"Don't Sweat The Small Stuff - And It's All Small Stuff" is Bullshit, and You Know It

Every one has heard this phrase. It's on inspirational posters, bookmarks, and probably on some piece of decor in your grandmother's house. 
"Don't sweat the small stuff. And it's ALL small stuff." 
Guess what, people? As a law student, people love to tell you this. People love to insist that you are only causing yourself stress, that it cannot possibly be as big or as bad as you claim it is, and that your brain is the cause of your stress more than the environment around you. And if you'd just "accept that it's all small stuff" you'd be totally fine and you'd never leave law school with a high potential for addiction or mental health problems. 

Fuck those people. 

Those people have never sat in a room and been told that one in three of them will graduate with an addiction issue. Or sat in a room, on the first day of school, and been told that of every twenty five students, four will not even finish the program. That's right - 16% of the students at my school were practically guaranteed to pay thousands of dollars towards a legal education they would never see the completion of. 

So, let's be clear here. It's more than small stuff. 

Perhaps the system is designed to teach you failure. That was a common theory in my class. We were convinced that we were given more reading than we could endure, overlapping deadlines by professors who seemed incapable of communicating with each other, and back-to-back exams to test our real life proficiency for handling shit hitting the fan. 

And despite this, the non-law people in my life insisted, every year, on telling me that it was my fault I was stressed. That I was letting little things get to me. "It's just reading," they'd tell me. Never mind that in my mind, "just reading" meant something like: 

"If I don't read → I'm not prepared for seminar class → I'm not going to be able to engage in discussion for seminar class → I'm going to get a low mark for that day's participation → I'm going to get a low mark in the class → I'm going to have a transcript with a terrible grade → Never going to get a job"  
You can see how the spiral goes. 

Anyone who was never in law school will look at this "If... then" and probably have their brain explode from how ridiculous it looks, but I am here to tell you that this is how every law student is trained to think, by our classmates, by our professors, and by our school's administration. Your participation means grades. Your grades get you a job. A job makes this hell that you're going through worth it. 

So when my friends and family would tell me that I was sweating the small stuff, I developed defence mechanism of laughing and saying "Probably, but you know me" and just brushing it off. Because what may seem like small stuff to an outsider, looks like our career to us. And unless someone was in the fishbowl with us - drinking the kool-aid and hearing about how our legal education was always one misstep away from being over - I knew that asking them to follow that "If...then" train of thought was like asking them to understand the Rule Against Perpetuities.

Upon my death, I gift a copy of this post to all of my friends and family, then living, who insisted upon telling me to not sweat the small stuff, and who, for lack of more elegant language, I could not properly tell to fuck off when I was alive. 

Comments