I graduated top of my class… and here’s what I’ve learnt.

 

It feels like it’s been a really long time since I last wrote a post despite only being a couple of weeks.

This is going to be a bit of an odd one but because it A level results day tomorrow, an important one for multiple reasons.

As the title says, I graduated top of my class. An achievement I couldn’t even begin to imagine. Especially because I went into university feeling v out of depth after royally messing up my A2s. I was incredible as an AS student and excelled in law and psychology, also had a bit of a knack for business.

Fast-forward to A2 results day, I achieved C’s and D’s, meaning I ended up with 3B’s. Not that 3Bs is bad. But I was meant to go to a Russell Group. At the time, it was disastrous and to tell you the truth it affected me for far too long.

See, what I didn’t realise then was that grades are not the be all and end all of life. One bad day in that exam hall doesn’t make or break you. Yes it may put a few extra obstacles in the way for certain industries. I know it means I am unlikely to obtain a training contract with a magic circle firm.

BUT NO MATTER WHAT THOSE GRADES YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFULL IN YOUR OWN RIGHT.

And I hope that me graduating top of my class, despite essentially being near the bottom of my class when I entered uni (based on A level grades) shows that.

On a more serious note graduating top of my class and winning a grand total of four academic awards took a lot from me. And I want to let all my fellow perfectionists out there that life is not all about grades and academic awards.

I was in a bizarre position entering third year where my ME was so severe that I couldn’t engage in extra curricular activities due to the amount of walking involved to get to one. Due to the upright time it would require. And I think that pushed me to do so well. Because at the beginning of third year, all I could do was my degree. I could lay in bed and stare at a screen – it was the thing that kept purpose in my life and once I started to improve I was so deep in achieving my goal – to be the best I could be. To get a first that although I allocated more time away from the degree or complete rest purely because I had more hours in the day and was less liable to complete and utter, complete non-functional crashing, it still took a substantial amount of my time.

If I was healthy. I wouldn’t have done that. I would have been more engaged in Drama society, in volunteering or a job and I would have ended up with an average degree.

And that is okay! For three reasons.

  1. There is more to life than grades
  2. Employers value experience more than you being top of your class and winning four academic awards. (Trust me. Yes I have two provisional job offers but no legal work experience or training contract in sight)
  3. MENTAL HEALTH (and physical health) IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOUR GRADES.

The third one being in capitals because it is the most important. I am fortunate that my mental health was for the most part positive in my final year of university, my ME improved and I got more of a handle on the suspected endo monster than ever before.  But there was a lot of stress, there were tears. There were stress runs away from my dissertation even though those runs caused excruciating chest pains, felt like dragging my legs through cement whilst they were being weighed down with lead weights and inevitably caused a bedbound day 48 hours later. My sleep pattern was for the most part non-existent until I realised all of my exams were in the morning because ME/CFS sleep issues + pain + stress = han in too much pain to sleep, up until 4am frantically writing and reading about gestational bonding and whether that is a valid argument for the unenforceability of surrogacy arrangements. I partially dislocated joints in every exam, sat one exam whilst on antibiotics and another whilst having a bit of an endo flare.

I did this all because I genuinely wanted it, because I had nothing else, because I’m a workaholic and more importantly I love law. It created a perfect storm.

But just because I did it doesn’t mean you should, or you’ve failed. And I hope this goes to show that one bad academic year doesn’t mean you’re doomed for failure for the rest of your life. I also hope I’ve reminded you that self care is so important and more important than any grade could be.

As a perfectionist that’s difficult to accept, I know. The only reason I’m not doing 24/7 LSAT prep at this point is because I know if my brains not working it won’t be productive. Because However much I want Stanford and however much I am trying to get there, not getting in and not getting the scholarship I require is not the end of the world. The same goes for everything in life. Just because your not the best it doesn’t mean your not enough. Or you’ve failed in some way!

You are enough!

 

My experience with imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome has been talked about quite a lot over the last year. Having learnt about it, and listened to many others talk about their experiences through it via YouTube I thought it was about time that I discuss my experience with imposter syndrome.

Impostor Syndrome is characterized by the conviction that you don’t deserve your success. It is the feeling that you’re not as intelligent, creative or talented as other people seem to believe you are. It is the suspicion that your achievements are down to luck, good timing or just being in the right place at the right time. And it is accompanied by the fear that, one day, you’ll be exposed as a fraud.

I definitely relate to this. I have incredibly low self esteem and when things go right, I feel as though a mistake has been made. I feel like it was just luck, good timing or that it was in reality something incredibly easy and any idiot could have done it. I am not good at seeing my own achievements as a success and I’m scared that one day everyone will realise how useless I really am, or that they already know that. Understandably, this can make life incredibly difficult to deal with.

