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How to: Deal with Disappointment (Law Student Edition)

Grade validation – isn’t it just a funny thing? I feel like my whole life I’ve been chasing it, craving the knowledge and comfort I receive from a literal letter or percentage on a piece of paper that tells me that I’m good enough, that I’m worthy. It’s strange when you think about it, but if you’re anything like me – which I dare say you most probably are – you find that it becomes addictive. You feel that rush of satisfaction and pride swell in your chest and you hunger for more.

Now for the most part, this desire to do well and excel in your studies is a good thing – I mean, it got you here, right? It’s because of those good grades that you now find yourself at law school, wondering where in the world your hard work will take you next. You know you’re capable and you take pride in that fact.

But if I have learnt even one thing in my first year at uni, it’s this: law school is absolutely nothing like high school.

WoW. Who would’ve thought? But it’s also ENTIRELY true. It’s like you’ve just mastered playing Monopoly but now you’ve been thrust into a new game of chess. The rules are different. The people are different. But you still sit dumbfounded and confused, holding your pieces of fake Monopoly money tightly in your hand, waiting for your turn so you can pass GO and collect your $200.

At least, that’s how I sometimes feel. And with those clouds of doubt and uncertainty swirling over your head, you find yourself fumbling and stumbling like you’ve never before. One minute you’re receiving 96% and 98% for assignments and tests that didn’t really require that much effort, and the next you’re given a 52% for an essay that you could have sworn you poured your heart and soul into, wondering how in the world it could have come to this. That old desire for grade validation burns hot in your chest once more but out of shame this time, rather than pride.

So now you’re thinking – what the hell do I do now?

Well, I’ll tell you what. You dust yourself off and keep going. Have the courage to bounce back, as they say, and know for a fact that these “failures” don’t define who you are.

You know, I remember when I first got a 71% in maths way back in Year 9 or Year 10. I was DISTRAUGHT, I tell you. Crying on the goddamn floor of my room, feeling like the world had absolutely ended, and that my life was definitely pointless and meaningless…Like hot damn man. I don’t even use maths anymore. I don’t even remember what year I was actually in, let alone what the topic the test was actually on. Heck, now I’d be happy to get a 71% - it’s literally a distinction. I guess what I’m saying is that even after all that wailing and wallowing, the sun still rose the next day and I still ended up here, where I wanted to be all along. Life goes on.

So yeah – disappointments suck. Getting a bad grade sucks. But realistically, all we can do afterwards is to see those “failures” as a learning curb, as a way to improve. Inhale all the feedback you can get and keep trying because one way or another, you will get where you want to be if you just keep persisting.

I suppose there is some wisdom behind all those cliché sayings we all heard as a child. “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” “It’s alright to try and fail, but never to fail to try.” “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” They’re all true, so take some comfort in that.

And trust me – we’ve all been there. Life is like a rollercoaster (see, there’s another one) and you’re going to have plenty of disappointments and failures along the way. The best thing you can do is to accept them with a smile, knowing that they will one day be the key to your success.

Written by Sarah Whalen

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