Eating Healthy in Law School

I am a firm believer that healthy eating and nutrition are too often swept aside – especially during busy times when it is easiest to simply hit the easy button and “just get takeout.” Nutrition is something that has always been important to me, even during law school when life has proven busy beyond measure. In the last year and a half, I have established a routine that has made it much easier to ensure I have healthy, homemade options ready to go for the week.

Planning out meals ahead of time is extremely helpful. It only takes a few minutes, but it helps me make sure that I am eating a well-rounded diet. Additionally, it makes grocery shopping much easier and faster since I know exactly what is needed. I focus on planning lunch and dinner since breakfast is usually something quick, like a bowl of oatmeal. There are so many great resources online to find easy recipes. I strongly recommend searching “one pot meals” or “five ingredient recipes” and other topics of that nature – the results are plentiful. I like to have a couple different options for lunch and a couple different options for dinner so that I don’t get tired of eating the same thing. Look for recipes that have fresh, healthy ingredients!

After my meals are planned and the grocery shopping is done, it’s time to do a bit of meal prep. I have noticed that meal prep has become quite popular – and for good reason. Set aside a couple hours on the weekend to make what you can ahead of time. This makes the weekdays a lot less hectic (no cooking, less cleanup), but you don’t have to sacrifice healthy eating in the process. The extent of meal prep depends on how my week looks. In extremely busy times, I like to keep it simple and buy things that require little prep. Getting dinners cooked ahead of time makes a huge difference. Plus, you get to come home to a homemade meal.

Along the lines of meal prep, I always pack a lunch. It takes a little planning – maybe 10 minutes the night before, but it’s so worth it. True, it’s especially easy to get takeout for lunch. However, takeout options can be expensive! Packing a lunch is generally a healthier choice, and it’s simply a cheaper option. Five days a week of savings adds up quickly!

My last tip involves common sense: buy healthy foods. If you have healthy food on hand, you’ll eat it. If you buy junk food, chances are you’ll eat that instead. Limit the junk food you buy. I find that if there’s no junk food around, I really don’t crave it. Diet is so important for staying healthy, and generally speaking law students tend to be run down and prone to getting sick. Do what you can to make a difference for yourself by enjoying a healthy, balanced diet (and save some money while you’re at it, too!). Remember, you are what you eat!

 

feel better soon!

Last week I was feeling under the weather, so I decided to stay home.  I rarely get sick, but it seems like when I do, it’s always around this time of the year.  The other time of year when everyone is sick is in the fall, right when it’s starting to get cold.  I specifically remember one instance last fall… I was sitting in class, the professor was lecturing…  and the class was so quiet that I could hear everyone, one by one, sniffling and coughing!

Honestly, if you’re feeling really sick, I think it’s just best to stay home, so you don’t get anyone else sick.  If you email the professors about your absence, they can videotape the class for you and you can watch it online later.  Despite the reputation of law school being highly competitive, most classmates are actually friendly and will send you their notes.  But of course, it’s best just to not get sick in the first place.

The best way to avoid illness, in my opinion, is to get plenty of sleep.  Also, I think it’s important to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, and keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water.  I’ve gotten plenty of headaches from drinking too many caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea — and although that’s not really an illness, it’s just as bad because it can ruin your whole day.  Lastly, I read an interesting study a few weeks ago on nutritionfacts.org that says that gargling with salt water doesn’t just help with a sore throat, it can actually prevent you from getting sick in the first place!

Aside from that, it’s best to make sure you’re in class every day that you feel well.  That way, when you do get sick, you’re only missing one or two days and you won’t feel as bad about it.  Just get lots of rest and feel better soon!

Practicing Mindfulness During Law School

Mindfulness is probably not a word that most people associate either with law school generally or law students specifically, but it is something that has shaped my life since about halfway through my undergraduate studies and continues to hold weight as I navigate the world of law school. Most people associate things like stress, overwork, and competition not only with law school itself but with the legal field in general. The past six months or so of law school have definitely been stressful, but they have also been a period of tremendous growth for me both on an intellectual and emotional level. I deeply believe that, as challenging as this experience is, it is possible to walk through it with a level of consciousness and groundedness that can offset some of the stereotypical stressors that come with the territory of law school.