In some cases imposter syndrome can be debilitating. Although it’s not a formal clinical diagnosis.

Personally, if I get good grades I think they’re wrong. If I win academic awards I think a mistake has been made. If I get a job, I question whether I’m really good enough and whether the employer has made a mistake.

I check my final year grades every single day because I still can’t believe it’s true…

For my first two years at university imposter syndrome really effected me. Not to the point that it was debilitating but enough to be something weighing my mental state down. I got into my admittedly not great uni (In terms of league tables but I couldn’t imagine having gone anywhere else) with BBB at A level and a further BC at AS. With a couple of resits thrown into that mix too. The offer I received was ABB. Yes I know I was only one grade off but I just had that feeling that I didn’t deserve to be there, that everyone else had it all together and was so much better than me. This was especially true when compounded by low grades in my first year. (I got 2:2s in all my coursework).

I still felt the same in second year, even though my grades had improved. Like I just wasn’t enough. Like everyone else was so much better than me.

It’s difficult, it’s reality.

To my understanding many people go to through this, so people do understand. It is also possible to overcome.

If anyone else reading this feels the same or similar then please comment! And any tips for overcoming imposter syndrome would be much appreciated.

How to get a first in family law

Disclaimer: it goes without saying that this is not an exhaustive list and my only qualification to write about this is getting a first in family law. I am also going to try and avoid too much generalised advice and just let you know what I wish I knew before taking the module.  So let’s get started. 

  1. You need to consider the wider context – policy considerations, likely effect on the child, the political climate etc. Really consider this in essay questions and if you’re planning on thinking out of the box, problem questions too!
  2. Take a psycho-social approach to the law – You will likely have a lot of studies thrown at you in lectures or put on your reading list about things like the importance of contact with both parents, the impact and prevalence of domestic violence, the reaction of the criminal justice system to domestic violence and various other areas you will  cover throughout the course. It can be difficult to know how to utilise these and what the purpose of them is at the beginning because these are things that are not featured in many other law modules. But use them! Use them to back up a point, use them to help explain why the law is the way it is and if you have coursework critique them.
  3. The Welfare of the child is paramount – The welfare principle comes up time and time again in family law. Know S1 Children Act 1989 off by heart. Just do it. Even if you can use statute books in the exam. In revision notes make note of when it applies and which parts apply to help avoid confusion.
  4. Feminism – Feminist perspectives to the law are prevalent and easily applicable to the entirety of family law. If you have coursework spend some time discussing this where relevant and think about it for exam essays.
  5. Utilise a variety of resources – It can get confusing, but fortunately family law is well resourced. If you need to use a website meant for parents going through disputes just to get the bare bones then that’s okay. You can build up from that to get the knowledge base necessary for a first. Understanding is however key. You can know all the statute and case law but if you don’t know the reasoning behind it or implications of it you won’t get a first.
  6. Human rights – More specifically consider A8 ECHR and the implications that has on the law in that topic – could one argue A8 implications as a reason for reform?
  7. Case facts  – Okay I guess this is a more general one. They can be useful for essays to analyse whether the decision was a just one or to outright say how unjust the decision was but don’t get too bogged down with them. In problems remember that in many areas of family law each case is decided on it’s own facts. So don’t justify your conclusion based on a similar case. Stick to principles from the cases and apply them.

If you keep these in mind, they will definitely help you succeed in this module. Family law can get very overwhelming but it is certainly doable and it was probably my favourite module in final year.

If anyone wants advice relating to other modules you may take in law school leave a comment! And if anyone has more family law advice please feel free to comment!

From 2:2 to 1st

Passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of law, and of life – Elle Woods

Earlier this week I received my overall degree classification and my final year module results. And well… the title says it all. I got a first. Very much feeling like Elle Woods right now despite perfectionist me trying to get me down because some people get higher firsts. Yes I need to learn to be easier on myself. I am mentally and physically unwell and a first is more than enough! But anyway, in light of the progress I have made throughout my degree I thought I’d discuss a little bit of my journey and give a few useful tips getting the undergraduate degree you deserve. This will be aimed at law students but a lot of it will apply to many disciplines.

So a came out of first year with a 2:2 – albeit a high one because my strengths lie in exams. And back in the day there was a huge difference between exam me and coursework me. Now that difference is only marginal – but still there. Exams are my strength. For some coursework is there strength. There are a few tips that arise from this point.

