Erin Chua is a recent law graduate that enjoys volunteering. In her final year, she had the fortune of applying what she learnt from the textbooks in real life by volunteering with Students for a Safer NUS. Before graduating, outside of attempting to complete her never-ending list of readings, she exercises, dances in her room occasionally and prides herself as a food connoisseur (a.k.a glutton).
Dear First-year Erin,
It is raining heavily outside, and you are curled up in bed in your dorm room. Everything feels like a lot right now. You have received news that your aunt passed on and you feel immense regret and guilt that you were not there for her and your family during her last days as you were always in school. You are trying to process a misunderstanding you had with your peers – one that you never found closure for. Someone important to you has broken your trust. Your imposter syndrome is surging to a record high as you are few weeks away from your first-year finals. And frankly, you have not been confident about yourself. “Small fish in a big pond” describes exactly how you are feeling. You feel like you are behind everyone else. You did not pass the auditions to enter any moots. You think you are slower than everyone else in studying and understanding. Your health was deteriorating from the stress and burning the midnight oil. Everything feels too much right now. Cry it out and ride your emotions, Erin, and when you are okay, figure a way out as you always do.
In a few years’ time, you will learn the importance of making time for the people that matter. The reading list will still be long, and the assignments will still be too many, but you will learn to carve time out to spend with your loved ones, including yourself. Going for brunch with a friend, speaking to your sister before going to bed, calling your beloved popo whenever you have the time and letting yourself binge watch a few episodes of Netflix will give you the energy and drive to push on. The regret and guilt that you feel for your late aunt will fade but they taught you an important lesson: life is short so treasure every moment with the people you love.
In the four years of University, you will cross paths with many people. Some of whom you will form deep connections and share beautiful memories with. They will touch your life and grow with you. Unfortunately, it will torment you when some of these beautiful people leave your life through a misunderstanding, a disagreement or the ebb and flow of life. Even in your final year, you will still find letting go a hard pill to swallow. However, you will learn that people come and go in seasons and the past is still genuine and precious even if the person is not here with you right now. To your surprise, you will even find your way back to someone that you thought you lost.
You are still blessed though! Some of these people you will meet, together with the old friends that stay, will become the strong support system that will tide you through difficult times in University. The love that they shower you with will give you the strength to overcome obstacles, grow and do great things. Count your blessings. There are many around you.
I know for the most of first year, you felt like you were not smart enough compared to your classmates. You need to stop this pity party because you are an intelligent and capable person. You think that you take too long to research and read but your attention to detail and the thought you put into every single line you study builds a comprehensive understanding of the law. In fact, in your final year, your professor will point out that your prodigious research and detailed understanding of materials are your strengths. Silly girl, what you thought was your weaknesses have been your strengths all along.
You also need to stop comparing yourself to others. Your constant focus on others distracts you from seeing yourself – who you are, what your journey is and what you want. Participation in moots is not a marker of success as a law student. Not for you at least. You got it wrong. Your heart and talent have always been in a different place. For you, you feel the most empowered when you help and empower others using your legal training. It is instinctive of you to respond to any pro-bono opportunities. And blessed as you are, you will find many chances to do so. With every opportunity in the next few years, you will learn that your knowledge of the law and the privilege of your legal training can make the life of the people you help a little better and in certain situations, even protect them. I hope you never forget this.
Lastly, your health should be your top priority. This is unfortunately something you will only understand during your exchange in Canada where you will build up a healthy habit of eating enough, resting enough, and exercising enough. It is not worth it to sacrifice your meals, sleep, and exercise so that you have more time to study. Erin, trust in your ability to complete your work even if you slept for 8 hours. Never ever feel guilty for taking care of yourself.
Everything may feel suffocating right now but as your close friend Belle once told you, take everything one step at a time. You will find the strength, maturity, and courage to overcome the obstacles before you.