Prior to law school, I've always yearned to be different. I never wanted to follow the crowd. I wanted to do my own things, follow my own career path, and just be unique. For some reason, law school was turning me into someone else I didn't like, someone who was getting sucked into the herd mentality.
I've analyzed it a lot and had to pinch myself really hard (figuratively, but maybe I should have done it for real) just to get out of it, and I'm still trying to convince myself sometimes that I need not follow the herd to be successful. When I think about it, this way of thinking really applies itself to everything else, especially personal finance.
Let me explain...
I felt like I was just another sheep in the herd, but I'm now convinced that it's okay and possibly even better to be the dog (in the picture I posted above, it doesn't make sense if you don't look at that picture).
Last semester, everyone in my class section (roughly 80 students) all started at the same place. We learned the same subjects together, tried to keep up with each other, studied together, and just generally just meshed into one big group because we have all of our classes together. Like one big dysfunctional family. When one person would stress out, we'd all stress out. It was (is?) a nightmare.
This semester, we're starting fresh, and I'm realizing that I don't need to compare myself to others. I'm not going to all of the lunchtime meetings and after-school networking events. I'm doing what I believe is right for me, and really - this is what life is all about, being yourself and doing what works for you at the pace you feel most comfortable with. When the semester first started, everyone and their moms signed up and participated in a moot court competition. You get a week to write a brief and then move on to 4 rounds of oral arguments if you are selected. I went back and forth on participating. In the end, I decided not to because the only reason why I wanted to do it was because everyone else was doing it. Not so much a valid reason.
While a lot of people were stressing, losing sleep, missing classes, and avoiding homework, I got so much accomplished that better fit my needs and my career path:
- I was able to meet with my legal writing professor to edit my cover letters and resume and I applied to several summer internships.
- I had a mock interview with the public defender of our County and the tips I received were priceless, and he now remembers me as "the girl who thinks he looks like Rick from The Walking Dead," which he totally did!
- I kept a steady pace of my readings and I was also able to secure 2 volunteering positions for this semester!
- The first volunteering position is something I am SO interested in - relating to landlord/tenant law (is that a thing?) and it gives me the opportunity to practice my oral skills as well as working with translators. I'll be giving 2-hour long presentations at community workshops at local organizations focusing on tenants' rights. It's so me right?
- The other volunteering position is at an organization that helps the underprivileged community with legal services relating to civil rights, domestic violence, immigration issues, etc.
So as I started thinking this way about law school activities, I also applied it to career path and personal finance.
You know what else? I can always do moot court next year. I am happy for those that did moot court because it's something that they can put on their resume and they also gain valuable experience from it as well. It's all about priorities and what you want to do. You don't have to get stuck in the herd and have the mentality...for example, just because everyone else is saving for a down payment, you don't have to too. Just because everyone else is budgeting, you don't have to do it the same way. You don't have to use Mint.com to be on top of your finances (though I think it's a pretty sweet site).
Instead, think of a way to get out of it and to be yourself. I feel like the only way to really succeed and to flourish in whatever you do is to personalize it and tailor it to your personality, to your hobbies, your schedule, and your lifestyle :)
Have you gotten stuck in the herd mentality? In what ways? How did you get out of it?