  1. If you know your better at coursework before going to uni select a uni that offers a lot of coursework for your course – I think for my uni it was 60/40 for my class. Which is quite high for a law degree. If exams are your strength then maybe select a more exam based.
  2. If you don’t have this luxury – which I know I didn’t, then find it in your first year and really play to it. Take exam based modules if you have the choice or if coursework is your strength, take coursework based modules.
  3. Work on closing that gap – ask your lecturers what they are looking for, what you need to improve. Read books around your course in the holidays and refer back during the year and make sure you are away of the mark scheme at your institution and what it asks of you.

In first year I was a very busy gal. Yes I worked hard with my degree and I wanted to do my best but I was also doing a lot of other things and dealing with some terrifying and debilitating health issues which I will not discuss because just thinking back to the levels of pelvic pain and myriad of other symptoms is too much.  In my first year I had two jobs, spent 6-15 hours a week doing drama related activities, debated, attended poetry society and catholic society. I did a short course in advocacy, spent maybe a little too much time in the pub, had movie nights with my friends and went to the gym 3-6 times a week.

I was for the first time ever truly living my life – maybe as a distraction from the worry about my fertility levels and also because I very much like to seize the day if the opportunity to do so arises. Hilariously, I also applied to switch to theatre and got accepted. I made pro and con lists and couldn’t decide. But the day before I had to make a decision the judgement on the Charlie Gard case was handed down and it captured me.

It was then that I knew.

I was going to persist with the study and hopefully one day, the practice of law. That is still the case. I’m planning on working for a year because I need a break and then going on to do the BPTC. I would also like to go into law academically at some point because, just like Elle Woods, I learnt to love law.

2nd year I started off trying to be as busy as I was in 1st year, despite my chronic fatigue having got worse over the summer and still very much being symptomatic with suspected endometriosis and dealing with fibromyalgia – which I think I developed towards the end of my first year.

I was on two committees, had a job, dabbled in model UN and the climbing society. I also walked to and from uni.  So it was no wonder that despite working really hard that in my first piece of coursework I only got a 53. (And it was trusts law which I really did not understand, didn’t even answer the question – as I realised once I got feedback.)

All the meanwhile I was getting progressively more ill so I cut back. I had my degree, my committee responsibilities, many GP appointments, transvaginal ultrasounds, gynaecology appointments and blood tests and that was about it.

And what happened? I took that feedback from the 53 and on the next piece of coursework (EU law) I got 73. And it wasn’t a fluke. I got 73 in my land coursework and 68 in my tort coursework.

Admittedly this was not all sunshine and rainbows. My mental health in 2nd year was appalling because of the pill I was on at the time. Cerazette I hate you. I started self harming again, attempted suicide. But hey atleast I got good grades.

Going into exams I was determined to keep this up. So me and my concentrate revision guides and Q&A’s got to work.

Just want to put a disclaimer here – do not rely on revision guides too heavily. They are useful to supplement your own work and  resources, to clarify areas you don’t understand and to improve exam technique. 

And my exam results were as follows

  • Tort: 74
  • Trusts: 77
  • Land: 76
  • EU: 69

Not too shabby at all and certainly more than I expected.

So after summer we go into third year. This year the workload was higher as we had a dissertation on top of the 4 modules. But we had choice over our modules and our dissertation topics.

Now I got really unwell with my ME/CFS and suspected POTS over summer so third year, gonna be honest. I only had my degree. But this is not be saying that you should have no life to do well. I was in a unique situation. Of being pretty much bedbound, and not very functional even in bed at the end of the summer but being too stubborn to take a year out. And I did have some life – just not as much of a life.

I spent time talking to my flat mates, had 7 theatre trips and other things happened.

But for the most part is was study, rest, attend medical appointments and apply for grad schemes (+ the interviews I had associated with that).

My health has honestly been a laughing matter this past year. I’ve managed to improve my ME/CFS drastically although I’m still probably on the mild/moderate borderline. My nausea is no where near as bad as it was in first term. But my joints are horrendous (Yay HSD), my fibro pain got a lot worse and I spent 2 months working my way up to the maximum dose of gabapentin. Which helps. But it made me really anxious and paranoid which I just deal with tbh, my mental health is still a lot better than it was in 2nd year.  Suspected endo and suspected POTS are much less of an issue but my skin is causing all sorts of issues.

But there we go. Life goes on.

I would say I learnt to love law in 2nd year but in my 3rd year I really developed that passion for law. Which I think can make everything more frustrating because suddenly it matters so much more. I absolutely chose the right modules.

It’s that passion that I believe really helped drive my success and allowed me to work the hours that I worked, despite so much going on health wise. It was no longer about just getting the grades because I need the grades. I was, for the first time, doing my degree for me and only me and because of that I wanted to do the best I possibly could.

