Live Through This

Compulsory Education

I went to law school just to please my parents. It ended up changing my life.

Collage by Ruby A.

Collage by Ruby A.

In my final year of high school, I didn’t have any burning career desires. While my classmates announced their intentions to become physiotherapists, midwives, accountants, or teachers, I had no discernible skills that proclaimed FUTURE CAREER HERE. If you’d asked me at the time what I was going to be when I grew up, I could just as easily have said “Girl Scouts registrar?” as “printer sales representative?” I really had no idea.

My parents and the teachers at my fancy girls’ school assumed I’d go to university after school. Both of my parents were educators and put high value on a good education . In particular, my mother, who’d had limited options in her home country of Malaysia, wanted me to make the most of the opportunities I had to earn a useful degree. I had no problem with that: I was OK at schoolwork, I liked the collegial atmosphere of learning institutions, and in Australia, the government offers financial support to most university students, so the costs aren’t as prohibitive as in many countries, like the U.S.

I thought about what I might like to study. There were no obvious answers: I wasn’t a dab hand in the kitchen, I had no love for numbers, and I couldn’t picture myself in a science lab or wearing scrubs. The only thing I truly loved to do was read. Reading in the morning! Reading in the night! In year 12 of high school, I doubled up on literature classes. Twice the Shakespeare! Twice the novels! Books got me, and I understood them, too.

I didn’t know anyone who had a job reading books, though. Reading was just a hobby. Studying literature might be fun, but only as a sideline while I figured out what my real adult career would be. The best way to do this, I thought, would be to do a general arts degree so I could explore different subject areas like psychology and sociology, and still fit in the occasional literature course. Then I could just work it out as I went along.

My parents, however, had other ideas. Like many migrants, they’d worked super hard so I could go to a good school. My mother had even changed careers—from nursing to tutoring—so she could help me study. They had invested so much money, time, and thought in my future that they weren’t about to see me waste time on a degree with no guaranteed job at the end. From their point of view, it would be better if I studied something like law, which would lead to a defined, relatively stable job at the end.

In Victoria, where I grew up, college admissions used to depend heavily on results from a standardized test, called ENTER, that we all took in year 12. The day the results were made available online, I felt super nervous as I went to open mine. My ENTER score would determine my immediate future. I wasn’t particularly interested in the courses of study that required high marks—e.g.,
medicine, law, engineering—but I knew my parents were, and I didn’t want to disappoint them. When I finally clicked over to my results, I was surprised. It was a good score! It was a nice feeling, all the more so because while it was way better than I’d been expecting, it wasn’t quite good enough to get me into the best government-funded law courses. Here was an easy out.

But I hadn’t realized just how invested my parents were in my education. They suggested a compromise: They would pay for me to attend the most prestigious private law school in my state, and I would not protest. I was horrified—it was so much money, and I didn’t harbor any passion for—nor even any interest in—the law. But there was an unspoken element of this compromise: If I agreed, they’d be happy. So I did. I didn’t have a compelling reason to refuse, anyway: no grand plans, say, to be an actor or a marine biologist. Besides, being a lawyer could mean helping people in trouble and learning more about how the world worked.

So I went to law school. All my classes were held in a very new, very shiny building made of marble and highly polished tiles. Expensive art lined the walls, and students hurried quietly around, exuding a sense of purpose and belonging that I miserably lacked. I felt like I was already in a law firm, and I hated it. It was nothing like Legally Blonde: My life skills, like finding cheap leather skirts on eBay and knowing the whole Harry Potter universe inside out, never became accidentally useful, and I didn’t have the social nous of an Elle Woods. My classmates were intimidating; many had known they wanted to be lawyers for years. Some of them were sons and daughters of lawyers, judges, and magistrates. Others were fiery social-justice advocates, working hard to earn rare legal-aid and not-for-profit jobs. All of them were bright, hard-working, and articulate, while I mumbled my way through tutorials. (Of course, I realized later, there were lots of other people like me, also feeling isolated and disengaged; the drop-out rate for law school is actually pretty high.)

I learned pretty quickly that my love of reading didn’t extend to my law-school assignments. There is a lot of reading in law school, and almost none of it was enjoyable for me. While the criminal cases were fascinating, I found it tough to make it through, let alone recall, the dry language of the endless legal statutes we were supposed to memorize. I had entered law school with the fantasy of learning how the world works, or learning how to fight for the rights of the oppressed; instead I was spending every night slogging through Cheshire and Fifoot’s Contract Law or learning about the duties of company directors. All day, every day, I dreamed of escaping the marble tower and going home to bed.

