Sophia Hatzis is a second year journalism student at UTS, who recently deferred her law degree after one year of study. Her blog, The Beauty Breakdown, covers a multitude of wellbeing issues for young girls, including anxiety and eating disorders.
I received my HSC results at the tail end of 2014. I hadn’t considered life after high school much. I just wanted to focus on finishing and getting the best marks I could. Whatever “best” was.
I remember opening my laptop and seeing my results. Band 6s. Then I saw that Band 5. An 89 in Economics. One mark off all band 6s. One mark. Really? Isn’t it funny how I could be so disheartened by something so insignificant? But that’s my personality. I’m a perfectionist. A high achiever. Highly competitive. Self deprecating. Critical. Qualities I share with most of my fellow law students.
The next day I got my ATAR. I was over the moon. I had finished high school and life was just beginning. I worked bloody hard and it had paid off. I was free. And uni would be a total breeze. Right?
In my house, it was always assumed I would go to uni. I remember my parents saying, “When you go to uni…”. They were, unintentionally of course, placing that expectation on my shoulders. Expectation I didn’t realise effected me until it was time to apply for uni.
My mother did a law degree and was a lawyer. My Dad has an honours degree in molecular biology. Evidently, I come from a family of over achievers. The decision to start university and what degree to do, was undoubtedly coloured by their personal achievements and their past.
Of course, I wanted to make them proud (I know now they would have been proud of me regardless of what I chose to do after school). So I decided, when I was accepted into law and communications at UTS, to do a law degree. Because law is what smart people who don’t like science do, right? It looks great on a resume and it’ll make you super employable. Right?
I rationalised doing a law degree in a few ways.
1. I like true crime so I’ll probably like/be interested in law.
2. I don’t want to practise law but it’ll look good when I apply for a job.
3. Most of the smart/ successful people I know have done law degrees.
4. It’s only five years.
What I didn’t realise until I started was how much I was actually doing the degree for others rather than for myself. I sat at my desk, citing legal journals and cases, wondering why I was doing this. I don’t want to be a lawyer. So why am I here?
I pushed on. Because I hate quitting. But as the weeks dragged on, I started to feel this dread in my heart. I got on the bus to get to class and fantasised about leaving. I’d walk through Central Station like a ghost, wishing I could be anywhere else.
I told myself that I had to do a year. And i did. I got to the end and got the distinctions. But at what cost? I worked seven days a week cooped up in my study, reading sentences five lines long, trying to block out my misery. Not seeing my friends. Isolating myself from my family. Barely leaving the house.
I knew, from early on, that law just wasn’t for me. The research, the pressure, the competition and that bloody referencing. I was miserable and for what? A qualification to place on my resume in five years time? To prove I was smart?
It took me too long to act on what I already knew. It’s just not for me. My calling is in writing, not in court. My calling is communication, not negotiation and settlement.
I felt enormous shame and embarrassment at first. I was told, by many, that I was ruining my potential. But now there is only pure relief. I am free of that pressure and expectation and now I can chase my dreams unencumbered.