How To Be Happy In Your True Skin As A Law-School Quitter

I was going to school to become a lawyer; I had put a lot of effort, time, and money into a legal career, but I up and quit.  What's so special about that? Why would I spend so much of my time blogging--inviting and answering questions from dozens of confused, unhappy, and disappointed strangers? Why was quitting law school such a big deal to me?

Is it the amount of importance other people place on making a decision like going to law school in the first place?  Sometimes I tell people I went to law school, and that alone is impressive to them.  It really shouldn't be, but for some reason it impresses many folks without further explanation of any kind of effort to get into law school or the quality of the school, etc.  Just going is apparently a feather in my cap.  Is it the amount of importance we've placed on the kind of money you spend to go to law school? I have six figures of debt... that is no small sum.  That is a debt that sometimes feels like I'll carry it to my grave it seems so insurmountable. Is it the amount of expectation that a student puts on herself or himself when embarking on a legal education journey?  I thought I was going to change the world.  I remember my personal statement that I sent to my law school with my application... it was extremely flowery and full of language about my heroes like Hadizatou Mani and how I was going to fight for important causes like her. I was going be a champion of the downtrodden, and fight for human rights.  I didn't end up doing anything close to that.

Is it any of these things?

Nope.  Not for me.

The reason quitting law school was so damn important to me?  It helped me come out of the closet.

Ha! Imagine that!

Going to law school was a big step for me.  I was progressing down a road that had long been set in stone in my mind by my upbringing in the Mormon church.  I was going to just keep moving forward toward a job that would be able to support my wife and three kids.  I always figured that's what I was going to have.  I didn't have a huge love of the law, so I found a way to romanticize what I could do with the law and use my love of those who fight to secure their rights as a buttress to secure my path in moving forward with a very adult career that would be impressive to women and my family.

Then I got to law school.  It was hard.  A lot was demanded of me.  That was new for me.  I had never been asked to do as much.  I expected a lot from myself.  I was used to being able to accomplish pretty great things in my academic career without having to exert myself too much. So, now that law school was asking me to exert myself... I was struggling with it a bit.  I did fairly well my first semester.  But then something started happening in my personal life that really made exerting myself to the level law school demanded a serious difficulty.  I couldn't focus... I couldn't keep my energy up... I couldn't sleep.

What happened?

I had discovered that I was attracted to my same gender.

For many gay men, this revelation comes much earlier.  They may not accept it, or consider themselves gay at a younger age... but they usually realize it sometime during or just after puberty.  I on the other hand had always been a devout Mormon that followed my church's counsel on never allowing myself to have inappropriate sexual thoughts.  I assumed I was just really really good at not thinking about women in this way.  And having those kinds of thoughts about men?  Please... that would make me gay and that's an outright abomination.  I couldn't possibly have those thoughts.

As law school started opening my mind to questioning my surroundings, I started finally questioning my church and my upbringing.  I had always had doubts, but I didn't like thinking about them, so I usually just repressed them.  I started actually dealing with them though.  With this came my first real questions about my sexuality.  I had assumed I was straight, but that I just had a low sex drive.  As I started actually exploring the subject of sex, though, it became pretty clear that I was attracted to men, and not attracted to women sexually.

While I had doubts about my church at the time of this discovery... I still very much believed it was the one true church.  Realizing these feelings I had for my same gender... I felt a crushing guilt.  I was constantly hiding my severe depression from everyone around me as much as I could.  But I started becoming an insomniac, missing classes, and pulling away from friends.  My depression got bad enough that I started having to answer questions.  So I blamed law school.  I started telling concerned parties that I just had an inexplicable depression and it was making law school really hard.  And I didn't like law school.  (That much was true... it was stressful!)  I eventually decided to move home to my family to try and deal with the depression.  But deep down I knew I was never going to be free of the depression until I dealt with my discoveries about my sexuality.

Quitting law school was a very tough decision.  I am a competitive (read: prideful) person.  I had never stopped doing something that seemed so fundamental to my path to getting the happy family with a wife and three kids.  How would I explain this?  I would say I was conquering depression.  I left the conquest of the law to others so that I could vanquish depression!  I'm such a hero for tackling depression in that way, right?  Well... that's not really what happened.  I only continued to get more and more depressed as I realized just how gay I really am and as I continued to hide that truth.  Being gay felt like the antithesis to everything my future was supposed to be.  Just this last summer, even as I kept blogging about how happy I was here on this blog, I was actually sinking further and further into depression.  I finally hit rock bottom after two years of plummeting from the recent college graduate and 1L that thought he'd just become a lawyer, get his wife, have some kids, and settle into a nice happy suburban life... to a guy that was working for very little money, deeply in debt, feeling completely estranged from his religion, unsure who he was and how he could go on.  One night, I found a place where I could be alone.  I collapsed in a dark cloud of misery and tears. I thought I might end it.

