Tuesday, November 27, 2012

First-year law student, second-year wife


In my experience, the transformation from everyday person to law school student is oddly similar to getting married. You think you know exactly what you’re doing and how to succeed, and a month in you realize you really have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into. When I was 22, I had no idea how to be a wife. I had never given it much thought. I spent most of my life exercising my independence and focusing on my priorities, and I was NOT focused on learning how to communicate or fight fair.

Before I married my husband, I used my oven for storage. I thought the only cleaning solutions I really needed in my apartment were Glass Plus and Febreze. “Cooking” dinner involved take-out or the microwave, and I did laundry only after I had worn everything in my closet. Once, when he returned from a month-long training for the Army, he walked into our apartment building while on the phone with me and told me how awful it smelled. I didn’t have the heart to tell my fiancĂ©, who had been gone for a month, that the smell was coming from my apartment. It wasn’t until he walked in that I was forced to explain that the meal I had intended to cook for us (using the microwave) involved adding water – and I had sort of, kind of forgotten that part. I’m pretty sure when he left for his second deployment to Iraq, my husband was more concerned that I would attempt to bake something while he was gone than concerned for his safety in a war zone.

Needless to say, I was never going to win the wife-of-the-year award. I wish I could say that two years later my skills in the kitchen have improved, but that would be a lie. I did learn to suck less, though. I spoke with wise married women, and while I still can’t bake a cake to save my life, I know how to better maintain a happy, healthy marriage. It helps that my husband was always ready to put out the fires (literally, he had to put out a fire once) when things got out of control. He is the most patient man on the planet. When I decided to go to law school, he didn’t even flinch. We were both aware of the massive amount of time and money a law degree would take, and all he did was buy me an LSAT prep book. Being married is a lot easier when you’re married to someone awesome, seriously.

I was a pretty good student in college, and I walked into the law school building thinking I had it under control. Just a few short years and I’d be off living my dream of practicing law, and I would either have enough money to buy all the desserts I wanted or be so busy I’d have an excuse to never, ever turn on my oven again. Two weeks into the summer session, I realized I might be in over my head. The classes were tough, the reading could have been in a foreign language, and I wasn’t instantly good at it. I could deal with sucking at cooking, but I simply could not handle sucking at school. So I just kept going. There were days I didn’t want to. There were moments it seemed pointless, but there were also days when the information clicked and it made sense – moments when I didn’t have to struggle to understand a concept and the information being shoved into my brain began to make sense.

I’m a first-year law student and a second-year wife, and my priority is to not suck at either of them. It is a delicate balance. Sometimes the scales tip and I end up doing one better than the other, but thankfully my husband is more forgiving than my professors. I’ve learned I have to be able to turn my “student” brain off when I’m spending time with my husband. And sometimes I have to turn off being a wife and focus on being a law student. I’ve heard the stories and read the statistics about how difficult it is to make a marriage work while one spouse is in law school. I’ve also spoken with friends who are married, in law school, and struggling with the same things I am and who manage to wake up every day and keep making it work. I think it’s probably like that with any relationship while you’re here. In my experience, becoming a 1L is a lifestyle change, and while it may not be the smoothest of transitions, at least in my case, it helps me tremendously to have someone in my corner.

My life is a lot different than those of my single friends at KU Law. I have someone else to consider in both allocating my time and financially. I try to get on campus early and work in the mornings so if I have time, I can hang out with my husband in the evenings. I wake up early on weekends to study so we can do things together on the days he is free. The closer it gets to finals, the less I see him and although that is tough, I truly feel the end justifies the means. It will be worth it. I know it sounds cheesy, but I have learned that as long as we operate as a team, I can be successful at both things. I can be a good wife AND a good law student. It just takes a lot of effort, a lot of practice and a very patient partner.

-Ashlyn Lindskog, a first-year law student, is a KU Law Student Ambassador. Contact her at ashlynlindskog@gmail.com

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