Clearing your head

Finding balance in law school is all about allowing yourself simple pleasures. I love my daily coffee at the Burge Union, my Friday night movie marathons, and the potluck dinners my friends and I host. The nicest thing I do for myself, though, is walking to and from school. Unless the weather is bad (or I oversleep my alarm), I make every effort I can to walk instead driving or taking the bus.

It helps me stretch my legs.

Honestly, I’m not a gym rat — anyone who knows me would say I’m no athlete. But walking for almost an hour every day, up and down KU’s hills with a 60-pound backpack on isn’t bad exercise. Walking gives me a good chance to maintain my KU calves without having to spare too much time going to the gym.

Walking clears my head and makes me happier.

When I walk to class, I don’t think about law school, homework or my to-do list. I don’t have to stress about traffic or worry about whether or not I need to change my oil. Instead, I get a chance to think about anything and everything I want to, to clear my head from the pressures of the day. I know this is a personal preference: Some of my friends love driving and would never give up their daily Starbucks drive-through run. But I like walking, so I go out of my way to make sure it happens regularly. The trick is to know what you like and allow yourself the time to do it.

When I have a clear head, I think and reason better when I am thinking about law school.

Sometimes getting your head out of your law books is exactly what you need to solve problems and reason out theories better. A few weeks ago, I had a big assignment due in class. I’d worked late into the night and still wasn’t happy with some of the arguments I made in my paper. The day the paper was due, I walked to class and thought about the good weather and the newly-green grass. I didn’t agonize over my paper, but I was working through it in the back of my head the whole way. Getting up, smelling fresh air and moving around all helped me think more clearly than hunching over my laptop had. By the time I got to class, I had developed a much more interesting argument for my paper and I felt much better turning it in.

I’ve learned a lot this year about torts, contracts and civil procedure. As law students wind up for finals, I say: Work hard! Do good work! But allow yourself simple daily pleasures, too. You’ll be happier, and you will have the space and time to reason more clearly and study more effectively. As for me, I’ll be walking whenever there’s no snow on the ground.

— Ellen Bertels is a 1L from Wichita and a KU Law Student Ambassador.