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October 15, 2012

My Birth of Perspective

By Chris Horras
By Chris Horras

1L year—what can I say? I had never spent so much time with my head in a book; I had never felt so clueless and anxious in class; and after getting my first semester grades, I had never felt so…average. What a disappointment. I was embarrassed, and I felt like a failure. I have never been academically average before, and it did not feel good.

It’s not like I slacked off either. I wish I had—at least I would have an excuse for my pedestrian achievements. But I worked really hard, harder than ever before. And all of that hard work boiled down to…average. Bummer.

I vented to my wife, my family, my closest friends, anyone who would listen. They all told me to hang in there and keep my chin up. It was nice to get some encouragement, but I was convinced that I couldn’t hack it in law school. The cases, discussion, and problems seemed endless, and I couldn’t maintain pace. Countless hours of studying, and all I could manage was…average.

By the time March rolled around, I was exhausted, frustrated, and wallowing in some pretty thick self-pity. Law school was sucking up most of my time, and I felt like Sisyphus with his big rock. On top of everything, I was about to add something big to the equation—fatherhood.

My wife and I had been married for just six months when we found out the stork had made a pit stop. “Not the best timing,” my wife would tell people. I generally agreed with her—I could barely handle law school alone. How was I ever going to manage law school and a full-blown family?

While I had been aware the little man was on the way for over nine months, fatherhood didn’t really sink in until the wee hours of March 10th, 2012. The room was crowded…all went silent. I squeezed my wife’s hand. And then…he cried.

At that moment, everything changed. The rest of the world disappeared, and all that mattered was my beaming wife, my goofy grin, and the 6 lb. 6 oz. miracle in my arms.

I missed the next week of classes to start learning how to be a dad. I never dared miss class before, but law school had suddenly become secondary—no doubt about it.

As I returned to school and the semester went on, I was forced to let go. I let go of anxiety; I let go of embarrassment, and I let go of feeling like being average was a failure. To be honest, I was too tired and short on time to worry anymore. Instead, I grasped small day-to-day victories and reveled in connections with good people. I decided being an average law student was just fine as long as I was an amazing dad. My son’s birth was my birth too—a new perspective emerged, and law school no longer ruled my life.

When I started law school I was sucked into the 1L rat race—study, get stressed out, get good grades, get a job, make a boat load of money. Go, go go! I listened to all of the 1L chatter about outlines, exams, clerking, and what not.

I thought having a baby would complicate everything, but in fact, it made everything simpler. I found an anchor and a mantra—family first. Law school is still important, but my anchor is what matters most.

I became myopic and cynical in my 1L year. This is a common problem for many law students, and the solution is…have a baby as soon as possible!

Kidding, of course.

But if you do find yourself floundering at some point this year, step back and take the long view. Locate your anchor, and develop your mantra. Whatever this may be, don’t let anything, even law school, get in the way of what matters most to you.