Making matters worse, my parents had put so much into getting me to this point that I felt horribly guilty about not valuing it enough. I was so lucky to have this opportunity, yet I couldn’t bring myself to feel grateful. I became withdrawn and depressed. I passed my subjects, but just barely. I never really engaged with any of the material. I never made any friends.

For most Australians, it takes four years to earn a law degree. I had a part-time job in a clothing store that prevented me from taking on a full course load, so it took me six. I was miserable the entire time. I fantasized constantly about dropping out, but so many factors—my parents’ commitment, my own pride, my misguided sense that I could somehow bludgeon my own brain into enjoying itself—paralyzed me with indecision for the duration of my university career. But, believe it or not, I’m not sure I regret it. Those six years gave me the opportunity to think about what I actually wanted to do. Spending so much time working so hard just to get by made me desperate to find something to do with my life that I would really enjoy. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had dropped out, or just switched my major to something less difficult. I can’t say for sure, of course, but I think I wouldn’t have felt so acutely the very real challenge of hungering for a vocation—work you can feel truly fulfilled by—and the privilege of finding one.

We never talked about it much, but my parents could tell I never really enjoyed law school. My grades were never very good, and neither were my moods, while I was there. After graduation, I told them I wasn’t going to apply for traditional legal jobs, and they didn’t protest. I took a job working for an academic who researched social issues relating to female lawyers. This work accommodated my sense that the legal world wasn’t right for me, and still made use of the skills I’d acquired.

While at that job, I recalled my passion for the novels I grew up reading. I decided to look into a publishing career, and found an opportunity for a paid internship at an educational publishing house. Having a law degree helped me stand out among the candidates, I suspect, as—funnily enough—they actually published those horrible, boring sorts of textbooks I had to read for in my law classes. The internship gave me a chance to work with authors and learn how to edit and proofread, which sounded so exciting to me. I loved my new duties, even when I was working on my old foes, the law textbooks. They seemed so much less scary now that I was looking at them in a different way—trying to make them as unconfusing as possible, for the student I used to be.

Sticking with law school taught me something important about myself: I now know now that I can do something really, really difficult if I put my mind to it. I also know how to navigate the legal system, which is such a useful skill even in my everyday life—e.g., when dealing with a landlord or signing a job contract—and one I feel privileged to have. Best of all, law school helped me learn to tidy my brain. To learn the law, you have to be logical and orderly, two qualities I really didn’t have before taking the bar.

If I had a chance to do it all over, I really don’t know if I would do it again. On one hand, I could have saved myself much heartache (and my family a lot of money). On the other, who knows? Maybe then I never would have learned how to think in a logical, systematic way, which I’ve found so helpful in myriad social and professional situations. The reading and research skills I got from studying law are great too, because I know I have the tools to look into anything I want. Without the contrast provided by those unbearable law-school textbooks, I may have never realized just how much I love novels and short stories. But most of all, six years of doing things I hated taught me to enjoy everything I do so much more, because now I’ve chosen it. I’m a writer now, and I’m not sure my parents would understand how much of a calling this is for me had they not watched me trudge through six years of law school. I’m not sure I would understand it, either. We all got a lot out of that time, but for me the most valuable thing was that I learned to respect my own heart, and to live to please no one but myself. ♦

39 Comments

  • princesspeach January 6th, 2014 11:55 PM

    Hi Estelle! I’m currently a 1L going through a crazy mix of emotions. I’ve never been so lonely, depressed, and stressed in my life. But I also love my school and my classes. The one thought I keep having is “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this.” And it makes me think of all the other things I’m strong enough to do that I didn’t do! Like why did I choose law school over med school? Who knows! But your article makes me feel better that the education I’m getting will be worth something, even if that something isn’t necessarily a career in litigation. Thank you!!

  • Kourtney January 7th, 2014 12:01 AM

    I’m in eleventh grade and I feel so much *pressure* to decide on a career right now. I’m like how you were, having no strong interest in any occupation. I don’t want to waste my time doing something I’m not passionate about, ya know? Anyway, nice article.

  • Crumpets January 7th, 2014 12:19 AM

    MELBOURNE UNI!!!! SO SCARY.

