It all started in 1987. Just kidding. It all started in 2009 when I graduated from college. Having attended a very thorough high school, I found my college studies to be relatively easy. Moreover, with my greatest challenge at USC being declaring a major, I would say that my college experience was relatively stress-free. Yet, the truth was that my college years were easy because I avoided asking the hard questions, didn’t dare envisioning and planning for the future, and “played it safe”. However, the scarier truth was that I was ignorant of all this; I was too complacent with life to ever consider challenging myself. Looking back, this was precisely the reason why I would be dismantled by life’s trials that were to come my way.
After a missions trip to Japan that summer, I began to study on my own for the December 2009 LSAT in… mid-October. I scored a 160 but, like most people applying to law school, I decided to retake my LSAT for a second time in December 2010. In the meanwhile, I began commuting between Fullerton and Koreatown working full-time as a legal clerk. From Monday to Friday, I was out of the house from 7 AM to 7 PM. Needless to say, I was physically tired each and every day. Trying to study for the LSAT at the same time only made things more difficult. Studying made me more physically tired, but personal and familial pressures to do well constantly stressed me out mentally and emotionally. Nevertheless, just like in college, I assumed everything would be fine and that as my second date with the LSAT neared, I would step up and meet the challenge. In short, I was completely wrong. The combined stresses of working and studying full-time overwhelmed me and dropped my score down to 155.
I did not like my scores and knew I could have done a lot better. Therefore, it made complete and perfect sense to me to apply to 20 schools in February 2011 (sarcasm). Unsurprisingly, between February and April, I got waitlisted by 2 and rejected by 18 schools. However, what made this experience worse was the fact that my dad was the one with the mailbox key. Now, I hate to overgeneralize, but asian parents kind of overcare about which schools their children get into. Now imagine my dad’s face getting wrinklier and sadder as he notified me 18 straight times that I had been rejected by a law school. Yeah, it still smarts to think about the look on his face during that period. Although this period ended with me being waitlisted by two schools, it was hardly encouraging. In fact, it was like hearing “Hey, even though you have terminal herpes, here’s a $10 giftcard to Blockbuster!” (Yeah, this analogy doesn’t make sense to me either).
Naturally, all those years of avoiding TRUE responsibility caught up with me. Suddenly, I was bombarded with questions left and right: “do you really want to go into law?”, “will you ever improve your score?”, “have you thought about giving up on law school and just, finding a job?”, etc. Indeed, if there was anything scarier than the prospect of having to take the LSAT for a third time AND reapplying to schools, it was the prospect of giving up on law school, and not knowing what to do with my life. What’s worse was that I was facing these trials alone, isolating myself. I was literally (read: metaphorically) stiff-arming everyone around me that wanted to help. Every time my dad wanted to know how I was doing, I defensively reacted like he was nagging at me for no reason and told him to leave me alone. Every time friends or people at church asked about my law school preparation, I either changed the subject or gave generic answers that professional athletes would be proud of. Worst of all, praying and asking God for help wasn’t even the last thing on my mind – it wasn’t on my mind period.
Call it divine intervention, coincidence, karma, or whatever you will, but scales fell from my physically and metaphorically narrow eyes on a random Sunday in April 2011. I still recall that day ever so clearly. First, at church, my Pastor approached my seat before service and asked me, “How are you doing?”. By “How are you doing?”, I’m 100% sure he meant “I know you’re not doing well, I’m here for you if you want to talk. I’m praying for you”. Second, at Starbucks later that afternoon, my accountability group lovingly but firmly called me out and helped draw out all that I had been experiencing and holding inside of me. Finally, at home that night, my dad and I had a 5-hour conversation that should really have been a 2-hour conversation about life. That day was physically, spiritually and emotionally draining, but it helped me realize a truth that I had been blind to for my entire life.
The truth I finally realized was that this whole time, I had been placing my identity/sense of worth in “what’s next”. In middle school, my identity/sense of worth was placed in becoming a slave to Troy High School. In high school, my identity/sense of worth was placed in becoming a college student. In college, my identity/sense of worth was placed in getting a college degree and moving onto law school. The only problem was that, once I graduated, “what’s next” was far from guaranteed. I took every stage of life for granted, and so when I found myself as a college graduate, I naturally assumed I would just moonwalk into law school. When my initial efforts to get into law school backfired in my face, I started panicking and worrying what would I do, where I would go, and who I would be, if I couldn’t get into law school. That fortuitous Sunday reminded me precisely who I was: I was someone loved by his family, loved by his church, loved by his friends, and most of all, loved by God.
That Sunday was a little over a year ago. Since then, the changes have been simple but profound. Although becoming a lawyer is something I’m still passionate about, I no longer allow that dream (or any other dream/possession/etc for that matter) to define my worth. This is something I’ve been honest with myself about each and every day since that Sunday. I’ve also become more vulnerable with others. In doing so, life has become a lot less stressful knowing I’m surrounded by those who care for me and want to know about and help me work out my burdens. Finally, I’ve become more active in prayer. The reason that I found myself in that mess in the first place was precisely because my fingerprints (and no one else’s) were all over the (in)decisions I had made since graduating from college. Christianity is a relationship with a loving God, and I was choosing not to communicate with that loving God. Moreover, the few times I did pray, I was praying for the wrong things. The truth is that I was caught in a spiritual quicksand, but all I was asking for was a spiritual, “Hello Kitty” band-aid. I was asking God to take away my suffering (symptoms) instead of asking God to transform my suffering heart (the actual disease).
So yeah, I look back at the past few years and am daily amazed at how things have changed. I took my LSAT for the third time this past October and scored 170+. And even there I can’t take credit. I prayed for two things heading into my third LSAT – 1) For my experimental section to be Logic Games and 2) For the Reading Comp. section to be the easiest section on the test (I had gotten 6-8 wrong on that section in practice exams as recently as the day before the exam). Obviously, God answered those prayers. In contrast to getting rejected by 18 straight schools, I got into my first 8 schools. Overall, I got into many great schools and received scholarship offers from each of them. The past few months have been a total reversal from my first application cycle and I couldn’t have done this without any of you.
Therefore, I just wanted to say thank you to:
– All those who asked me even once in passing about my law school situation.
– All those who prayed for me even once throughout the past few years.
– All those who have gone before me in the law school process and given me great advice, helpful information, and rejuvenating encouragements.
– To God. Not because He got me into great schools, but because He led me through those struggles. By the grace of God, I am not the same Starcraft-obsessed, Hot Cheetos-addicted, Nesquik Strawberry Milk-guzzling, ignorant, illiterate girl that I was a year ago (at least, not totally hA!). God’s dismantling of everything I was before hurt like #$*#(@$&*, but in light of the glorious repair that followed that dismantling, I wouldn’t trade the past 3 years for anything. Maybe except a Lakers title. Just kidding!
I know the legal field is what it is, and that law school is no walk in the park. I know there are many challenges that lie ahead, but I am confident. I may not know what the future holds, but I do know WHO holds my future.