Sam is a recent high school graduate from Perth, Western Australia, who will commence a combined Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degree in 2016.
I was eight years old when I decided I wanted to become a lawyer. Admittedly, it was because I was told lawyers make a lot of money. However, in a very short period of time, I realised that while I was drawn to the law because of the money, I stuck around because it was where I belonged. When personality is called into question, I am a typical type-A law student profile. From a very early age, I forced myself to embrace stress, anxiety, and organisational rigidity as a part of my conscientious everyday existence. Thus, from a young age, I built my life on the premise that I was destined to be a lawyer.
Early in high school, I hungered for the lawyer life that TV portrays: sharp suits and even sharper brains, sleepless nights, and even alcohol-fuelled days. At the age of 15, I was adamant that if I was going to become a lawyer I’d need to train myself to work alongside sleep deprivation. I would relish the prospect of pulling an all-nighter to finish an assignment because after all, in 15 years time, I’d probably be doing the same thing: living off coffee, Mars Bars and Red Bull in a desperate attempt to finish a closing argument for my indefensible and clearly guilty client. If sleep deprivation was to be my inevitable future, I was going to embrace it; I felt a rush, knowing that I was living like a lawyer.
Then I reached the peak end of my high school years, and in keeping with my desire to satisfy the stereotype of a lawyer, alcohol became a constant in my high school education. I didn’t drink to enjoy myself; I was self-medicating the pain rooted in my perfectionism. At the ages of 16 and 17, I was flirting with functional alcoholism: whiskey, vodka and wine all became fixture in my day, purely because I wanted to be more like a lawyer.
My teenage logic was simple: I want to be a lawyer, and this is what lawyers do. From the age of 12, I believed that to be a lawyer you had to be an alcoholic insomniac, and my malleable teenage mind became certain of this. With time, I came to realise that alcohol was only making me miserable. What was more, I realised (after having sought help from a psychologist) that I actually got the same release from exercise that I did from alcohol. Even more to the point, where alcohol would promote rumination, exercise served to inhibit it, and so, exercise is now my go-to outlet when my perfectionist tendencies begin to build.
To be a lawyer carries an intrinsic sense of privilege and honour, but it also plays host to a dangerous stereotype that appears to be out of our control. But it is a stereotype that we must acknowledge, explore, and each move to overcome, because there’s quite simply nothing pleasant about a profession that requires alcohol to function.