    • giov January 7th, 2014 6:02 AM

      go to the food coop, the womyn’s room, the rowden white library. find all the good people! best year of my uni life :( (I was there on exchange from Europe last year)

      good luck!

  • monalisa January 7th, 2014 12:40 AM

    “knowing the Harry Potter universe inside out” ahhhh yes a rookie writer is like me :)

    this was a cool article anyways, i’m loving this month so far

  • Mano January 7th, 2014 1:19 AM

    I totally agree with the last para – the skills you end up acquiring at law school are no joke. I went to law school (in India) largely because of my parents who insisted that this was the right career for me. 5 years and the end of law school, and it turned out I liked being a lawyer – just not a very conventional one. The skills from law school are exactly what helped me start my own legal education platform for indie artists in India, early last year. It’s still a newbie but I’m actually happy with the work I do! I wish more people (and by that I mean parents) were a bit more open to letting their kids do what they want – and to make whatever they will of the education they receive.

  • RatioRae January 7th, 2014 1:27 AM

    So inspiring, I’ll be leaving high school this year and I have zero idea of what to do.

    Lots of love from Malaysia. ;)

    http://thegirlwhodrankstars.blogspot.com

  • paige.xo January 7th, 2014 2:20 AM

    i can’t think seriously about law school without thinking about legally blonde

  • shirley January 7th, 2014 2:41 AM

    estelle, i’m from australia too and i recently (like, three days ago), finalised my university course choices, and also had no idea what i wanted to do, so i went with what my parents wanted me to do, riding on the fact that if i liked it, then i would have pleased them, and if i didn’t, then i’d know what i really wanted to do. your article spoke to me so deeply and i really want to thank you for sharing.

  • ScarlettRed January 7th, 2014 7:10 AM

    Wow. This article hit close to home quite literally for me (and figuratively). I too am from Victoria, Australia. Got a high score for my ENTER as well. And, at the advice of my parents and others, choose to enrol in a law degree straight out of high school.

    Except unlike the author, I chose to drop out of law after a year when I found it wasn’t inspiring me, and solely completed a liberal arts education instead, majoring in History.

    This article made me feel strongly about a few issues and I just want to include them here just as an alternative viewpoint.

    I really hope this doesn’t sound jerky, but I did take issue with the author’s comment about changing her major to something like phycology, or sociology (or what she was truly interested in), would somehow be “less difficult.”

    Maybe the writer meant it more in a, “because she’d enjoy it more than law” way, but it just triggered a strong emotional response from me.

    This is because in Australia, liberal arts students are given a lot of flak for pursuing a course considered a waste of time and the running joke is that all it leads to is “being employed at McDonalds.”

    On university Facebook pages there are memes with pictures of toilet rolls, which say, “get your Arts education here.” Every now and then, opinion article crop up defending the liberal arts, but commenters often describe Arts students as engaging in “mental masturbation”, “wasting tax payers money” and being “drains on society.”

    (TO BE CONTINUED…)

  • ScarlettRed January 7th, 2014 7:11 AM

    I sometimes cop this attitude from people I work with in my part time job, from people I meet at parties, and even from friends.

    Aiming for a high-paying and prestigious career like law and medicine is seen as noble in Australian society, (just like the author’s parents believed), and learning about the world and engaging with academia, is considered a waste of time. (I think the US is much better in its approach to liberal education, but probably also falls into the category of measuring success by “prestige” and “income.”)

    But the point I want to make is that liberal arts degrees are just as (if not more rewarding, as this opinion piece proves), than law degrees, and that they NEED TO BE VALUED ON EQUAL TERMS. I can’t stress this enough.

    More so, from my own experience, I would argue that arts degrees are equally as challenging. In my first year of a law degree, I was required, like this author, to memorize legal statutes. But like this author found, my law degree never taught me HOW the world works. My arts degree did. My law degree made me learn facts and data, and rearrange it in logical order. My arts degree let me think for myself. My arts degree also required a great deal of time, energy, and effort reading and researching, and writing essays that dealt with pivotal questions, such as the impact of WWI (still felt today), or why fascism emerged as a popular alternative, issues surrounding gender inequality and women’s rights, or how the US Civil Rights Movement was able to protest for change.

    (TO BE CONTINUED)

  • ScarlettRed January 7th, 2014 7:11 AM

    These courses get students to really engage with the world around them, to ask questions, and to think. I know that in my liberal arts degree, critical thinking, reading and research skills were also major components, and that these qualities are not solely found in law degrees.

