Law School Autism Mom Scene Six: Law School is like Bikram Yoga

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the water slide overthinking it, you have to go down the chute.”   Tina Fey

Law school is like Bikram Yoga.

For those who don’t know what Bikram yoga is, picture this: 90 minutes in a 105-degree room with no music, a giant mirror, one instructor, almost naked participants and 26 difficult postures that you do twice. The goal in Bikram yoga is explicit. They tell you on your first day: “just stay in the room.” And they mean it. If you feel weak, dizzy, or sick, they want you to lie down but they do NOT want you to leave the room. I went once with a friend who actually passed out during class. When she came to, they instructed her to lay down and stay in the room (she did, but she never went back). Completing a Bikram yoga class having stayed in the room feels incredible-regardless of how well you performed. You leave sweaty and accomplished.

For those who don’t know what law school (for someone who is 44) is like, picture this: 6 semesters in a classroom with brilliant students (fully-clothed and the age of my children); case books the size of an encyclopedia (remember those?); hundreds of pages a day to read-all in the language of “law,” (which is foreign); professors who cold-call you during class for answers and when they do, 50 pages of reading comes rushing to the forefront of your brain at once, (rendering you speechless); and at the end of each semester, 3-hour final exams which constitute your ENTIRE grade. Oh, and there is life too. Parental responsibilities don’t go away just because you are in law school. Completing a law school class having stayed in the room, regardless of the challenges, feels empowering-you leave sweaty and accomplished.

Although not quite as explicit, the goal for your first semester of law school (and perhaps the other five as well) is exactly the same as it is in Bikram Yoga: just stay in the room. When you are feeling humiliated for not knowing an answer (happens to everyone); when you don’t understand the content; when there aren’t enough hours in the day to complete the mountain of work; when there aren’t study rooms available or meetings with the professor weren’t as helpful as you’d hoped-the only way out is through and you just have to find it within yourself to stay in the room.

One of the things I love about Bikram yoga is that after the first class, I have never been self-conscious about how well I achieve any of the postures. I realized that not one person taking the class gave a shit about what I looked like or whether or not I was able to balance in tree pose, because they were all just trying not to die and were focused on their own practice. Law school is the same. I went in initially feeling somewhat insecure as a “nontraditional” student, only to find out that not one person taking the class gives a shit about what I look like (I may or may not wear yoga pants every day) or whether I get an answer right or wrong on a cold-call. Everyone is just trying to survive. Law school is really hard. Everyone is trying to stay in the room.

I am officially one-sixth a lawyer. One semester down and five to go with the second semester beginning tomorrow. I could end with an anecdote about bursting into tears while making my husband French toast on a Sunday during finals because I thought it was taking away from my study time (and I forgot to turn the stove on), but I won’t. I will end by saying that the past 5 months have been the most humbling, inspiring and exhausting months of my life. I have never worked harder. I have never learned more.

Being around young, smart, motivated classmates has already made me better in so many ways. Watching young people demonstrate leadership warms the heart and brings to life the all of the potential I have always believed that kids possess. Second and third-year law students go out of their way (daily) to offer support to first-year students. It is a beautiful thing.

And not once on this journey have I doubted that I was on the right path. I know for certain that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. There is a beauty in this that I have never experienced before and do not take for granted. Each day brings me closer to fighting injustice for families like mine. And even when it gets overwhelmingly difficult, I promise that I will stay in the room.

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