I think (and have learned, and will continue to learn) that surrendering control is a pivotal part of stress management. We can work as hard as we can to reach certain goals (whether it be of an ideal GPA, a coveted summer position, or an OCI interview with our dream firm), but a key component in lessening the stress of pushing for our goals is surrendering to the fact that we are not the ones who get to choose exactly how things will unfold in our lives 100% of the time. My mantra as of late (and even throughout the law school application process two falls ago) has been “the right door will open.” I don’t think it’s possible to go through life without disappointment, and law school is no exception. This phrase offers hope in the face of potential disappointment, and as cheesy as it may sound, has always rang true in my life.

Focusing on the present moment is another key part of mindfulness that can help lighten the load not only when it comes to the academic demands of law school, but the process of finding a summer position and eventual employment. One of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, has a book about writing titled “Bird by Bird.” The title is a piece of advice that her father gave to her brother when he left a major school assignment for the night before about different types of birds. Her brother was panicking at the breadth task at hand, and their father told him to take it “bird by bird,” in other words, to take it one thing at a time. This sounds so elementary, but it’s a great way to view the seemingly endless readings or writing assignments that we are given as law students. Being organized here helps a lot, for sure, but more than that, taking things one assignment at a time instead of looking at what collectively has to be done for any given day or week is helpful. This also rings true when it comes to applying for jobs or going on interviews. Just making a small conscious reminder to yourself to come back to the present and not project about the future can help tremendously in those in between periods when you are waiting to hear back from a potential employer.

Self-compassion is also key for me here. When I freaked out in front of everyone during my first cold call on the second day of Torts, all I kept saying to myself (and I’m sure to others) was that self-compassion was my mantra. It’s okay to not be great at things the first time you try them. What’s not okay is refusing to ever get up at bat again just because you happened to strike out (subjectively speaking) on your first attempt. There is a beauty that exists in the in between space where you feel completely disoriented in having no idea what you’re doing, and the coming home that happens once you’ve done something enough times that you’re comfortable with it. That’s the only way we can grow in confidence and resilience. No one is perfect. I think the competition of law school places an expectation that every answer has to be prophetic, and this is simply not possible. Extending kindness to myself as I’ve navigated uncharted territory in classes has been a must for me. We are all here to learn. If we all knew all of the answers or constantly gave perfect responses either in class or on exams, there would be no point in going through the process of earning this degree.

An obvious disclaimer here is that I am by no means perfect when it comes to this. I, as much as anyone, get moments where everything seems overwhelming and all I want is control over all of the unknowns surrounding me. But I can definitively say that since I started practicing mindfulness in general, and meditation specifically, my ability to bring myself back to the present and strategize from a more centered place (as opposed to trying to control everything) has dramatically changed the way that I experience life. The less that we grip for things and the more that we sit, open handed, trusting that the right things will come into our lives and the right doors will open at the right time, the less stress we will have. I’m all for working hard and being diligent, as anyone who knows me can attest to, but Arianna Huffington’s quote that “life is a dance between making it happen and letting it happen” has never rang more true for me than during this period of my life.

Chasing Dreams and Learning Lessons: Coming to Law School straight from Undergrad

I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was about 8 years old. Granted, I wanted to be far more in addition to a lawyer. I think my list of future professions was about 20 things long and included a professional lacrosse player, professional skateboarder, artist, detective, and writer, in additional to lawyer. As I grew older and some interests fell away (skateboarder got crossed off that list pretty quickly after I realized I couldn’t go down the halfpipe at the local skate park) it was clear that lawyer remained constant.

I went into undergrad majoring in history as it would teach me how to better read and write because “that’s what law schools look for,” or so I had been told. A few twists and turns, engaging classes, and exceptional mentors later, I was a senior in college taking both the GRE and LSAT, applying to MA and JD programs, and almost putting aside my childhood dream for a new-found passion of international relations and conflict management. In the end I chose law school because I felt that it opened far more doors and would provide me with many opportunities and teach me a skillset that could transfer across disciplines. I felt, and still feel, that my law degree can help me reach an end goal of working in the policy or diplomacy capacity of the international relations field. I’m confident that law school was the right choice.

What I’m less confident in is the fact that I made the decision to come straight through to law school from undergrad. Sometimes I feel wildly inadequate compared to my peers that took time off and worked and who bring a lot of real-world experiences to the table. I feel like I’ve been defined as a student for my whole life, and I haven’t had even a year to myself where I wasn’t a student and was able to develop more as a person and individual outside of school. I have interests and hobbies, don’t get me wrong, but they’ve always been put on the back-burner because schoolwork and school-related clubs and organizations have come first.