    Later on in this piece, the author confirms the notion of a law degree being superior, when she says, “Having a law degree helped me stand out among the candidates.” But I am not so quick to take this idea at face value. Employers MAY value law degrees over others, or it may be something we are just led to believe. Perhaps going into the publishing industry with a law degree may have indeed been advantageous, but liberal arts students with majors in literature, or journalism and communications students SHOULD be just as valued in the interview.

    So I appreciate this perspective. But I take issue with the statements that seem to confirm (and not challenge) the value of a law degree over other degrees. It may be so, it might not be, but so long as society continues to re-enforce the idea that law students are somehow more adept, I think it just continues to create a cycle where intelligent students, like this writer, are swept away from pursuing their passion for learning, and pushed into dry courses like law to prove something (to their parents, to society, to themselves).

    • Pelin January 7th, 2014 4:14 PM

      Thank you for writing all that! I’m in grade 11 right now and feeling so much pressure to choose what I’ll be studying. I’m really really scared to go into liberal arts, even though that’s what I always expected to be going into when I was little. All this confuses me so much and I’m scared that (1) I won’t find a job that’s fulfilling to me and (2) that if I do, I won’t have what it takes for that job/have the degree that gives me an advantage. Also, you know, money, but for me the important thing right now is to find my passion which is NOWHERE to be found. So scared of the future and the stigma around liberal arts is not making it better
      May I ask what your job is/which one you’re aiming to attain after you complete your history degree? Because I feel like even if I manage a history degree I won’t really have an alternative but to become a teacher or something? (Is this rude I’m sorry?)

      • ScarlettRed January 7th, 2014 8:28 PM

        Hey Pelin,

        (I am a wordy, blabby sort of person so I expect this reply will also be LONG).

        Well I am in my final year of my History degree (I’ve been able to do electives as well in journalism, politics, literature, anthropology, creative writing, archaeology, business).

        Personally, I’m still working out exactly where I’ll take my future. But I know that if I needed the money, teaching and government are always options I can take. I also know that I’m the type of person that will do my best in any role, and so long I am doing something worthwhile for society, I will be willing to do any job I put my mind to.

        What I think I will do is enrol in a postgrad course that is new in Australia which combines business skills and subjects on leadership, ethics, professional communication and electives in things like social entrepreneurship and global justice… This I am hoping will lead me towards a practical path to doing something rewarding, be it in communications or an organisation committed to social change. (The course has a compulsory internship so I am going to use it as a platform into a job of some sort). But I know that I could be a teacher and enjoy that too because I love learning and communicating that to others.

        In terms of money, I’m not from a rich family and will have debts to pay off once I get employed. But luckily in Australia you don’t pay back your student loans until you are earning a certain amount (it comes out as tax), which I know is great compared to the student loans US students are left with.

        (To be continued…)

    • Zzz January 7th, 2014 8:55 PM

      Hi Scarlett,

      As someone who lectures in Arts subjects at a NSW university (No, not UNSW – that came out wrong), I’d like to thank you for your attitude. We in Australia have very good employment rates for Arts graduates, and I think quite a bit of the rhetoric against these degrees is based on employment situations in countries that are very unlike our own. It is a shame that so many people have inherited these ideas! So good on you with your beautiful and eloquent observation. I hope I can continue to have students such as yourself who appreciate the value of critical thought and defend all kinds of education.

  • Susan January 7th, 2014 9:14 AM

    I’m happy for you, in that you’ve found your way from law school.

    Eerily, I have never related to a Rookie article more. I am currently studying law in Australia, and I feel as though I had been pushed into it by my parents. I have two more years left on my degree, and in all honesty, even though I have no intention of becoming a lawyer, I’m allowing this time to learn more about myself. To add to the coincidences, I have been volunteering with a community legal centre for women, which I immensely enjoy.

    • ScarlettRed January 7th, 2014 8:34 PM

      The thing about an a Arts degree, is it gives you all this rewarding insight into the world, and critical thinking skills, but the “downside” is that it keeps the career path side of things in your hands. So what I mean is that you need to sell your skills and figure out which direction you want to apply them. I see it more as a solid foundation to map out a future and career rather than a ladder that takes you towards something specific.

      I think if you want to be a doctor, or know you want to be a writer or a lawyer, you should definitely follow a direct path to those things. But most 18 year old don’t know, and so as long as you are interested in learning, I think an Arts degree is a great option to undertake.

