Growing up I loved Kool-Aid. I would drink that sugar water like there was no tomorrow. I would plead with my mother to get me the juice pouches and send me off with it with my packed school lunches. Whenever the iconic “Oh yeah!” would play on a commercial or on Family Guy (back when that show was good), I would get excited. Yet, as I grew up, the drink lost its charm and man oh man, how every other drink was incredibly better! To be specific, any bitter coffee or even a nice rose tea can hit the spot any day. So, why is it that the once-popular nostalgic beverage is beloved by law students? Well, it’s simple: “success” is a punchbowl that you dip your glass in and take a sip… And then you are hooked. However, is success not how our individual selves define it? To me, the notion of “success” is a Flat White – delicious, decadent, and able to make me smile with every sip.
In the blink of an eye, three years have come and passed for the Class of 2018. As we prepare to take off into the great beyond of Gowling’s Hall, all of us law students have grown into the people we are today. We have all endured hardships, stressors, loss, negativity, and the like…But we also experienced joy, positivity, happy moments that were almost incomparable to any other experience felt. Law school has fundamentally changed our perspective and ways of thinking with our own personalities or characters undergoing a shift.
You see, my dear fellow students, many of us entered Osgoode bright-eyed and ready to tackle a new educational adventure, perhaps thinking we were the king or queen of this legal education realm. Yet, as this marvelous institution does, it humbles a great number of students. Most of us were the A-students of our previous degrees and perhaps we thought we were simply the best and better than all the rest, as Tina Turner would say. Coming to law school was the second coming of high school: cliques, drama, angsty moments, plenty of bad bistro food, and skipping classes to relax. I do not know about everyone’s high school experiences, but I fondly remember how I myself remained strong-willed and sassy without succumbing to peer pressure (I went to an all-girls school which had plenty of Juicy clothes and wanna-be Jersey Shore stars). Maturity levels were low back then, when teenagers try to figure out who they are, and dabble with who they want to be and what works for them. By the time we enter law school, it’s intriguing to see that many people have yet to realize who they are and what they want. I’m not saying this is a bad thing yet, it leaves eager-beaver keener students vulnerable to peer pressure. Peer pressure to sip on Kool-Aid then have instant regret years later.
To quote a medical student, law students look like they have themselves put together, unlike our scientific counterparts of med students who barely survive the night studying. I had to confide in him that its all a façade – it is a mask law students wear to pretend we are okay when we really are not. There is this unspoken need to show our ‘squad’ that we are better than the proverbial ‘others.’ To be honest, I find this façade ridiculous. The notion that it’s a “fake it until you make it” game exacerbates so many of the issues that are only being talked about today regarding mental health, emotional stability, and taking care of physical needs. This game of pretend has harmed our peers that we play the game with: I know students who have had mental breakdowns, who have had to be prescribed medication for anxiety and panic, who are depressed and poorly managing it, who underwent trauma of all kinds in their personal lives, and too many other instances that are so heartbreaking not enough therapy dogs can soothe the pain. Why do we feel the need to conceal our problems rather than have an open dialogue between one another? Our school boosts diversity yet why is only the ‘Kool-Aid’ promoted? Law school has been frustrating and altered our perceptions of fairness and justice. In the eyes of a law student, the law is but the tool we use to achieve ‘Kool-Aid’ status which means: did you get on Bay Street or not?
Now good ole Bay street is nothing like Suits and will never be. The burnout rates of young professionals are obscene. Take it from me, billing 200 hours in a month is intense. Yet, the fuel to encourage Osgoode students to pursue corporate law or “prestigious” firms is high up there on our bucket-lists. I have seen too many social justice-minded individuals turn to the corporate dollar because it is what everyone is doing. Frankly, who cares what everyone else is doing. Would you all jump off a bridge if one boisterous individual who laughs at another student confiding in them about their failure in securing an OCI job tells you to? My little rant there does not mean I do not support and understand why people want to pursue corporate law avenues, but make sure it’s for yourself and your own reasons, because at the end of the day you do not want to regret your life decisions. If you’re not a fan of Kool-Aid, there are always suitable alternative beverages like a Flat White or Coke Zero. If you want a sip of the Kool-Aid, it’s best to do so on your own terms. I know it’s difficult to determine whether it is under your own desire to try it out, but it is always better for you to not get influenced by others. Yes, Osgoode only offered upper-year courses for corporate law this Winter 2018 semester (thanks for that…not). However, group think among law students does not ensure the well-being of the individual law student, but only maintains the structure of destroying confidence and feeling worthless. Some of you may read this, roll your eyes, call me some nasty word and others may read this and think “Girl, you’re so right wtf is this Kool-Aid and why would anyone want to be a slave to a corporate machine?!” All I am trying to say is my 3LOL perspective as someone who was fortunate to secure a job through the only real channel of employment promoted by Osgoode in an area of law I am highly interested in. That interest was always there from the start of my law school application cover letter.
It is difficult to not follow the herd when the herd is all you interact with, day in and day out. It is difficult to rise up and overcome the huge pressures of financial debt, isolation and loneliness felt. It is difficult to see past the final exams that are forthcoming, and you sit at your desk crying or procrastinating because of fear. It is difficult. No one said law school is easy. It is the hardest three years of your lives. It will break you, make you humble(r), make you feel like you are on top of the world, but the world is the size of a peanut. The Kool-Aid is there but so are the other tasty and highly successful drinks. All you got to do, dear reader, is look for those drink alternatives that may open your eyes to new paths to take. There is no fork in the road where one way leads to corporate law while the other leads to everything else. It is like our Constitution – a living tree of opportunities.
Until we meet again Oz! The hall will forever hold our memories as our predecessors past. Remember to be yourselves and be kind to one another (or at least smile at those who act like pre-teens because thank goodness we went through puberty)! You will all become fantastic individuals with many a purpose. Now go out there and conquer all obstacles in your way toward your destinies!