Being true to yourself never goes out of style

photo-of-woman-looking-at-the-mirror-774866.jpgHad to take a Legally Blonde quote for this one.

Living with a Chronic Illness is tough, being LGBT+ can also be tough. Having a job as a stopgap to hopefully bigger and better things – also tough. Life is tough.  And there are many situations you may encounter in life where you feel you need to not be yourself. Where you feel you should pretend to be someone your not or downright lie as to why you want to take x day off. (As the mother suggests and does often).

Maybe there’s a bit of Hufflepuff in me, but I value honesty and integrity. I don’t want to be living a lie and I want the freedom to post about events I’ve attended on social media without having to worry about who’s seen it.

I used to try and pretend to be someone I’m not, fit myself into that perfect mould that people told me to be. Attempting to conform with that on application forms, contemplating the mould in the decisions I made in life and when I was a lot younger, pretending to be someone I’m not to make and maintain friendships.

My advice is don’t. Also don’t lie. Chances are you’ll get found out eventually.

I’ve got a lot further when I’ve been honest. When I’ve shown my genuine passion and interests.

I’ve also got myself into very bad situations from not disclosing my disability and as a result having to push myself more than my body was capable of. This caused a decline I haven’t come back from in 2017 and over the summer it caused some psychological trauma from being on a carpark floor in front of colleagues for two hours and having to go to A&E. It also caused me to be unable to walk for two weeks and drop attacks that I am only just getting some control over.

Never had this made being true to myself ring so true.

I have also found that I am a lot happier when I am being true to myself. In whatever way that may mean. It also helps me to create a narrative I can use throughout my training contract applications and soon LPC applications (I’ve heard this helps).

So yes be true to yourself. In all parts of life. Now this doesn’t mean sharing everything and anything. There’s a lot I don’t share. I don’t share the details of my illness in anywhere near as much depth as I feel them, for example. It just means being honest, and not pretending to be someone your not.

 

 

How to write a first class law dissertation.

 

So this weeks post is going to be a law post instead of a chronic illness post. And more specifically a post for law students who are either currently trying to write their dissertation or want to get a head start on the whole process.  Now my only qualification is that I myself got that magical first and in doing so I saw that there were few blog posts dedicated to legal dissertations.  So what I want to do here is give the graduates perspective on getting a first in your dissertation.

The first place to start is with choosing your topic and more specifically the question that you want to answer. The number one most important thing here is to make sure that you are passionate about what you want to write about. As much as you can anyway, as at least with my university you need to write three proposals and the uni gives you one. If that’s the case then spend a lot of time thinking about the three proposals you put down. Ensure that you can really see yourself spending a year working on any one of them. Passion makes the whole thing so much easier – I found that I actually wanted to work on my dissertation and enjoyed doing so because the topic was so me.

When choosing a topic you also need to do your research and I mean proper research not just reading the relevant textbook chapter or lecture notes but actually start looking into journal articles and case law. You need to look out for whether there is enough but also to make sure that there is a gap in the scholarship and the law for your dissertation. It also helps if your topic is current.

Don’t be shy. Ask for help. Be that friends, family, professors. Sometimes just talking out your ideas really helps. I also mention this because from my knowledge it is common for people to need to refine their questions and if your supervisor says this do not get disheartened and work with them. Easier said than done I know. I wasn’t asked to refine my question and I didn’t refine my question but I can imagine it feels a bit like falling at the first hurdle. But you haven’t fallen and you have got this.

But Hannah, my problem isn’t my topic. I have my topic, I have my question. I just don’t know how or where to start. 

I definitely relate to not knowing where to start. It can all be so overwhelming but I’m going to share some planning and writing tips that should help you get over that block. Although it’s important to remember that we all work differently and ultimately you need to do what works for you.

Firstly it’s necessary to make a brief and flexible plan, utilising your initial research. Essentially, write down each overarching concept, idea or argument that you want to cover. This will really help you break your dissertation down into chapters and sub-headings within those chapters. This and be done in mind map format or in a word document or you can handwrite it and stick it upon your wall/place it at the front of your dissertation folder, on your desk or whatever works for you.

I had a mind map, I had random scribbles in my notebook whilst I tried to work it all out in my mind, but for this I used a word document, as then I could add research to it as I went along either by writing in my own words, copying and pasting or just “see y at line 34.” This really helped me keep my research, which there was a lot of, organised and help see the links, as well as where I maybe needed to do some more research, and what that research needed to consist of. It is so essential that you keep your research organised in whatever way that works for you and your dissertation.