      If I could go back in time I would just advise my young high school self to apply to courses that interest her, not courses she thinks she “should” do. It’s a pretty complicated area, and it’s based on a mixture of being practical and idealistic, but I think if you commit to something you are passionate about that’s always a good thing, then doors open and you go through them, and you carve out a path that suits you.

      But I think it is like Estelle writes here, I think for most people, the process of getting a career is found when you go along a path you enjoy, and then you choose the best opportunity in front of you (based on what interests you), and you go from there…

      • ScarlettRed January 7th, 2014 8:35 PM

        Good luck Pelin, go along the path that intrigues you most, figure out what you want most out of life and go where you think this will happen, figure out what skills you think you can offer others (creativity or art or writing) and use them.

        Also, just work hard in whatever you do (even if it’s a part time waitressing job while you study like me), because it helps you realise that you can get good at whatever you commit to.

        :)

        • Pelin January 8th, 2014 3:49 PM

          Thanks so much for your response, it was really kind of you :) You gave me hope again. I made the experience this year of choosing a major I wasn’t sure of, thinking it would work out some way or another because I am pretty hardworking, and then feeling crushed by it. I feel absolutely unmotivated most of the time but I’m really trying to plough through. I don’t want to make the same mistake in university, and you kind of gave me hope that I won’t have to, that maybe I can have the courage to study something that actually excites me. Thank you! <3

  • foreverrocket January 7th, 2014 9:33 AM

    I relate to a lot of this. It hit home so hard. I’m currently in my fourth year out of a six year long law course, and yes, it is all very dry and confusing and am i supposed to be doing this at all? Who knows.

  • Alienor January 7th, 2014 1:22 PM

    I just started law school in september and it is really hard ! this article was great, it boosted my motivation to succeed!

  • Estelle January 7th, 2014 2:48 PM

    Hi ScarlettRed!

    I’m so glad you felt passionate enough about your arts education to comment here. I too think it’s incredibly important to be educated in areas such as political science, literature, film, history, journalism, sociology — and all the other fascinating areas an arts degree opens up to you. I’m the last person to think that arts is easy or unimportant — my work now is solely related to the arts and critical thinking; and it’s “easier” for me because I care deeply about it. And I know many people who have worked rigorously on psychology degrees, for example, and philosophy degrees. It wasn’t at all a value judgment. But if I’d been studying journalism, for example, the hard work I would have been doing might have felt less difficult to engage with because I cared more about the outcomes.

    You are right in saying that when I say I considered studying psych or sociology, I meant it would be easier for me personally. This is because those areas felt far more about learning about people and demographics, which I felt much more connected to on a basic level than law. But I’m sorry that wasn’t clear and I’m glad you pointed out the possible confusion!

    To clarify, the statement that my law degree helped me stand out among candidates is relevant to that specific employment experience I had. Law was one of the publisher’s biggest publishing areas, and it meant I was a good fit for the team in terms of my knowledge, just as a person who had studied Spanish or French would be an asset to a publisher that worked with international clients or translations. (cont.!)

  • Estelle January 7th, 2014 2:55 PM

    Sorry, ScarlettRed — that was supposed to be in response to your comment, I must have clicked on the wrong link to reply.

    Anyway, to continue, I don’t think it’s a huge leap to say that completing a law degree shows that a person can commit to and complete a rigorous program of study. This doesn’t at all mean that having a degree in other disciplines don’t do this! I think completing any university degree (or TAFE course, or internship, or practical placement — or other equivalents) is a sign of commitment and hard work. I am only speaking from my own experience of what I personally did, and didn’t mean to imply that employers don’t value other educational qualifications. I’m aware that I’m very privileged to have had a tertiary education at all — and that any university degree is of huge value both personally and professionally to any person who completes one.

    Anyhow, I really didn’t mean to denigrate the arts degree as a qualification/process/achievement. I’m all too aware of the narrow-minded attitudes people have towards them, which is a huge shame and a silly cultural cliché. I actually commissioned a great article about the skills one can gain from doing an arts degree by a great novelist and government employee, S.A. Jones, which you can read here: http://www.killyourdarlingsjournal.com/2012/05/the-write-skills. Jones basically argues that she loves hiring arts graduates because they — like you’ve argued above — have fantastic communication and research skills.

    (cont.)

  • Estelle January 7th, 2014 2:58 PM

    Phew!

