“We are disappointed in you” are arguably some of the most painful words a person can receive from their parents.
And that’s exactly what my parents said when I told them I was dropping out of law school.
You see, growing up, I was your cookie-cutter straight student. On paper, I always seemed to have everything in my life.
I was born overseas and grew up in Toronto, Canada. I graduated as one of the top students in my high school class. During my undergraduate studies in psychology at the University of Toronto, I received several awards and scholarships and graduated with great distinction.
I was then accepted into a postgraduate juris doctor program at the City University of Hong Kong with a generous entrance scholarship. My family was living in Hong Kong at the time, so this seemed like the perfect move for me.
For many, being a lawyer matches their innate strengths and characteristics, and practicing law allows them to contribute to society while earning a good living.
However, after completing the first year of law school, I realized that becoming a lawyer was not the best way to use my skills and talents to contribute to society.
When I decided to withdraw from law school after finishing first year, it created a lot of friction with my parents, classmates and Chinese colleagues – who all thought I was immature and selfish to leaving a very convenient and secure career path.
A CHANGE OF IDENTITY
Growing up, my sense of identity was tied to being ‘high level’.
Although I reached the traditional notions of success in school, I hadn’t taken the time to explore what other possible definitions of success are.
Perhaps it was a mixture of cultural, parental and societal factors that led me to develop the belief that if I wanted to be successful – or at least be seen as successful by others – then I only have a number limited career paths to aspire to.
Naturally, becoming a lawyer made sense, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to study law.
During my first year of law school, I did an internal internship in the legal department of a multinational hotel company. Everything looked great from the outside.
However, the more I observed the actual work of lawyers on a daily basis, the more I realized that I was not interested in taking on the responsibilities or positions held by the best lawyers in the department.
I also found it difficult to give my full attention and best efforts to the work I did as an intern, even though I was known as a hardworking student.
Also, compared to my law school peers, I didn’t have the same drive to master the legal subjects or knowledge we were learning.
It was then that I knew something had to change.