Elle Woods helped me make peace with my decision to postpone law school

Legally Blonde was released in theaters on July 13th, 2001.

I sat in the cavernous lecture hall, tugging at my hair and praying for an escape. The words on the LSAT exam in front of me blurred together. My heart raced and my head spun as the spacious room seemed to close in around me. My breath fell quickly, shallowly, as facts and figures I had clearly recalled only a few minutes prior disappeared from my mind. I began to doubt my capabilities.

Was I still Ivy League law school material? Could I ever truly live out my Legally Blonde-inspired dream of attending a top law school and becoming a “Brunette Elle Woods” — an intelligent, insightful, and stylish attorney?

I had been destined to follow in Elle Woods’ pink, glittery footsteps long before I first watched Legally Blonde.

At age 14, high off my newfound passion for Mock Trial, I vowed to become a criminal prosecution attorney. At age 16, I resolved to major in psychology so I could better grasp criminals’ motivations. At age 18, new to college and eager for the future, I began researching Ivy League law schools. By the time I reached age 20, my friends had affectionately dubbed me “Brunette Elle Woods” thanks to my love of law, my steadfast determination, and my feminine flair.

When I graduated college, I still had never actually watched the world’s favorite blonde bombshell/legal mastermind, Elle Woods, dominate the courtroom (and impress Cosmo Girl wannabes with her vast knowledge of perm maintenance), but I had never been more certain of my career path. As I diligently studied for the LSAT, I had no doubt that I would soon be jetting off to a top-notch law school (sans sports car and chihuahua). I was intelligent, driven, and capable. I felt comfortable using legal jargon in everyday life. I was a “Brunette Elle Woods,” and nothing could stop me from pursuing my dream legal career.

But that day, when I took the LSAT for the second time and my heart pounded with fear, I questioned whether or not I could actually succeed in law school. I wasn’t only anxious about my LSAT score either — I worried about potentially moving cross-country to chase my dreams, too. For the first time, I felt forced to rethink my legal aspirations.

Though I had spent years planning to go to law school, I eventually realized that, simply, I was not yet emotionally prepared to attend. If I truly cared about my mental health, I needed to postpone law school until I could manage my overwhelming anxiety.

I tearfully emailed my professors about my now unnecessary letters of recommendation and explained my changing direction. I was angry at myself for my inability to pursue my dreams. I was frustrated with my mental health. I felt hopeless that I could ever fully conquer my anxiety and pursue a legal career. My esteemed status as a “Brunette Elle Woods” seemed to wither in front of me.

While I moped over my perceived failure, my Legally Blonde DVD — a graduation gift from my best friend — sat on my dresser, collecting dust.

I avoided watching the movie. Why should I force myself to sit through a painful reminder of my shattered dream? Elle Woods had it all: beauty, brains, and a Harvard Law acceptance letter. She was the epitome of everything I strived to be, of everything that I believed my anxiety had stolen from me. At the same time, I felt terrible that my best friend’s thoughtful gift was going to waste. And, for years, I had been so eager to finally watch Legally Blonde.

A few weeks after I’d decided to postpone law school, I felt calm enough to watch the move without constantly questioning my own intelligence, spontaneously erupting into a puddle of tears, or feeling envious over a life I hadn’t yet obtained. But I popped in the DVD anyway. Maybe the movie would wind up being a fun distraction — maybe Elle Woods could even help me.

I was immediately struck by Elle Woods’s confidence in her skills (“What, like it’s hard?”) and her sheer determination in the face of adversity. When her classmates doubted her intelligence, she persevered and discovered a wellspring of inner strength. When her ex-boyfriend constantly derided her abilities, she triumphed over him. She proved that, even with her unconventional legal perspective, she had earned her place at Harvard. When her law professor touched her without her consent, she stood her ground and defended her truth, even when her classmate misconstrued the situation. Elle Woods was a beacon of self-assured confidence, unflappable tenacity, and undying faith — everything I needed to embody so I could attend a top law school and become a criminal prosecutor.

Even as I giggled over Elle’s propensity to “bend and snap” and her airtight logic that “Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands,” I recognized her undeniable wisdom about self-confidence. Elle Woods went from happy-go-lucky sorority sister to fierce courtroom contender despite her critics, showing me that trust in my own abilities is the only way to overcome self-doubt. If I channeled my inner Elle Woods and believed I would conquer my anxiety, get into a prestigious law school, and become an attorney, then my steely resolve would take me there — no matter how long it took me, no matter if it felt nearly impossible.

Two years after watching Elle Woods confidently dominate the courtroom for the first time, I have fully made peace with my decision to postpone law school.

I am not yet prepared for Socratic debates, demanding caseloads, and a competitive campus culture. And to me, that’s perfectly acceptable. I know I am capable of attending law school and becoming an attorney when I choose to do so. I just need to hold onto Elle Woods’s determined spirit. Like her, I am intelligent, capable, ambitious, and focused. They do call me a “Brunette Elle Woods,” after all.