I began law school at 21; I packed my things from my parent’s house in NYC and moved away to a small town in Connecticut. Woefully sheltered, and a graduate of an all-girl Catholic high school, I had never had a boyfriend or any type of sexual experience. I was extremely shy and inexperienced.
Right off the bat, things seemed to go great. I loved my roommate, the people seemed nice, and I seemed to be quite an attraction with the guys in our class. This was my first experience actually being a center of attention; it was fun. Then the drinking began.
Drinking in law school is not so much an extracurricular activity as it is a course requisite. The very first Friday after classes, everyone headed to the local bar and pounded as many drinks as our sad livers allowed us. (This trend continued in full force for the entire first semester, and then somehow we remembered something called “finals.”)
That very first weekend, I met Shawn, a charismatic law student with poor impulse control and an overinflated ego. Shawn had just gotten out of a 2+ year relationship and thoughtfully waited four days of mourning before he asked me out.
Our relationship moved at breakneck speed and it left my head spinning. We were inseparable. That annoying couple making out at the bar? That was us. That annoying couple having a fight at the bar? That was us as well. Our fights were over ridiculous things such as why he had to text his ex for permission to see me.
Looking back on it, these are all flaming red flags that should have alerted me to get out of the relationship and fast. But I was young, I was naïve, and I thought I was in love.
A week after we had sex for the very first time, Shawn called me and told me he could no longer “be” in a relationship. Two hours later, I found myself very drunk at a bar making out with a random law student. iPhone videos may exist of this event to this day.
Law school is the grown up equivalent of a middle school playground. By the next morning, everyone knew, had heard, or had seen footage. I received a drunken phone call from Shawn. He missed me and he loved me and he didn’t know what to do. Stupid me, I took him back. Ugly bouquet of flowers in hand and all.
Looking back, I can’t actually pinpoint a time where I was truly happy. Sometimes I wonder if my actions were motivated by curiosity or loneliness. Being in law school can be the loneliest course of study ever. Not only are you on your own, you are at each other’s throats to outperform one another in any way shape or form.
Finals came and went. I grossly underperformed. I never had gotten a C in my life before. But there they were. Bright as day on my transcript.
The cycle continued; we broke up that January for a month. I was a mess; I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t study, and I couldn’t get my head in the game. Staring at your ex-boyfriend sitting across the room from you for eight hours, every day, five days a week, has to be the most invasive intrusion into anyone’s academic life. While he was flourishing grade-wise, I was barely floating.
Again, we got back together and the cycle started all over again. I literally gave up my life to make him happy. I did what he wanted, visited his apartment when he wanted, cleaned his room, did his laundry. I gave up my own personality, my own values, and my dreams, in order to be what he wanted. In order to keep him close, I thought everything would be all right if he was happy and near.
It wasn’t. Spring semester, I got a D+. I had never in my life felt so terrible. A D+ in a core class? I was sick with worry and horror. I had let myself fall apart. I worked so hard for this? I left my home, my family, and my friends, for this?
Summer came and went. With my second year, I moved into an apartment by myself. Then the judgments began -- my apartment was too small, or too hot, or my couch wasn’t big enough for him. Nothing was good enough. He would insult me in front of his friends, ignore me for other girls, and just generally put me down. After a year of dating, he still hadn’t said he loved me sober.
I was lucky enough to get a job through an on-campus interview. But after my very first day on the job, I went out with him and his friends. He ended up screaming at me in front of a crowd of people. I left. Picked up my things and drove the two-hour drive home to NY.
In the weeks afterward, I gave back everything -- his birthday gifts to me, everything I owned that was his. He told me he was the happiest he’d ever been without me, that a weight had been lifted from his shoulders, and he couldn’t even fathom getting back together with me.
I broke down; I almost went as far as dropping the Admin Law course I sat next to him in. I didn’t. I stood strong. Weeks passed and I felt like I was finally reclaiming my life. I had stopped thinking of him.
Thanksgiving was coming up and I was gearing up for finals and for once I felt good about them. I was studying, I had a game plan, I had made up with friends I had long isolated myself from, and things were going well for me. After two months without contact with him, my grades gained a considerable bump. I left that semester without a grade below a B.
Then he texted me.
He missed me. He thought of me. He wanted to see me, have dinner.
Things went back to normal. We were inseparable. I spent as much time as I could at his house and with his friends. I cooked dinner, did laundry and cleaned. I was the perfect housewife, the perfect girlfriend, and also a perfect fool.
Despite my indentured servitude, things seemed to be going well. The new semester started. He bought me gifts. First an expensive watch, then a gold necklace for Valentine’s Day. He even said he loved me! He asked me to move in with him at the house he was renovating.
But I was unhappy. I would cry for no reason, be angry for no reason, look around me and think, “This is it? This is my life?” He talked about the future and marriage with me like it was a given. It elated me and scared the crap out of me at the same time. How could I be so happy yet miserable at once? Why did this person think it was okay to put me down constantly? Why did he insult my career goals? My ambitions? My dreams? Most importantly, why did I stay?
My best friend at work commented that I always looked so very sad. I was miserable, I gained weight. Isolated myself. I worked every day and drove a two-hour commute back and forth. He constantly complained that I would never visit him at his new home. A drive that was 45 minutes out of my way.
I needed gas money for work. I needed to be alone. I started to lash out; I would cry for no reason and get upset. Every time I visited him, I ended up cleaning something. His room, his bathroom, his living room, his kitchen. He went as far as to say he never cleaned his house because he knew I would do it for him. His roommate and friends called me Consuelo (the Spanish maid from "Family Guy"). I hit a wall.
At the end of July, I snapped. I seized an opportunity to go away for two weeks and did.
He posted pictures of girls spread-legged on Facebook, he went to Boston with his ex, he did not respond to one text or phone call of mine. I felt the lowest I had in my life. But I finally woke up.
Despite him saying he missed me and that I could call and text him, I know that will never happen. That chapter has closed in my life. I no longer feel the need to apologize for the person I am. I’m free to be the person that‘s been hidden for two years under all the drama, fighting, and tears.
Where the future will lead me, I have no idea. I just know that eventually I will meet the person who will love me, quirks and all. I don’t know what this year will bring, it might be hard and difficult but, for once, I feel ready. I know my own worth.
I’m in my third year of law school now. On my own, and confident in who I am -- I hope it’s the best one yet.
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