    Anyway, I hope this clarifies things a little. In this piece, I wanted to reflect on how the decisions I personally made and the context in which I made them, with the more general point being that there are lots of things you can get out of an education even if you don’t enjoy yourself or feel isolated during the experience, or don’t pursue that path after you’ve finished studying. This applies for school too! Or extracurricular learning!

    I am glad you spoke up about your thoughts — and thanks so much for reading!

    x estelle

    • ScarlettRed January 7th, 2014 8:27 PM

      Hey Estelle,

      Thanks for replying and clarifying those things! I get where you are coming from, and I appreciate your experience (and self will too) and where it led you. I think too that in a strange way we probably both found the same realisation about career paths but just came to it from different ways. I have to say that it also gives me hope as an Arts student to read that you found a fulfilling career as a writer.

      So I appreciated your piece and your perspective. I guess in a piece this size you wouldn’t really have room to be like “as for the path I DIDN’T take”, and it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway if you reached the same conclusion in the end. So I suppose just after reading I wanted to jump in and offer the perspective of the “other” path and its merits.

      Also, if you could write more pieces for Rookie with advice on career opportunities or interview skills, or being a writer, putting your passion into practice or anything like that I’d be interested to read.

      I really liked the link you posted too, I hope that the stigma against Arts students isn’t going to bar my career prospects, so that article gave me some hope :) (I saved it as a Bookmark on my computer) x

      • Estelle January 7th, 2014 9:37 PM

        Really glad you contributed to this discussion, and will keep your suggestions in mind for future pieces for sure!!

        bestest wishes :))))

  • Estelle January 7th, 2014 2:58 PM

    Thank you everyone else for your sweet comments too and good luck xx

  • mangointhesky January 7th, 2014 6:11 PM

    Oh wow! This is really inspiring!

    http://perfectlittledaisy.blogspot.com

  • Zzz January 7th, 2014 9:03 PM

    Hi Estelle,

    I work for a university and I see so many of my students suffering because their parents made them do degrees based on factors other than passion. For many families, a high ATR (or ENTER of whatever your state requires) equals law or medicine. I especially see it in families where one or both of the parents has come from an area or economic system where education wasn’t as accessible as it is in Australia now.

    I can see why helping (or pushing!) your child to achieve in high-prestige areas is important to people who didn’t have these chances themselves. Most of my students who tell me the anxieties they have over these kinds of pressures emphasise that their families are loving and only want the best for them. But at the same time, they usually confess that their degree means nothing to them and that they hate their assessments and feel lost.

    I think you’ve done a great thing by sharing your experiences. My stressed-out students feel very trapped by their degrees and can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I hope they (or someone like them) can read this article and feel as though there is hope for them to achieve a career that makes them happy without losing the love and support of their parents.

  • lizabeth January 8th, 2014 1:18 AM

    Estelle, thank you for writing this, I read it at just the right time in my life. I LOVED college and my major but since graduating 2 years ago, I’ve had a difficult time finding a paying job in my chosen profession. I’m having to work these jobs that I totally hate but hearing that you went through something similar and it worked out for you is really encouraging :)

  • Kimbhello January 8th, 2014 3:52 PM

    While the article is inspiring, and I admire your perseverance in sticking to the law degree even though it quite literally made you miserable, I can’t help but be troubled by a message that blankets this piece: is it really okay to just accept that six years of your life you were completely miserable, and could’ve possibly not been? It probably has more to do with the fact that yes, things did turn out better in the end, but I kept waiting for the ‘aha!’ moment where your major was switched or a personal discovery was made that lifted the misery (at least a bit) off of your shoulders, but it never came. It was just suffered and then resolved afterward. I myself haven’t started a university course, but would be in my second year at my age now. I feel like I may just be evaluating this in a much too naive or idealistic manor, but I just can’t imagine spending six years doing something I disliked so much, when I could have been doing something that made me happy. Clearly you’ve gained skills and value your time spent at law school, which is fantastic. I’m just not sure I could go through with such a task myself? Not sure if I’m making sense here, but it is a very personal and intriguing article, so thank you. x

    • Estelle January 8th, 2014 5:39 PM

      Hello!

      Thanks so much for reading. You’ve raised an interesting question and I’m not sure I can answer it any better than I have semi-answered it in the piece — in that IT GOES TO “THE SECRET CORE OF WHO I AM AS A PERSON” or whatever, haha.

