[OPINION] Gears shifted: From nurse to lawyer

[OPINION] Gears shifted: From nurse to lawyer
The shifting of gears was not always well-oiled. It had its fair share of creaks and clunks.

Four years ago, I wrote an Ispeak article for Rappler on taking a detour from the nursing profession to enroll in law school.

I attempted to soothe creased foreheads and raised eyebrows of practical skeptics with appeals and arguments that were yet to be sharpened by legal technique. Nevertheless, it drew a number of social media shares and messages from yuppies telling me that they were inspired to take a left, on full steam, towards unlikely career routes. Just a little over 4 years later, I found my name on a list of passers for the second time. Just a little over 4 years later, the nurse became a lawyer. (READ: IN PHOTOS: 2017 Bar exam results announcement)

But the shifting of gears was not always well-oiled. It had its fair share of creaks and clunks. Latin honors in college and writing abilities failed to ensure my survival even in the first 3 hours of Taxation Law.

Even in my first semester, there were episodic doubts just as when it dawned on me that Javellana vs Executive Secretary was not in any universe, a light read. Similar to lining up in a fast food chain while hungry at lunchtime, I struggled. I wondered whether I made the right decision to leave one slow-moving queue and line up for another in the hope of a faster serving time. But, what if the cashier closes the register right when it is my turn to order? What if law school was not meant for a nurse like me? (READ: Bar exam 2017 topnotcher is also a registered nurse)

Studying law with a health sciences background only gave me an edge in Legal Medicine which weighed one course unit. I had minimal to none exposure to legal concepts during college. The closest training I had was to memorize the titles of health-related legislation for our Nursing Jurisprudence lecture. I was naively confident that I soon realized that knowing Executive Order 51 is the Milk Code wouldn’t get me anywhere in law school.

I was intimidated by my classmates who were either Political Science or Business course graduates. Seeing them nod along to legal jargons during our first few meetings, I felt I was the dunce of the class. (READ: ‘Try and try’: Bar 2017 takers say failure is not the end)

But my lack of familiarity was not and should not be an excuse. And so, I studied more. I studied longer. I cannot do anything to the fact that my classmates are more oriented and more familiar. It’s either I cry, sulk, and waste golden minutes just to end up looking like a foolish cymbal-playing monkey, or I stay awake for a few more hours, and read a few more chapters but end up nodding along in class. I chose the latter. In addition, it became a pleasant surprise when the critical thinking and organization skills I developed in nursing while attending to acute and emergency care patients became my cornerstones in law school.

These nursing skills assisted me in fighting off cold sweat and jitters during the infamous Socratic Method recitations and constructing a time-bound and comprehensive study habit.

Surviving law school, and more recently the Bar Exam, led me to conclude that you need not answer “because I have always wanted to be a lawyer” to the question, “Why did you take up law?” The law, despite being intricately worded and thus intimidating at first impression, remains a common encounter for any person. Hence, studying the law is not designed exclusively for a certain group of predestined legal luminaries.

The law deals with all facets of life – marriage, mortgage, maternity leave. You name it. So, a budding law student will necessarily find some sort of connection one way or another. This connection, if found, can perhaps ignite the spark within him or her to grasp the wisdom of the law and if fortunate, fall in love with the rest of its attractive logic and reason – VAT, Special Complex Crimes, and FRIA included.

My unusual career shift would have been a smooth excuse had I given up and quit law school. There is indeed truth to the Filipino cliché, “’Pag gusto, may paraan; ‘pag ayaw, maraming dahilan.” Cultivating excuses only shows that one probably doesn’t want it that bad. While I had my doubts as to whether the court acted with grave abuse of discretion or not, I was certain that I wanted to graduate from law school, pass the Bar exam, and become a lawyer badly. I was certain that I wanted to prove my self-worth of surviving an unprecedented challenging career shift badly.

And so excuses cannot simply co-exist with blistering ambition. Excuses must not remain as excuses but rather hurdles to overcome in order to finish stronger than when we less bravely began.

It was a long race, but I was able to reach the finish line. The nurse finally became a lawyer. – Rappler.com

Maria Reylan Garcia, 27, passed the Nursing Board Examinations in 2011. She cried for 30 minutes when she found her name on the list of passers of the 2017 Bar Examinations.

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