And being a law student is even more defining, I feel, than being a college student. Law school is the number-one defining factor of my life right now. I am a law student. I am involved, as a law student, in the Women’s Law Association and International Law Society. I also blog, as a law student, for the law school communications department. I volunteer, primarily as a grant writer and researcher, with Mill City Lacrosse to build a better pro-bono-esque profile and exercise my skills as a law student. (And, also, because I love and miss lacrosse. But anyways). In college it was more of a balance; I was an honors student, and member of the mock trial team, and President of the Student Alumni Association, and, and, and. There was always an “and” adding more things to the mix. School came first, but it didn’t so egregiously outbalance the other (albeit school-related) activities I was involved in.

If I could do it again, I think I’d take a year off. I’d live at home and commute to a job in Boston, so I could both save money and make money. I’d have the time to expand my hobbies, discover new ones, and spend a little more time with friends as we navigate post-graduate life. I’d be able to say yes more and keep in touch better with them. I’d learn to miss, well, learning, and go into law school hungry to learn again instead of just starting the learning cycle once September rolled around as I had cycled for the past 18 years of my life.

I don’t regret coming to law school, at all. I think it’s still the right decision and still my dream. In hindsight, I think I would have done it differently, though, by taking a year off. I don’t like to say I wholeheartedly regret things, because, as with most decisions, at the time it is exactly what I wanted. I grew by bounds and leaps in this crash-course of being an adult this past year, through dealing with apartment issues and health problems and the demands of law school more or less on my “own.” It certainly wasn’t easy. I think it would have been easier if I was a year older and a year removed from undergrad. But in the end I think it’ll be worth it. And, as someone told me a little while ago, I’ll have earned my J.D. and graduated from law school before I turn 25. That’s pretty incredible, if you ask me. And I’ll have years ahead of me to define my hobbies, pursue my passions, and connect with my friends. All while living out my dream as being a lawyer.

Rely on Good Sources

Something I’ve learned in my writing class is the importance of relying on good sources, in many instances case law that has had a positive progeny, in order to have a successful paper. Recently, however, I’ve found myself heavily relying on a different type of good sources: sources of stability that provide me with the foundation necessary to succeed not only in law school but as a person. The three biggest sources of stability for me this year have been my family, my classmates, and- believe it or not- strangers.

My family and, more broadly, my boyfriend and friends have been immense sources of support this year. Life threw me quite a few non-law-school-related curveballs since September that haven’t been easy to hit. My parents have done everything in their power to help me with these curveballs, making frequent hour-long trips and back just to see me for a few hours. My boyfriend has been a daily source of calm and my number one fan. My friends from home and undergrad haven’t been upset about all the plans I’ve bailed on because of school (sorry, guys, I wish I could have gone) and they’ve consistently believed that I would be able to get it all done. I know that I am incredibly lucky to have this support system, and it’s made me appreciate them even more than I ever thought possible.

My classmates have also provided a source of support daily. From my amazing 2L mentors Katie and Dalia to my “row-mates” I sit next to in class, I’ve found constant support for a variety of things, big and small. My 2L mentors have dutifully hunted down outlines for professors I have but they did not. My “row-mates” have answered questions about parts of the lecture that I couldn’t catch and sent me notes for classes I’ve missed. My locker buddies have been friendly faces to start and end each day on a positive note (or to commiserate over moot court briefs, which is equally important to mental well-being). My friends have provided comic relief at lunch and during Chipotle-parties and pre-games. I think this source of stability speaks volumes about the BU Law community as a whole.

Strangers have also been a surprising source of stability this year. I know this sounds odd, but hear me out. Law school is tough, and it’s entirely consuming. It’s so hard to remember, during day-to-day motions, that there’s a whole other world outside the 18-story-ivory-law-tower, and that, (shockingly), you’re still a part of it. This is where strangers have played an integral role for me. Little daily interactions have reminded me, in the best way, that there’s so much more than law school. And it’s truly been the little things that have provided stability for me. For example, nothing lifts my spirits more than seeing a dog on Comm Ave during my walk to school. Sure-fire way to make me smile. Moreover, I’m a pretty sappy person, so reading little stories on the “Love What Matters” Facebook group always bring me back down to earth and put troubles into perspective.

Good sources of stability throughout 1L and beyond will certainly vary with each person. I didn’t head into law school knowing I would rely so heavily on the sources that I did or even expect some sources to be so important. As 1L year begins to enter the home stretch and I’ve reflected on these sources, I know one thing is absolutely positive: I’m incredibly grateful for each and every one of them.