Queen's Takes the Real World: The journey from Queen's to law school

I'm caught between making it and faking it, and that's okay

 A Queen’s student prepares to enter the real world.                           Illustration by Amelia Rankine
 
When I graduated from Queen’s this past June—my best friend by my side and in identical convocation robes, my mom wiping her tears as I strutted down the stage—I remember thinking this Hallmark moment couldn’t last forever.
 
Just a few months later, I’m beginning law school, knee-deep in self-doubt, and scheduling time to cry into my bullet journal. Convocation Me had no idea how right she was.
 
In April of this year, I was wrapping up my final courses at Queen’s to complete my English major and tying up the loose ends at my full-time student government job in the AMS. I had an acceptance to my dream law school and a plane ticket to Europe in my back pocket. I was burnt out but self-assured.
 
A summer of travel-induced blisters, part-time work at Queen’s Student Affairs, and the Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again soundtrack sped by. By August, I’d signed my lease in Toronto and bought overpriced highlighters in every color for school. I was as ready to start this new journey as I was ever going to be.
 
In Legally Blonde, there’s a scene where Elle Woods makes her ex-boyfriend Warner’s thick-set jaw drop by strutting her way into Harvard Law School. When Warner asks Elle how she got into the best law school in the country, Elle responds with a sharp, “What, like it’s hard?”
 
While this quip is basically the mantra of a whole generation of boundary-defying women, my journey to get where I am was hard. And it hasn’t gotten easier.
 
I’ve been dreaming about law school since before I knew what law school was.
 
For years, I watched my dad pack his briefcase every morning and take it to his modest, one-office immigration law practice in the heart of Scarborough. He once told me that law isn’t anything heroic, but rather the kind of tool that—when turned and tightened in just the right angles—makes our communities more just for those who need it most.
 
But last year, writing the LSAT and applying to law school while also juggling my full course load, full-time job and desire to give my friends and family the fullest of me, I felt anything but empowered.
 
After not getting the LSAT score I wanted the first time around and whittling my self-worth down to 500 words for too many law school entrance essays, this dream of mine felt further than ever before. I think I stress-ate my weight in chocolate-covered almonds in December alone.
 
Coming into law school earlier this month, I was worried that after dreaming about this for so long, I’d romanticized what it meant to study the law. But I know I’m where I need to be because it feels right to be here.
 
That doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of crippling self-doubt, or that I don’t wonder how I faked my way into a place where I’m constantly surrounded by brilliant, change-making people.
 
The imposter syndrome is real, and it often looks like me watching “top organization tips for law students” YouTube videos and crying into my quinoa. Then I wake up the next morning, put on red lipstick, and walk to my Criminal Law class like I know what I’m doing.
 
Looking back, I didn’t have the “Cha Gheill” Queen’s experience shown in Tricolour Outlet ads or Homecoming Facebook photos. It was alongside the people who also felt vulnerable in their experience and simply wanted to reach for their most authentic selves where I found my niche.
 
The funny thing about my time at Queen’s is I don’t really miss it. But then I think about the little network of kindred spirits I cultivated in those four years. I think about the light they offered me. I think about the brilliance they gave to Queen’s.
 
Those friends listened to me worry and tolerated my anxiety while I was trying my hardest to get out of there. I walked down the stage with some of these people at graduation, and some of them are still at Queen’s—all of them are changing their own worlds for the better.
 
That, more than any winding Mac-Corry hallway, gets me dizzy with gratitude.
 
You might be worried about how to get from Point A, Queen’s, to Point B, a job hunt, more school, or a life lived on your own terms. Here are three tips on how to make that journey.
 
One, think about the times you’ve been shaken. And then think about the times you’ve steadied yourself. And then think about who was next to you, listening, validating, waiting. Let those people be your net. You are not a burden. You are not a burden. You are not a burden. Say it to yourself enough times for it to seem true.
 
Two, I’m not going to tell you it gets easier. But I will tell you that if you’ve made it this far, that means you’ve made it out of your worst days. A 100 per cent track record makes you pretty capable in my eyes.
 
Three, there’s not much that qualifies me to give you advice. While you’re probably receiving wise words from people at every turn, I think other people’s advice isn’t always as sage as it’s cracked up to be. Find what words make you feel the strongest and say them to yourself. 
 
If I can make it, you can. Grab a bag of chocolate-covered almonds and get going.

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