I recently received wonderful validation regarding maintaining a healthy balance in life. After much deliberation and contemplation last summer, I resigned from my job as the Director of Communications for the Miss America's Outstanding Teen Pageant, the little sister to the Miss America Organization, and took the plunge into the Juris Doctorate program at Florida A&M University's College of Law. With a background in public relations and a love for philanthropy, broadcasting and marketing, most people thought I was crazy for leaving “pageantland” to return to an academic environment, let alone law school.
If you, or someone you know, has battled through the volume of information that is thrown at a first year law student, you will understand exactly what I am referring to. If you have not, think of the most overwhelming class you have ever taken and multiply it by at least 10. I always felt as if I was wandering through a dark tunnel in search of the light on the other side that would hopefully result in a positive outcome. With most classes only having one exam per semester, and our grades being solely based on “C” curve, it was an anxiety filled semester that did not cease until final grades were posted just before Christmas.
Now one would think that I should know better; afterall I married an attorney just over a year ago. Although he, and many of my other legal friends, issued plenty of warnings and statements such as “why in the world would you want to do that?” my stubbornness got the best of me and I proceeded to register for classes and begin with what will now be referred to as the most difficult year of my life.
Committed to excellence and riddled with fear of receiving poor grades, I studied every single day of the fall semester. Taking an afternoon off to watch a Gator football game instilled anxiety and stress into my world on a regular basis. I lived and breathed law school.
In October, the unthinkable happened when my husband lost his job. I don't know why I thought we wouldn't be affected by the economic downturn, but for some reason I did. I felt helpless, alone, scared and miserable. Here I had left my job to go back to school and now we were facing losing everything. Not to mention, the “stable career” that I was hoping to one day acquire by becoming an attorney was losing its motivation as I watched my husband struggle to find a job day in and day out. For the next few months we both battled tremendous emotions internally and unfortunately verbally with each other. It felt like the world had been ripped out from underneath us. We were newlyweds and were supposed to be having the best year of our lives together but instead we were facing unbelievable hardships right off the bat.
Being a survivor of an eating disorder in high school, I am well aware of what type of situations send me over the edge into the “danger zone” and let me tell you, fighting those feelings would have been so much harder if I hadn't received the proper treatment back in the days of my recovery. In December, the feelings were too overwhelming for me to face on my own. I am very blessed to have a great relationship to this day with some of the practioners that helped me conquer my eating disorder. We decided an anti-anxiety medication and depression medication was the best route for me at that time.
I felt like I was on auto-pilot. So many things were going on but at the same time, I had given up so much of myself to accomplish the goal of surviving my 1L year. When it came time to start the spring semester, there was a lot of soul searching going on. What had I done to myself? Where did my happiness go? Why on earth did I give up all of the things I loved for school? I decided that change was absolutely necessary and must start immediately.
Although I was facing a class load of six subjects, I scheduled my time accordingly. Every minute of every day was occupied but this time, instead of it being all law school all of the time, I was interjecting time for my activities with the National Eating Disorders Association as well as the charity I started 9 years ago, Helping Other People Eat. I made time to work with my pageant clients and I was able to travel to do a few speaking engagements. Although life was not perfect again, happiness was emerging gradually as I regained the balance in my life. My only concern was that my grades would suffer as a result of my mental deviance from my 24/7 study schedule, but in fact my grades went up! I couldn't believe it! I have never had greater validation than that and I have made a commitment to myself that I will never give up who I am, not only because it is not fair to me, but it is unhealthy. I get so much joy from so many areas that if I steer away from them, I end up losing who I am and I have worked too hard for the last 26 years of my life to let that happen.