In Which I Explain It All

Some explaining is in order. I have made vague occasional references to feeling down over the past few months, but never really went into anything in detail apart from whining about missing London. This entry is mostly for people who know me and want a little more information, but those of you who rubberneck at road accidents are welcome to read it too.

I returned from England on 4 August. In the first month of my return, I studied for and sat 4 Masters exams. I had to combine this with meeting certain demands of the Diploma in Singapore Law course (a compulsory conversion course for people who studied law overseas) I was simultaneously enrolled on at NUS (National University of Singapore). These demands were mostly confined to one particular module of that course, a module based mainly on training and selecting members for NUS’s international moot teams.

Mooting, for non-lawyers, is basically a competition where law students pretend they’re real lawyers arguing a case in a simulated court-room. This doesn’t usually include cross-examination of witnesses, but focuses instead on the ability of the advocate to deal with the various interventions of the judge, who can interrupt at any time with questions on the case. I started mooting when I was at UCL, and was fairly successful at it, so I decided to give this NUS course a try. I knew it imposed a tough workload on its students (I didn’t realize quite how ridiculously huge though), but wanted the chance of taking part in the most prestigious international moot competition in the world, since UCL had never seemed remotely interested in sending teams to the same competition.

If you’re still here after what I admit have been two rather tedious introductory paragraphs, this is where I tie everything together. So this was the situation: I had to combine studying for Masters exams with meeting the intense workload of the moot course. In the meantime, my other modules on the Diploma course were being completely ignored, because I simply had no time for them. Add to this a Michelle who missed England and Alec dreadfully, was generally miserable in Singapore battling rampaging eczema, and also worried about certain aspects of the future of her career (which we won’t go into, I’m still working on those), and you pretty much have a Michelle at her lowest ebb ever.


3 Masters exams went fine, but one was disastrously bad, so bad that I thought it was possible I may fail it. If I did fail, I would have to resit all 4 exams next year – not something I was keen on, obviously.

As the moot course progressed I was finding it increasingly tedious and unfulfilling. Hours upon hours of research had to be condensed into 10 minutes of presentation time, which included the judge’s interventions. The only legal arguments that could really be conveyed under these constraints felt extremely simplistic compared to the arguments I had always put forward in my moots in England, where we had double the amount of time. The part I always relished the most about moots – the feeling of engaging intellectually with the judge – got completely lost in the feverish race against time. As performance got more and more important, I got more and more demotivated, bored and burned-out, and it showed. As a result, I underperformed dramatically and didn’t get into the team I wanted. (I did get into a different team, but for me that doesn’t detract from the disappointment from not getting into the best team, unfortunately.)

What made this all so crushing is that I felt like a different person from what I was in England. It felt as if the Michelle who, in England, juggled multiple responsibilities, had a great life, and emerged at the end of it all brandishing first class honours, was lost to me. In her place was a Michelle who had no drive, no energy, no friends who gave a damn (except Alec, and Pei Ee, who never missed a clue), who couldn’t get to sleep at any time before 6 am, who couldn’t get her hair to look decent or the eczema sores on her legs to stop bleeding, who might fail her Masters course, and who couldn’t even get into a moot team she would, frankly, have walked into if she had displayed a shred of the mooting capability she had in England.

Let me clarify now that I didn’t actually blame anyone for any of this except myself. I didn’t tell my friends I was unhappy. (They didn’t ask either, but that’s neither here nor there I guess.) I don’t resent anyone for not picking me for the top team – it is generally a good call not to pick a depressed burned-out underperforming basket case to represent you in anything but the Loser’s Olympics – and I wish the best for the people who did make it. The crux of my depression was that for the first time in my life, I was unable to find the inner resources necessary to succeed where I wanted to succeed. To fail because you’re just not good enough is no big deal – God knows I’m used to that. To fail where you *are* good enough but just managed to engineer your own downfall is bloody depressing.

Oh, and I still had to salvage the other subjects in my Diploma course from a term of utter neglect, which wasn’t much fun either. The exams finished on Friday. They didn’t go great.

“Okay,” you ask, “so has anything good at all come out of this mess, or is this just going to get worse, because if it is, I’m gonna go read The Onion instead.”

This is the point where the somewhat disproportionate exuberance of my previous post about the LLM merit should become clearer. I’d normally reserve something like that for a distinction – and must admit I’ve been wondering if a distinction would have been forthcoming if I’d done my exams under less draining circumstances – but under these circumstances…THANK YOU GOD!!!

I felt the need to make this entry mainly to write it all down for myself, but also because I’d been feeling an increasing sense of disconnection between my blog entries and my real life lately. The post about my LLM results seemed almost meaningless without an explanation of its context. And I figured you guys should know, anyway. You’re kinda important to me like that. :)

So. For the first time since last summer there are no exams, no dissertations, no moots, no lectures hanging over my head. I have two weeks in which to self-indulge, do Christmas shopping, do nice things for my family to show my appreciation for how wonderful they’ve been, and catch up with all the friends I’ve been too busy/unhappy to keep in touch with since returning. Then I get the 3D, Technicolor reminder of why I am blissfully in love when Alec comes visiting on the 16th.

Quite simply: I am determined that life will be good from now on.

(Oh fuck, it’s nearly 6 am. One step at a time. One step at a time.)


  1. Mich – I’m sorry :(

    We’ve never been that close but if it’s worth anything, know that we’re praying for you across the pond.

    Much love

    Nat and Alvin

  2. You know, I don’t even feel like I should express sympathy [people who did are kinder than I am], because I know you well enough to know that you will, in no time of all, be out of this funk and delivering a Lucy-Liu-Angel/Uma-Kill-Billesque whupping to the entire nation. All I did want to say was have a blast with Alec. It is a great place to visit [and raise kids, but that’s a different tale] and you should have lots of fun. Enjoy stingray and chicken rice for me!

  3. For a person who had that much on her hands, you certainly handled everything pretty well. It humbles me a bit, knowing that someone else went through what they did and came out on top. Makes complaining about my job a bit embarassing actually.

  4. Hey, in a strange way I understand how you feel even though I’ve never been much of an achiever most my life. But I am glad that you’ve managed to sort things out and I do hope things improve for you from now on. *hug* Take care yea?

  5. *hugs* that’s pretty bad, all that you’ve said. but I guess life’s just like this. always putting obstacles for us to overcome. I’m sure in due time, things will be ok :)

  6. Thanks, everyone. I’m genuinely moved, especially by the posts of those of you who don’t actually even know me in real life, but bothered to express your concern anyway. Very sweet of you. :)

  7. Sounds like a burnout. Glad you are getting a break. Don’t think you actually had the chance to stop and breathe.

    By the way, i empathise with the eczema – in my case, it’s mosquito bites. My legs are now polka dotted with them. And no, wearing stockings does not work. Back to my long skirts.

    Yep, U need a good dose of Alec.

    P.S. we should meet sometime for coffee – have your CD!

  8. Avril: mosquito bites sound nasty, do keep vigilant for signs of dengue fever, since we’re in one of those higher-risk areas of Singapore. And I totally know what you mean about the long skirts. :( Will give you a call soon and fix a meeting up.

Comments are closed.