In my experience, the transformation from everyday person to law school student is oddly similar to getting married. You think you know exactly what you’re doing and how to succeed, and a month in you realize you really have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself into. When I was 22, I had no idea how to be a wife. I had never given it much thought. I spent most of my life exercising my independence and focusing on my priorities, and I was NOT focused on learning how to communicate or fight fair.
Before I married my husband, I used my oven for storage. I thought the only cleaning solutions I really needed in my apartment were Glass Plus and Febreze. “Cooking” dinner involved take-out or the microwave, and I did laundry only after I had worn everything in my closet. Once, when he returned from a month-long training for the Army, he walked into our apartment building while on the phone with me and told me how awful it smelled. I didn’t have the heart to tell my fiancé, who had been gone for a month, that the smell was coming from my apartment. It wasn’t until he walked in that I was forced to explain that the meal I had intended to cook for us (using the microwave) involved adding water – and I had sort of, kind of forgotten that part. I’m pretty sure when he left for his second deployment to Iraq, my husband was more concerned that I would attempt to bake something while he was gone than concerned for his safety in a war zone.
Needless to say, I was never going to win the wife-of-the-year award. I wish I could say that two years later my skills in the kitchen have improved, but that would be a lie. I did learn to suck less, though. I spoke with wise married women, and while I still can’t bake a cake to save my life, I know how to better maintain a happy, healthy marriage. It helps that my husband was always ready to put out the fires (literally, he had to put out a fire once) when things got out of control. He is the most patient man on the planet. When I decided to go to law school, he didn’t even flinch. We were both aware of the massive amount of time and money a law degree would take, and all he did was buy me an LSAT prep book. Being married is a lot easier when you’re married to someone awesome, seriously.
I was a pretty good student in college, and I walked into the law school building thinking I had it under control. Just a few short years and I’d be off living my dream of practicing law, and I would either have enough money to buy all the desserts I wanted or be so busy I’d have an excuse to never, ever turn on my oven again. Two weeks into the summer session, I realized I might be in over my head. The classes were tough, the reading could have been in a foreign language, and I wasn’t instantly good at it. I could deal with sucking at cooking, but I simply could not handle sucking at school. So I just kept going. There were days I didn’t want to. There were moments it seemed pointless, but there were also days when the information clicked and it made sense – moments when I didn’t have to struggle to understand a concept and the information being shoved into my brain began to make sense.
I’m a first-year law student and a second-year wife, and my priority is to not suck at either of them. It is a delicate balance. Sometimes the scales tip and I end up doing one better than the other, but thankfully my husband is more forgiving than my professors. I’ve learned I have to be able to turn my “student” brain off when I’m spending time with my husband. And sometimes I have to turn off being a wife and focus on being a law student. I’ve heard the stories and read the statistics about how difficult it is to make a marriage work while one spouse is in law school. I’ve also spoken with friends who are married, in law school, and struggling with the same things I am and who manage to wake up every day and keep making it work. I think it’s probably like that with any relationship while you’re here. In my experience, becoming a 1L is a lifestyle change, and while it may not be the smoothest of transitions, at least in my case, it helps me tremendously to have someone in my corner.
My life is a lot different than those of my single friends at KU Law. I have someone else to consider in both allocating my time and financially. I try to get on campus early and work in the mornings so if I have time, I can hang out with my husband in the evenings. I wake up early on weekends to study so we can do things together on the days he is free. The closer it gets to finals, the less I see him and although that is tough, I truly feel the end justifies the means. It will be worth it. I know it sounds cheesy, but I have learned that as long as we operate as a team, I can be successful at both things. I can be a good wife AND a good law student. It just takes a lot of effort, a lot of practice and a very patient partner.
— Ashlyn Lindskog, a first-year law student, is a KU Law Student Ambassador. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org