In terms of revision it was a lot of recall, a lot of colour. I made PowerPoints for essay plans and colour coded problem answers. It was extra research where I felt it was needed or where I was just genuinely interested and it was tactical emails to lecturers, asking specific questions on things that were likely to be relevant to the exam that I needed clarifying. I asked about the structures expected of us and clarifications on the operation of specific parts of statute, sentencing guidelines and case law. It is also important to not underestimate the benefit of talking with your peer group about specific topics within your modules. And in relation to coursework lots of research and thinking. Thinking about the question, the wider context and the merits of the research itself. Again talking to your peers and getting people to proofread is helpful here.

So third year finishes and results are as follows

Coursework

  • Children and the Law: 73
  • Evidence: 73
  • Sentencing: 73

I was a consistent bunny.

Dissertation

  • 80

Exams

  • Children and the Law: 75
  • Evidence: 73
  • Sentencing: 75
  • Family: 86

I was a successful gal. In terms of academic achievement anyway. Not much else. But we have provisional job offers, we’re waiting to hear back from interviews and I’m meeting with someone about some volunteering on Monday.

I also want to note that I am not naturally intelligent and I really struggle with reading comprehension. I never expected these results and it was REALLY hard! Now I’ve finished discussing the journey I’ll end this post with useful tips and try and link a few useful resources.

  1. You need to peak at the right time! Third year is the most weighted year at most uni’s – don’t burn yourself out! Pace yourself. Take first year to get involved in all the things.
  2. If you don’t understand ask for help.
  3. Look after yourself. You won’t reach your full potential otherwise. This means trying to sleep atleast 7 hours a night, taking time to calm down. Go for a 10 minute run, do some yoga or pilates. Try to eat a balanced diet.
  4. Don’t become too isolated!
  5. Switch up your study space.
  6. Practice makes perfect.
  7. Extra research is a must – if you can go beyond the reading list that is even better – but you do not need to read everything on the reading list. If it says it’s optional, it means optional. Utilise them for coursework, seminar preparations  or when looking at specific exam questions.
  8. Attendance is key. Especially seminars but I also found it necessary to attend lectures as I focus more in a lecture than when just listening to the recording in bed.
  9. You do you. Comparison is the thief of joy. Please do not succumb to it. I know it is hard, I know law school is a breeding ground for comparison but you will save your self a lot of tears if you don’t succumb to it.
  10. Your lecturers will try to psych you out. Which makes sense. If you want to be a lawyer you need a thick skin. Be prepared!
  11. And finally, enjoy it!

Resources for law students:

And I am sure there are many other nuggets that you may find and I have found along the way. I just wanted to pinpoint the main and more universal resources.

Hope this was helpful and if anyone reading has useful tips and/or resources please share in the comments.

 

 

 

 

Post-Exam Depression

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I’m not really sure what led me to start writing this, other than I think that this affects more people than those who let on about it. It makes sense really, putting everything into these exams, especially if your not good at self care and spend far too long working each day at the expense of everything else. Coming out of it and suddenly feeling low, hopeless or even scared makes sense, especially if your a person who already has a background of poor mental health. This is even more likely if you’ve just finished your final year exams and your suddenly compounded into uncertainty. We’re bound to find ourselves feeling this way.

And it’s so difficult to deal with. You have this desperate urge to be productive and get things done and you are – you do more than lay around watching TV all day, but it feels worthless. It feels useless. You see everyone on social media around you, living their best life, having a job, having an income, having a purpose…

And you, you have to try and keep the money you have and make it last so lets say goodbye to living that best life. Desperate for a long weekend abroad, at the very least, but can’t justify it financially because you have no job.

Admittedly, at this juncture I may have a full time job, which would allow me to apply for the LPC (Solicitor qualification in the UK), and take that alongside. Pending security checks, which I am currently stressing about. Maybe post exam anxiety is also a thing to.

I know they could take months. But here I am stressing about people finding my YouTube channel, which although no one watches at the moment other than me, myself and I – I’ve had my mum frequently hate on me for doing YouTube (back in the day where I had more than me, myself and I watching). I had her scaremongering, saying I wouldn’t get a job if I posted things on YouTube or any social media for that matter.

What if my past actions have destroyed an opportunity I was so, so close to getting. What if… I can’t bare to be moving back home long term. I function much better when I’m away from my family. And even if I didn’t – part of me feels like I’ve failed somehow.

I feel like people perceive me as lazy, unambitious, useless….

Because I’m neither doing my degree anymore, nor am I contributing to society.

And it hurts.

