2014 threw boatloads of shit my way. I’ve sat in front of my computer many a time hoping to write my troubles away, but always came up blank. Mostly I just didn’t know what to say; there were (and still are) too many feelings, emotions, thoughts wreaking havoc inside me. I’ve always been highly emotional–and I’ve always been taught to filter through those emotions and conquer them before saying or doing anything (hi, mom). But sometimes there is no conquering… just a lot of filtering and re-filtering until the mess you thought you’d be able to make sense of just sits before you in yet another, still incomprehensible (and unconquerable) heap.

You must be wondering what I’m going on about, and no wonder about that since I’ve kept so many in the dark about this (not that I’m obliged to tell). A beauty blog is also hardly the ideal place to go on a personal outpouring, but it’s still my blog and experiences outside of it are a part of me. But ah, listen to me trying to justify sharing anything other than a makeup/beauty post when that’s just not necessary. This is for me, to be perfectly honest. This is another attempt at re-filtering 2014 so that I can figure out if I’m meant to let it go, fix it, or do whatever else one does with an unexpected heartache. 

In late October 2014, after two and a half years of constant struggle, I failed out of law school.

Allow me to rewind to 2011 and 2012, when I was finishing university. I replay that time in my mind often, trying to remember what I was thinking when I finished my undergraduate degree in Literature and decided that I was going to apply to law school, of all things. I do remember that my Philosophy classes unearthed a love for country that I had not fully realised until then. I also remember assessing my skills (writing, reading) and thinking that applying them to a study of the Law would make a sensible trajectory for the next few years of my life. I even spoke with a lawyer friend of my mother and visited his offices to get a feel of what working lawyers do. And so I did what nobody expected of me and applied to two of the three major law schools in the country. I was accepted by both and began at my Lolo’s (grandfather’s) alma mater just one summer after leaving college.

I was already proud of myself, in a way. Not everyone passes those entrance exams. And so began a time in my life when (for the first time) I allowed grades to matter. I had never been the star pupil at school at any stage in my academic life; I did well when I found the subject interesting (mostly in Literature, History, Philosophy, and some sciences), but otherwise I just did what I could to pass. I always knew that I was also trying to prove something to myself by sticking with law school, but veiled it with the romantic idea that I was doing it primarily for my country. In a sense, that was also true. Lawyers, contrary to popular thought, can do a lot of good with their skills. I hoped to be one of them, but law school stood in the way.

The Law, as an area of study, can be a number of things depending on the circumstances. There were times when I was glad to immerse myself in the subject because it is intertwined with our history and reflects the brilliance of lawmakers who forged the law. Even the procedural aspect of law can be interesting, albeit frivolous at times. I learned to be more disciplined than I had ever been because the study of law requires so much memorisation–and even in that, I was happy to stretch my personal limits (most of the time). Still, the law is a limited field. It is does not expand beyond its set borders so much as it contorts within itself at the hands of skilled practitioners. It is hardly a fertile playing ground for a person with a creative mind–something I didn’t actually realise I had until I was drowning that part of myself.

I found myself escaping into (non-law) books whenever I could even if I could have been using that time to make notes or take a nap to conserve energy for more hours of study. Anyone who is a law student or who knows one understands that even five minutes is precious time that you could be using to get ahead. And getting ahead is something that everyone in law school is trying to do. It’s unavoidable, really. I’d never been in such a competitive environment in my life and the drive simply was not in me. I learned to wear blinders and push on, even when it was killing me to ignore the things that made me feel alive. As a writer, the law butchers your creativity. As a reader, it assaults the beauty of the written word right before your eyes. As a human being, it was snuffing me out slowly. And even as I write these things, I appreciate and admire the law. I was so focused that I could not hear what the law itself was already trying to tell me: this shit prooobably isn’t for you. 

I failed when I least expected to; when I was going happily along with my blinders on, as I had trained myself to do. In hindsight, failing may have been a necessary event in my life, but at the time, nothing had ever hurt so bad as to come to the realisation that I was not going back–not to that law school, at least. Still, I had those blinders on and I hurriedly I secured my transfer documents so that I could transfer to another school. It was only after the two hectic weeks after failing that I sat down with my parents (still a mess, still distraught and bewildered by the event that I was determined not to allow to define me), and my mother (again, hi mom if you’re reading) put into words the option that I did not even know was an option up until that point: maybe this is another chance to return to literature, or something else along those lines. 

It made sense. And hearing the mere proposal of a return to literature lifted my heart more than anything else had in years. Still, I was confused by the proposition because didn’t it mean giving up/accepting defeat if I just abandoned the two and a half years I spent slaving through law school? It didn’t take much thought to arrive at the obvious answer: no, it doesn’t. Recognising and accepting that something is not meant for you isn’t easy, and it most definitely is not synonymous with giving up.

