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I don’t believe in fads. Usually, I’m too tuned out from them to notice, but even if I were aware I think I’d still turn the other cheek and let the trends roll off my face like rainwater sloshing off impervious surfaces and into the gutters. For this reason, I avoid all diets and “get fit quick” pledges and opt instead for routine fitness. But after a recent injury set me back from my regular cardio, I found myself falling vulnerable for a free personal trainer consultation at a local gym.
This soon felt like a huge mistake.
From the moment I sat down with the personal trainer, I was uncomfortable. Although surely part of the standard consultation, the questions posed at me felt like jabs to my self-confidence: “Why has it taken you so long to recover from your injury?” “How often do you exercise?” and the worst “If you could change one part of your body, which would you choose to change?”
For the last one, I must have shot the trainer a harsh look as if to say, “Really?” for she quickly added, “…or, you know, if you wanted to just improve something.” With each response, I felt less and less like myself. Admitting flaws and focusing on weaknesses made me feel unhappy and was not helpful. Tired of the self-shaming, I piped up and told the trainer that I would prefer to not continue with the body analysis and would rather learn some new exercises and routines. Luckily, she heeded to my request, and we left the horrifying Q & A. I left the gym feeling icky, rattled, self-pitying. You can’t help but feel bad after someone talks to you for an hour about all the things you are doing wrong and everything you should be doing to correct your behavior. My normally jolly level of self-esteem plummeted, and I spent the night feeling blue.
I imagine that my legal career may cause similar uncomfortable moments. Difficult reads, complicated regulations, and general foreign territory may, at times, make me feel like I know more about nothing than anything at all. But we can’t just try to avoid these nausea-inducing experiences.
The day after this personal trainer nightmare, I marched back into the gym and rocked out in my favorite class: cardio kickboxing. So what if the day before had unnerved me? I was proud of my post-injury recovery progress and even prouder of the sweat I broke after my kickboxing class. I didn’t let one bad experience crush my motivation for fitness, and I’m unwilling to let any future tough episodes—whether in the gym or in law school—permanently keep me down either. I aspire to ultimately face down challenges I encounter in the classroom and as a lawyer—even if they may initially cause me to recoil.
As Ms. JD’s President, Katie Larkin-Wong, once told me, “We get comfortable being uncomfortable.” We go back to the site of impact and face challenges head on. We move boldly into the unknown world of law, conquering goals, and facing down new fears. We must walk down the difficult path and, in doing so, face others who tell us solely of the things we do poorly, rather than applaud our accomplishments. In many cases, it is helpful for constructive criticism to be part of the learning process, but in others I say just give yourself a break. We can’t be perfect, and in striving for excellence we inevitably will drop something by the wayside. Maybe during a tough study time we gain a pound or two or forget to reply to an email from a close friend. These setbacks are not to be ignored, but they aren’t cause for shame. We may experience pain, frustration, or annoyance, but we do not throw in the towel altogether.
We err, we correct, we move forward. With this mantra, I hope to tackle my legal education with aplomb—and a well-oiled vocabulary.