I don't know what got me through that night... but somehow... I fought through.

I realized that all of this change in my life wasn't in vain.  It was helping me to accept who I am.  And with the help of some incredible other gay Mormons that took to the Internet, I started really gaining confidence that who I was wasn't an abomination.  I wasn't inherently a horrible person because I was attracted to men.  I started thinking that I might even be able to start telling the people closest to me.  I started by coming out to a few friends that were either gay themselves or who I knew were more than ok with gay people being in their lives.  Then, when that went so well, I finally decided to write an individualized letter for every member of my immediate family.  On October 1, 2013, I came out to my family.  To my family's credit, they were incredible.  While many of them expressed concern about the changes in my religious views, they all told me they still loved me.  Most of them told me they would continue to love me no matter what I decided to do with my life.  I felt so relieved.  One week later I came out to many of my closest friends and found similar strength and support.

This blog isn't important to me because I quit law school.  Yes, I am happy that I might have helped some people who were struggling with their decision to quit or not.  This blog is important because it is part of a life change that helped to save my life.  I was being destroyed by my depression at the discovery of my sexuality.  Law school was too much to handle on top of that.  My heart was never really in the law in the first place.  Quitting helped give me the strength to make the most important decision I've ever made.  Coming out of the closet saved my life, and has led me to becoming arguably the most happy I've ever been!

I know who I am.  I know that I'm a gay man.  I love myself!  Just a year ago I honestly hated who I was.  I hated that there was this void that I couldn't sort out.  Thanks law school for helping me have so much stress that I had to start dealing with my personal problems!

Some things I've learned have really helped me to become happy even though I'm such a different person than I ever thought I would be at this phase of my life.

1.  I don't need to follow some specific recipe to find happiness.  I don't need to just check off boxes like a to do list that reads:

  • Become Lawyer
  • Marry a woman
  • Have kids
  • Buy suburban house
to be happy.  I don't need a career that everyone automatically respects to be happy.  I don't need to follow someone else's prescribed path to be happy.  

2.  There is always more happiness ahead.  It might not come when or how you want it to, but there really is more happiness ahead in your life.  Hang in there!  Life is so worth living!

3.  The value of looking to your past comes from looking at it through the lens of appreciating the positive steps you've made, thereby solidifying any lessons you've learned along the way.  I'm genuinely more happy now than I've been in a very long time, and I have learning from some sucky things in my past to thank for that!

4.  Conquering life's most difficult problems is how you become the best you you can be.  Law school was hard, but I could have finished it and still not been the best me I could be.  Instead I stepped away and eventually faced up to the most difficult thing I've ever dealt with, and conquered.  Even though I don't have everything figured out... I honestly think I'm the best me I've ever been.

5.  Positive thinking is how you can conquer life's toughest crap. When faced with some things that suck about my life that I couldn't change... I just framed the situation in a more positive light and took control of the moment.  I learned that I can either wallow in sadness about whatever I can't change, or I can just make that situation the best I can and move on!

I don't know who will read this and find any inspiration.  I'm guessing that mostly this will just be how many people will find out that I'm gay.  That's fine, because that means they're getting to know who I really am.  But I genuinely hope there is something of worth in this or anything else I do for anyone that could use some advice or even just a smile.  


  1. Hi Jeff! Your post was long but I read it nonetheless. :) And I'm glad that I did. You see, this is one reason why blogging is amazing. It allows us to share our stories with strangers and with the world. Most of the time, we're unaware of the impact we leave in other people's lives. I'm leaving this comment to let you know that you've inspired me (and probably several others) because of your blog.

    When I was in the predicament of whether to quit law school or not, your blog helped me find courage to decide. Now, after almost 2 years since the day I first saw this blog, your honesty and courage still inspire me. I know how it feels to maintain a facade while you battle internal conflicts. I can imagine how alone you've felt facing the identity crisis and how difficult it must have been to finally cry out those repressed emotions. I'm somewhat in the same process right now. After leaving law school, the period after it, and my return (yup, I returned), a lot of things are going on in my head that I still haven't shared even to my immediate family and closest friends. I feel like this is a battle I need to resolve alone. And when this process is over, I'll probably memorialize it by writing everything in a blog post, the same way you did here. I'm really glad that you're happy with you're life now and with the newest version of yourself.

    I find it fascinating how I'm genuinely happy for you despite our being strangers. Anyway, please continue writing. Even if you feel like no one's reading, you'll never know whose life you'll touch by sharing your story. Thank you! :))

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  3. Thanks for sharing this good post.

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