Beyond the Fourth Thursday: Practicing Gratitude Year-Round
The United States celebrates Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November each year. But I strive to practice gratitude every day. What is there to be grateful for at the New York University School of Law? The answer: plenty.
As law students, we get really good at complaining, er…advocating to change the status quo. We learn never to take “no” for an answer. We learn there is always an argument to be made. Can’t bring a cause of action under copyright law? Why not try for a Lanham Act trademark violation instead? Is there a bad precedent out there for your client? No worries, distinguish that case and conquer!
At least for me, complaining can occasionally get in the way of fully appreciating what I already have. After several long days of running to classes, outlining for exams, fulfilling extracurricular obligations, and trying to find time to relax and exercise, I think reasonable minds would agree that the last thing on my mind is, “Gee whiz, I sure love inhaling all that coffee and dissenting opinions. And six hours of class! Who would miss out on that?”
Okay. So I’m being a little facetious, but the bottom line is that gratitude is important to me. I think taking a sacred pause, maybe once a day but definitely once a week, to think about what blessings I have at the Law School is important. Thinking about the support I have helps calm me down and makes me a more pleasant person to be around. Especially around exam time, being a relaxed person can help others around be less stressed, so that you are actually contributing to making the environment better, not worse. With that in mind, here’s a non-exhaustive, in-no-particular-order list of what I’m grateful for.
My study group buddies who show me the collaborative side of law school. With mandatory curves and high stakes in exams, I concede that some people in law school can get caught up in the paper chase. My study group friends are not those people. Whether it is a virtual group where we make long email chains about the method of depreciation for Income Tax , or an in-person group focused on the difference between the ecological vs. neighborhood model for Quantitative Methods Seminar, I know that if I ask a question I can get a well-reasoned response. Likewise, being able to explain or to work out a concept in study group is extremely gratifying, as it helps me solidify the material in my own mind while clearing up confusion for someone else.
A supportive Office of Student Affairs and Office of Academic Services. I was a latchkey kid with parents busy making ends meet, and as a result it made me become someone who likes going at things alone, even when I’m uncertain of what is going to happen. But sometimes, a series of unfortunate events can happen in your life, and you need help from others to get things back on track. That’s where the wonderful deans at the Office of Student Affairs and Office of Academic Services come in. When you’re struggling, it can be challenging even to take that first step to ask for help, given the uncertainty and vulnerability involved in how to resolve a daunting or distressing problem.
But both offices are, simply put, kind. Send an email, and someone at the office will efficiently arrange a meeting time with you. They work around your busy schedule. When you go to meet with the Student Affairs or Academic Services deans, you get the sense that it is a safe place to share your worries and to work out a plan. As needed and as appropriate, you get to hear the perspective of professionals who have been through similar tough times before and have strategies to help you get back on your feet. As my karate teacher always says, “When things are at their worst, having someone in your corner can mean the world.”
A brilliant but approachable faculty. The faculty here are some of the smartest people you’ll meet at the Law School, and are truly invested in making your legal education a memorable and exciting one. Take one of my professors, who will answer your questions about the course, but also be available to bounce ideas off for a paper that I might think about writing, and even pull articles as we talk. Or the professor who will take time out of sabbatical to come to campus early in the morning to review a months-old exam so you may improve on future ones–then engage you in a conversation about bankruptcy, because, you know, why not?
An attentive and friendly campus housing staff. Upon graduation, I will have lived in D’Agostino Hall for all three years of law school. During that time, the building staff will have responded to each of my apartment requests with promptness, courtesy, and professionalism. Don’t take away from this paragraph the point that campus housing is prone to a lot of problems (because it is not)–but, say, if somehow your toilet randomly started leaking one day, wouldn’t you like the building staff to come right away, fix things up, and even clean up the area around it afterward? Yes. Yes, you would. I like to be comfortable where I live, and the housing staff certainly has made that happen during my time here.