      All I can say is that, without having a more specific direction or plan, my main priority was to obey my parents and justify their investment in my future. I thought I’d eventually learn to like it, but I didn’t. Perhaps my parents were way more influential on me than others, or perhaps I disliked the law more than others who did law to satisfy parents. Either way, it’s relevant too that I didn’t have any idea of what I could be good at, or was scared to find out. Fear is maybe an interesting reason why — sometimes it feels safe to have your decisions made for you (if they’re safe ones!), even if they don’t necessarily suit you.

      The aha moment — as you call it! — has indeed been slow to come and it wasn’t like fireworks or anything. I only really started being reflective about my education after I finished it, and realised that despite having felt emotionally miserable for most of the time, I really did get something out of it. I was proud of that.

      I think there are probably a lot of people out there who probably wouldn’t do something they hated for such a long time, and I totally understand that. But other commenters above have talked about moving on from courses they disliked, and I admire them for being able to have recognised their own wishes and doing something about it.

  • Estelle January 8th, 2014 5:41 PM

    Anyway, that’s really the best I can do! But thank you for your comment. It was really great to hear from you.

    xe

  • ruthesther January 9th, 2014 3:26 AM

    I can relate to this so much – I struggled through an Arts degree, with a major in Sociology, for three years (which seems small compared to six years of Law, but for me it was huge), and the biggest thing I got out of it was the realisation that I want to be a photographer. Like Estelle, I can’t say I completely regret my degree even though I became quite depressed in first year and went on exchange for a year because I didn’t want to be at my uni anymore. It took me a year and a half to realise that the only person who thought that I should do honours and post-grad was myself, and that no one would care or think less of me if I didn’t do that. Uni was not for me, but now I have a degree and plans to study photography.

    So, Estelle, I totally understand what you went through, and anyone else wondering if their degree is for them – lots of people worry about this, and it usually works out in the end!

  • Serena Head January 9th, 2014 7:32 AM

    Are you me!? No, seriously are you? Fellow bookworm, future-ambiguous Australian, with an educator dad and a mum from Malaysia.

    I’m currently tossing up between a billion degrees to lodge my late application to uni. I really don’t have much clue. But I know that whatever I end up doing it can be used for good in my life somehow.

    This article is wonderful. You’re a great writer! <3

  • Sophii January 9th, 2014 4:33 PM

    This is really inspiring. Today I was actually talking with my mum about us moving to Australia. We live in the UK but I’ve been thinking about going to uni in Australia because it’s so, so far away and I’d kind of like a fresh start. I admire you Estelle but I definitely want to do a degree that makes me happy. My time at school has been miserable enough! I’m planning to study English Literature

    http://prettypassionsfinefashions.blogspot.co.uk

  • fetchgretchen January 12th, 2014 5:40 PM

    I’m about to leave my small town home for law school for the first time ever, ten days from now. I really related to this article and I don’t know if I should feel good and excited about that or not. All I know right now is that I am scared shitless because I have no idea what to expect!!

  • beyondcollege January 21st, 2014 9:52 PM

    I had a very similar experience with law school and in talking to my friends, I would say the majority of students don’t enjoy law school at all.

    I ended up in a career much more suitable to me too. (The thought of actually being a lawyer makes me cringe).

    I love your positive outlook on life! Many people make decisions that aren’t the most suitable for them, but it’s all about how you approach life.

    For all the people already in law school – if you hate it, don’t be afraid to look into different careers after graduating! Everyone will ask you a million times “Why don’t you want to be a lawyer?” But that’s ok. Other professions respect a legal degree…it’s not a waste although you will probably have some hefty loans (sigh…student loans)

  • anusha April 3rd, 2014 8:41 AM

    I wonder how is it possible that I missed this article by 4 months! I can relate so much to this it’s crazy. I got really excited when I read this because I spotted the word “Malaysia” which is where I’m from AND because I’m going off to law school in 2 months’ time which initially was forced to me by my mother.

    Like you Estelle, I enjoy reading A LOT and was perpetually indecisive about my career path. I wanted to major in Mass Communication. Broadcasting and journalism have always been my top choices. In the end, I settled for law for similar reasons you did- I thought the knowledge and skills I’d acquire from law school would be useful sooner or later. I also know that I don’t necessarily have to become a lawyer in the future.

    So THANK YOU for this article. It really soothe my nerves on settling for something I wasn’t entirely passionate about. Rookie is AMAZING <3

    http://theprincessprincess.tumblr.com