Before I began law school, I completed the Camino de Santiago, a 555 mile pilgrimage from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France to Finisterre, Spain. The journey was the greatest experience of my life. Some of my takeaways are below.
During the Camino, I spent as much as ten hours a day hiking by myself. In the beginning, it felt uncomfortable. But as the hours of hiking turned into days and then weeks, I got to know myself better. I learned that I like myself. It was interesting what came to the forefront of my mind. Things that I thought were important back home seemed insignificant. In law school, I have never spent so much time by myself. The Camino helped prepare me for this. By the time I began school, I was already comfortable and confident enough to study alone. The first semester of law school is filled with uncertainty but knowing who are you as a person makes the tumultuous experience easier to handle.
Things will get easier. Folks say it takes about two weeks to get used to the soreness, fatigue, and frustration that comes with long distance backpacking. During my trek, I got stronger with time. The same applies to school. I am a better law student this week than I was last week, and I will be a better law student next week than I am this week. This inspires me. It is easy to get caught up in looking far off into the future, especially as deadlines for summer internships get pushed earlier and earlier. However, when I thought about hiking 555 miles on day one, I felt overwhelmed and defeated before I began. Instead, I went to bed exhausted every night, but every morning I awoke with a new sense of determination. Hiking 15 miles in one day was easier to grasp than hiking 555 miles in 33 days. Every day someone is traveling the road to law school that I too traveled. Like the Camino, law school is a shared experience. Both are communities that I am grateful to be a part of.
Only the Americans on the Camino asked me what I did for a living. For the most part, Europeans asked not what I did for work but instead what my passions were. For some, getting into law school is their greatest accomplishment. I do not feel like this is the biggest thing I will do in my life. The Camino forced me to find and confront my passion – I believe it will translate into my legal work. The law school you attend, the grades you earn, and work experience you have all matter. However, you also have to be a genuine, authentic, and interesting human as well. I imagine employers want to be able to take you to dinner with a client and want you to have interests that you can talk about. Chasing things for a resume is transparent. Do things because they interest you and because they matter to you. The rest will translate.
During the Camino, people only knew about me what I shared with them. Law school is the time to champion for yourself. Be a cheerleader, be gracious, and be assertive about accomplishments and goals. Do not belittle what you have done. Be a salesman. Lots of folks in life will tell you no, but you should never be the first person to say no to yourself. I was not prepared for the physical or emotional aspects of my trip. Even in moments when I thought it was impossible, I kept trying, and eventually, I completed my goal.
After 33 days of hiking, growing, and learning, I reached what they call the “end of the world.” I came up with my new mantra – Eat, Drink, Be Joyful, Ask, and Celebrate.