Set a schedule, set deadlines. Be that “I’m going to work on my dissertation on a Wednesday,” or something else.  That will definitely help you get from the overwhelmed stress procrastination block and mean you don’t leave it all to the last minute.

So what do I do now I’ve started?

Immerse yourself into your topic, but if you need to take time out that’s okay to. It’s a marathon not a sprint and wellbeing is a key component to success.

Use your supervisor to your advantage. Use them way more than I did. You are not a burden it is quite literally their job and if you have a good supervisor they can be a real helping hand.

Keep a notebook or a section of a notes app or both with you at all times for those random thoughts. Most of them will be useless but some will be gold.

Make use of a wide variety of sources for your research, don’t just look at legal journals, books, cases and legislation.  Use videos, podcasts, or even journals from other disciplines if these may be relevent. This can definitely help with motivation as well as give content that is laking in the legal resources.

Keep challenging yourself to go deeper, get others to challenge you. Writing a first class dissertation isn’t easy for most of us and I certainly submitted it knowing that that piece of work was reflective of the top end of my academic ability at that time. To add on to this believe in yourself. A first is not out of reach.

Proof-readers are essential. Especially if your chronically ill and suffer from brain fog. Once you’ve spent that long on something an extra pair of eyes or two are useful to let you know when you’ve made a typo, when something doesn’t make sense, is repetitive or where there’s a grammatial error.

Finally, make it original. Come up with an original solution, an original justifiation. Add a bit of personality to it. Some level of originality is needed for a first and adding a bit of personality to it will help keep your examiner interested.

This is longer than I wanted it to be but to close, you can do this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Learning to accept that things take time

Patience is a virtue

I don’t know who said that originally, but it is something that is always said. Especially to someone whom does not have patience as one of their strengths.

I am not a patient person. I expect everything to happen instantly, fall into place instantly, be instant.

But that’s not life, that’s not reality. Not for the most of us. Reality is you don’t finish your degree and bam start work. Security checks take time, DBS checks take time. Hey, the start date may not be for a while.

Things take time, and that’s okay! Don’t feel bad for things you can’t control and don’t let anyone make you feel that way.

I’m currently in this awful place of waiting. Waiting for a temporary job to start – providing I get the references and DBS. A job that I’m not actually well enough to do but I just need something so desperately and it’s something enjoyable that I would happily volunteer to do. Waiting to hear back from a graduate scheme that I’m really passionate about, which starts in October.  Waiting to hear back for a paralegal position and waiting for security checks for another provisional offer. (Although haven’t been given anything to sign yet and that ones all v vague as to start date). And the all important waiting for the module results.

And that’s okay. It’s stressful and it’s difficult but that’s okay.

In times like this you just need to take each day as it comes and seize the day! Really just appreciate the life you’re in and find opportunities for yourself. Spend time doing the things you enjoy and see what happens.

I find that makes it a lot more enjoyable and stops you falling into that – watching an entire season of friends in a day trap. Although, I do like to watch it whilst I’m doing other things.

If you have some savings take a short holiday – somewhere not too far away. I’m going away next week and honestly now praying someone doesn’t just email me like “here’s a job, start now.” Because I have plans for those four days.

A welcome break. An adventure. Call it what you will. I like to call it a bit of both.

My first time solo travelling. Yes I’ve caught planes alone and stayed in a different city alone, but never have I been to a country, where I can’t speak the language alone.

Plan your future. I feel uncertainty gives you a lot of time to think. Like me knowing that in my head and my heart I’m a barrister so if I’m going to self fund a vocational training course it should the BPTC. Not that I’d turn down an opportunity to become a solicitor. Maybe I should have thought of this last year and applied deferred but oh well. We’re thinking this year. Actually I’m thinking I might seriously go for it – once I have a stableish living city. An end of the country would be helpful right now.

Then I can train as a Barrister and go into academia later. I don’t know what money with because we all know I’ll end up trying the whole legal aid bar thing.

I quite clearly have big plans which, hopefully I’ll have the spoons to put into place. To set the wheels in motion and make it happen.

And, what I’m saying is it’s okay to take it slower for a while. It’s necessary actually. Especially if your suffering from chronic and/or mental illnesses.