I learned so much (about myself, the world, and the law) in law school and I met so many amazing people there, some of whom will be my friends forever. So, even while it nearly tore me apart and left me irreparably shattered and even though I still don’t fully understand why I went in the first place, I don’t regret going to law school. I also most certainly do not regret retaining my humanity (and sanity) by taking an hour or so in a week to read non-law books and to spend time with my family. What I do regret is that, for a time, I allowed myself to believe I was someone I just wasn’t. I forgot to nurture myself so that I could give more of myself… and at the risk of sounding unforgivingly cheesy, I will say that it’s in that respect that I truly fell flat on my face and failed.

Everyone tells me that I’m still young; that there’s a lot of time to figure out what it is that you’re meant to do. It’s okay to be lost and confused and bla bla bla. Still, it’s difficult to feel ok when you’re 24 without having worked a day in your life and don’t even have a graduate degree to show for it… but I understand that in the big picture (whatever that is) this won’t matter much if I don’t let it. Relatives and friends will eventually stop greeting me with the usual “How’s law school?” or “How’s our future attorney!” lines and I’ll be glad of it instead of pained because I am not my profession.

I still don’t really know what my plan is. And isn’t it painfully cliché to be saying something like that on the first day of the new year? Eew. I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions because I believe in making changes the moment you decide to commit to them, but I must admit that there’s something about the start of a new year that really gets you going. Every single day since that one day in October has been about moving past it, but now I feel just a little bit lighter doing so. It’s still a struggle but hey, I’m alive. And that’s always a wonderful thing to be.

Life doesn’t always go the way we envision it to, but that is precisely its way. Change, adapt, and grow with it… and love all the while, because what the hell is life for if not to love. Cheers to the New Year and to the things that make you feel alive, guys. If you’ve read this far, thanks. Love from my heart to yours.

13 responses to κάθαρσις

  1. Rae

    I’m also not one to share (too) personal stuff online.

    I feel that it took a lot from you to share this. Thank you.

    Anyway, if it’s of any consolation, I finished a degree I didn’t like and didn’t fit my personality, skills, and interests. I pushed through because I was afraid to be called a quitter and a coward. I didn’t know it was more courageous to do what my gut told me to do. I spent most of my working life in regret. I’m 31 and sometimes I still feel like it’s too late for me.

    There’s something good that will come out from this. Happy new year, Mariana.

    • Mariana – Author

      Thanks, Rae. I hope so. :)

      I admire you for pushing through your own struggles; there’s so much strength in that, too. I shared this Chinese proverb on my Facebook page yesterday: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” Not that I’m a position to give advice, but I don’t think it’s every too late for anything unless we allow it to be. And people are surprisingly supportive of decisions made from the heart, ah! That one I can say from recent experience. :)

  2. Ae

    Hey Mariana.. -hug!- Rae’s right, something good will come out of this. My (unsolicited) advice, live your life to your own definition of success and not those of others. Best of luck this new year! :)

  3. corinemagenta

    I’m really happy for you because you’ve come to realize that people are not defined by their professions– I’m 23, in degree that feels more like a consolation prize. I wish I were as brave as you.

    • Mariana – Author

      I’m not so much brave as I was backed into a corner… hehe, but if you allow your heart to speak, you’ll always know the right thing to do. It’s never too late to start again!

  4. Aww hug! When things get bad, you have to know that things will move up from there–and that maybe the universe is planning something much, much better for you! :)

  5. It is not really finishing a degree “on time” but doing what you love to do. Rae said what’s on my head. It’s going to be a drag doing something you don’t like. I actually admire people who quit because they are courageous enough to go for what they want!

    2015 will be a great year for you! :)

  6. somelovelybacon

    Hey Mariana. It’s me, your reader from law school, I’ve posted here before. I believe I was in my senior year when you were in your first. I never saw you in school though. I’m writing to say I understand the feeling you were talking about. I struggled a lot through the cutthroat environment in law school. Sometimes I felt like I was drowning. Like you, I tasted bitter defeat – although I got my degree, I flunked the bar when I took it. I just took it again, and right now I am on tenterhooks waiting for the result.

    I want to say – from one who understands how much of yourself it took to even get to where you got – that even in a time like this there is some good. You may discover things about yourself and the people around you. Decide whether you want to be depleted or enriched by this experience. I hope it is the latter. If you embrace the lessons fully, there can be no regrets.

    I wish you all the best, Mariana, and look forward to more of your writings in 2015. :)

  7. Hi Iana! I am an avid reader of your blog and this entry hit close to home for me. Thank you for this, and I am wishing you all the best.

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