can be a bit intimidating. Sometimes when I think about how new studying law is to me and the complexity of the topics I feel the all too familiar butterflies in my stomach. The surging fight or flight hormones send me searching for the nearest morsels of dark chocolate. (NB, at our house we buy Callebaut Dark Chocolate in 5 kilo bars.)
When I read that the QS ranking of top universities lists Queen Mary in the top 50 law programs in the world along with several of the other colleges in the University of London International Programmes intercollegiate laws course, it was in turns thrilling and a little overwhelming. Besides contemplating about studying law at a university with such a prestigious ranking, outstanding faculty, and gifted student body, my mind sometimes runs to how I will be able to use this credential in my professional life.
Several friends who happen to be lawyers shared how stressful their study was and how much they had to learn from scratch when starting out in their careers. Another shared how he always crammed for exams and always felt under prepared and unsatisfied with his skills despite attending America’s Ivy League schools for graduate and undergraduate study. Taking that on board and keen to learn from their experience, I am working at how to study effectively and make sure I am ready for my next professional chapter. After more than a decade specializing in one area of non-profit management, I want to use my PG Laws credential to embrace other responsibilities while building on my previous experience. It seemed wise to consider if skills that will help me as a law student can also facilitate my professional growth and satisfaction. In addition to speaking with my friends, I arranged some information interviews with leaders in positions that interest me.
Now, that is quite a bit to process, but in a new, unfamiliar setting your thoughts and feelings can run a bit wild – just ask Jaeger. As that is not a desirable default position, I have decided to re-frame learning how to be a law student as good stress, the kind that motivates instead of the kind that causes panic. It is a matter of training myself to respond to the challenge and opportunity in the same way Jaeger Mister is being trained to be confident and to achieve set outcomes: 1. Break the tasks into manageable pieces 2. Frame and plan steps for success 3. Manage stress inducing triggers and 4. Be clear about what you want to accomplish. And maybe most important on the learning curve, practicing the confident and assertive attitude toward training that is so reassuring to my dog in his classes at Aunt Penny Layne’s puppy college, helps me embrace the challenges and adjustment to law school in a positive and effective way.