I’m not the sort of person who can just sit down and do nothing easily. I can no longer spend an entire day binging a TV show. And I guess that’s why I’m writing this now. My mental health needs me to be busy, but not self made busy, actually usefully busy.

Life’s difficult.

And I just want to send a message to anyone reading this who may be experiencing something similar, that you are not alone.

Gaining Perspective, learning to go easy on myself while I can.

Hello, so frequent readers of my blog will know that I have recently been going through a lot of feelings of guilt, weakness and denial. But recently I feel I have found some perspective or atleast I am starting to get over those feelings for the time being.

I guess it comes from the perspective of others, and those others not being my parents. Whom are like they are and pushy like they are about certain things, one being me having a part time job and working that job regularly because they worry. And because they don’t understand. They don’t understand that I am chronically ill. Heck I don’t think they even know. I know I’ve never told them. And not only that- they don’t realise how full on being a law student is. Especially if a) you want a good degree classification and b) you’re not super intelligent. Yeah, life was all fun and games in first term. I did manage to study adequately and for the last couple of weeks of term, commit to rehearsals,  work a couple of shifts and socialise a lot. Yeah, I did push my body too far. I was so ill and my chronic illness was so bad, even for weeks after term ended but I did manage to do it all.

But now I’ve realised, and this is because I’ve realised if I do work, I need a new job. And all Other jobs will provide regular commitment of hours that it’s just not going to be practicable.Not for my health and not for my grades. More not for my grades to be honest. Because I am going to have to start revising for exams now, start making proper notes and taking things more seriously. Which takes up time, it means I do have to do some studying over the weekend, when before I had weekends free to netflix and chill or go on autumnal walks.

And for a while I beat myself up over that, beat myself up for taking the easy way out. But the reality of it is – as long as I stick to some sort of budget I don’t need the extra money this year. So why would I add the stress and strain of regular working hours on top of uni, drama (the love of my life) being chronically ill and maintaining a social life. I might look out for when uni are next recruiting student ambassadors so that way I can still have some income but until then. I will quite happily not work regularly and try not to feel shame for that.

Fact of the matter is I am a productive uni student, not the most productive but I am productive and I do try hard and work hard. So why should I feel guilty about not doing enough? When I do do enough.

AMAZING REALISATION AND DAMN YOU ED FOR MANIPULATING ME ONCE AGAIN!

CLIMBING. CLIMBING. CLIMBING.

HAVING A LITTLE SET BACK AND I MIGHT BE COMPETING IN WALES IN TWO WEEKS IF MY DAD SAYS YES AND IT SEEMS IM ONLY GOING BACKWARDS!


Ok previously I thought. No I knew the reason for my current going backwards was my weight. Fat doesn’t help you get up the wall and ED said I needed to get skinny again or I’ll never beable to climb as high as a dream. Oh but how come people much heavier than me can climb? With a lot more fat than me ed? HOW ED? That’s what I relised today. There are many factoes contributing to my current lapse. 

Has my climbing got worse? Yes. Has my technique got worse. yes? Am I less focused/ less commited? Yes!

And here is why. 

  1. Exhaustion! Ok it doesn’t take a genious to work out that if your not sleeping as much as you need to your not going to performe to our best. I have been sleeping in a lot lately jut out of an inability to tay awake. I constantly feel axausted. Recantly I have started trying to  sleep 8 hours a night but I can’t seem to get to sleep and if I o then I wake up uring the night and/or have slightly bizzare and horrible dreams which mess with my mind. 
  2. Nutrition, nutrition, nutriton. Relating to my lack of sleep ina way, I find it as an axcuse not to have breakfast. I am currently struggling with my eating disorder a little and I’m not really eating meals just random snacks and even then I’m finding it hard to eat. This ofcourse has an impact on my focus level and climbing ability. 
  3. Recant run of inury’s This is rather self explanitary.
  4. I have a cold. Idk this might affect my climbing ability.
  5. Exam stress. I’m so worried about not passing these exams and failing that not only am I not revising because im stressed and I currently can’t escape to my room cause no laptop and theres no space on the desk downstairs but the stress is having an effect on my focus levels.  

So how to deal with this and get back on track?

  1. I need to work out a schedule. Like  9:30 bed, 7pm: revise till 9pm 4:30pm: Workout…. And draw it up so it’s set in stone.
  2. I need to calm down about the exams!
  3. I need to start meal plans again! *cries* Oh but not your average nutitionist set meal plan! MY OWN MEAL PLAN! (For breakfast and lunches anyway and maybe snacks. My parents prep my dinners.)

Ok I’m going to revise now. Once I’ve cleard this damn desk. Bye!!!!!!