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My name is Hala Furst, and I am a 3L. Before coming to Roger Williams I received a BA in Theatre Arts at the University of Minnesota. In the three years between graduating from college and arriving here in Bristol, RI, I worked as a hotel concierge for a luxury brand, a loan officer and mortgage...

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Phantom text book syndrome

Posted by Hala Furst on 10/07/2007 at 12:00 AM

So, this weekend I took off for 36 hours to New York City to see a friend and celebrate her birthday. What’s great about Bristol is that it is small and quiet, which is conducive to studying, but within 20 minutes you can be in Providence, and from there you are a 3 hour train ride to NYC, or a 1 hour train ride to Boston. I have a car, which is nice, but not completely necessary if you live in Bristol proper, as there are buses that run to campus and all over Rhode Island (We’re also 20 minutes from the beaches in Newport and Middletown, which I find particularly helpful when I want to engage in some much needed stress relief- try fighting the waves off of Surfer’s Beach for an hour and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure don’t seem nearly as tough). So, due to our prime location, I was able to scadaddle for a weekend in the city. It was great to see my friend, and it was great to be in a big metropolis, which is what I am used to. Don’t get me wrong, the quiet beauty of the harbors of Bristol are lovely, and I try to drive down 114 every morning (despite the sloooooooow drivers and my perpetual lateness) because I get to see the sailboats in Bristol Harbor, and they put me in a good mood. But, even as much as I love Bristol and it’s Star’s Hollow-like quality, as a lifelong city-dweller I need to see some traffic and concrete every once in while. So I drove into Providence, found parking that did not require selling a kidney (actually at the Amtrak station- they validate!), and hopped the train to Penn Station.

However, while I was there I kept feeling like I was missing something. I couldn’t shake the feeling, even after double and triple checking for my wallet, ticket, keys, change of clothes, ipod, cell phone and brain. When I got to my friends house I went through my bag again, reassuring myself that everything was there. I even remembered to bring her a birthday present, which was in and of itself a miraculous feat. Finally it hit me: I was experiencing phantom book syndrome. I hadn’t brought any work with me because I had specifically gotten everything for Monday done earlier in the week so I wouldn’t have to worry on my trip. But now that I was on my trip I was feeling a mixture of guilt and confusion at not having my books with me. These books are the most expensive thing I own, second to some family heirlooms and my laptop. They are the densest things I own, in that they are infinitely heavy for their size, and get heavier through the day. I always have one or seven of them strapped to my back, to the point where I have seriously investigated hiring a sherpa to haul them around for me. And it isn’t just me, we are all like this. So not having them with me as I trudged through Manhattan and Park Slope felt a bit like having left my (proverbial) baby behind at a babysitter’s for the first time. I wondered what my books were doing without me. Would they be ok? Would I?....Turns out, the answer is yes. I am slowly trying to ween myself off the feeling that if I am not within walking distance of the library I am slacking off. I’ve actually started doing work at home, which I blame on the Fall TV season as much as anything else. Oh, and the desire to eat a meal in the apartment I am paying for once in a while. You have to have sacred space. By that I mean anywhere that you feel safe and secure, where you can do your work and feel strong and confident in your abilities. For me, it’s reading on my mega-awesome futon while listening to musical soundtracks (don’t judge, I was a theatre magjor after all). You have to find what works for you, whatever it is.

The other thing I realized on this trip is that you really need a support network. You are going to make friends in law school, and you are going to make them fast, the way soldiers do in boot camp, and I mean that with all due respect to soldiers. You are all in this incredibly intense experience that has a way of uniting people in ways many of you probably haven’t experienced. You need people that understand what you are going through, and who you can talk to about your crazy professors, or your mean professors, or your unintelligble professors, or whatever short-coming you are imagining your professors have to make up for you just not understanding this week’s reading. But eventually all of you are going to become a little neurotic, and you’re going to need a break.  It’s the nature of being in a profession full of accomplished, driven, high-performers.  When this happens you need people who know you outside of law school, the friends and family you had before you became a 1L, because there is going to come a day when you just cannot discuss it any more. There will come a day in oh, say, mid-October, where you’ve spent the last week agonizing over the concept of the grading curve and getting your Legal Methods memo done, and you realize you can’t bring yourself to mention Mens Rea or Justice Cardozo or Promissory Estoppel without feeling like your head will explode. This is natural, and doesn’t mean you aren’t enjoying law school, it just means you are human. So, when this happens, don’t put your Torts book in the freezer (that’s what you do with scary books so they can’t hurt you). For one thing, you’ll ruin it, and for another if you have a mini-fridge like me you can’t fit it in there. Instead of that, take a day off and go somewhere else, and have lunch with a non-law school buddy, even if it is over a cell phone. Talk to them about anything but law school. Talk to them about the weather (if you’re from Minnesota) or baseball (if you’re from Boston) or even the news which you haven’t had time to read. Just take a mental vacation so you can come back rested the next week, and excited to take on the next challenge. Just be sure to get your work done before you go so you can really enjoy yourself.