It’s okay to not have it all figured out. And maybe, just maybe. If you take time out, take it slower – you’ll see new things, appreciate simpler things and realise new things.

So maybe, patience really is a virtue.

 

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.

Between Law and Theatre

So it must have been November time when i came up with the clever idea to change degrees, change the course of my life. And embark on the journey of considering, thinking and eventually applying for and getting an offer to study Theatre at the university I currently attend and study Law at. Now this was a long process, with a lot of careful thought and consideration before I made the application. It took me 5 months to finally get my act together and decide to make the application. Deciding that I would regret not taking the opportunity to study what I love. What I have a genuine interest in. So I did and within 24 hours I was invited to a selection day, which happened around a month and a half later.

During this month and a half I went through all the motions. Starting with my friend, or “friend” as she should be more aptly termed as to be in line with the current state of affairs. Anyway it started with her basically saying I couldn’t act, but in that nicey nice civil politically correct way which I oh so hate. That oh you have potential. In that awful tone of voice that says it all. You don’t have potential. Your rubbish. And then she said it all, dropping the nicey niceyness and saying I’m offputting on stage. Now if that didn’t hit my already incredibly low confidence hard. That statement I can never get out of my head. I’m off putting on stage. No not the statement the word. Offputting. This is why I have no friends, this is why I can’t get a job, this is why my family are the way they are towards me. This is why I can’t act. Why I never got the main role and was always shoved in the background, given some pathetically minor role that says “well done for trying, but you really don’t cut it, but obviously to be politically correct we have to give you a role, we can’t just leave you, this one person in the class, the year group, the extra curricular club out.” And then she went on to say she thinks I’m making a mistake. Great way to support a friend right? Telling her she’s making a mistake. Another thing I can’t get out of my head. What if I am making a mistake? What if this is all wrong and despite months of consideration this is a stupid path to embark upon. 

I got a C in GCSE Drama for god sake, off course I’m not equipped to study Theatre.

And second there’s the way people look at me when they find out I might be switching. Trying to be excited for me, pretending even. But not doing a very good job of it. You’re always able to see through it. See that they also think your making a mistake. Because lets face it. You’re the last person to succeed on a theatre degree, to fit in even. Your not confident, you don’t party, you can be highly introverted. Not to mention your A levels involved nothing even remotely creative. Oh and your off putting on stage. Which just adds to the idea that your making a mistake to anyone who’s ever seen you on stage. Because lets face it. Why would any one want to see me on stage? Why would anyone see me as a theatre student.

And thirdly and finally, there’s my parents. Who try to be supportive but you can tell they want me to stick with law. Which I 100% whole hardheartedly understand. What with Law seeming like a more practical degree in terms of future career options and the extra debt coming from the 4th year at university. And what if I hate it and want to drop out after first year and that’s just more debt with no gain in terms of career prospects at-least.

I guess all of this just exacerbates the fears I had and thought I’d reconciled with and justified before taking the plunge. The fears I’d not overcome but decided that they were fears that shouldn’t stop me. And now it’s all come back. And my guts telling me to do law but the thought of declining that offer. It makes me even more depressed than I have been feeling at times lately. It just feels like I’m sending myself into an Abyss of darkness and cluelessness. An Abyss of studying something I’m not passionate about with no end goal. No plan in life.

By declining that offer I feel I would be plunging myself into an abyss with no way out.

But I’m so terrified of theatre, even though it’s what I want. What I enjoy. What I have a genuine interest in. And the selection day, despite initial nerves ended up feeling so natural. A stark contrast to my law applicant day last year where I felt so out of my depth.

And at the end of the day right now, nothing seems like the right option. Nothing seems like my path in life, my destiny. Or even. This will make me happy. I think theatre will make me happy but will it? What if I can’t manage balancing the academic and practical requirements.What everyone in my year hates me? What if I fail? Or don’t get that 2:1 I oh so desperately want whatever degree I conclude. At the end of the day Law is the safe option. But it’s not what I want in life. But it’s an excuse to hide in the library rather than coming home to a house of so called friends. It’s the same to what I’ve been doing all these years. Revise for the exam, pass the exam. It’s just not what my heart is telling me…

So here I am. In a state of confusion. Unsure about what’s wrong or right. Unsure about my path in life. In a position in which a decision needs to be made but feeling paralysed as to my abilities in making that decision.