On going to the movies and figuring out how to feel anything again

My post-finals self-care consists of going to the movies and reading books at bars, so this image just felt right.

My post-finals self-care consists of going to the movies and reading books at bars, so this image just felt right.

In the three weeks after I finished my 2L finals in May, I saw five movies. Some I saw with friends. Most I saw alone.

I started with “Long Shot” the day after my Criminal Procedure final. It’s the one where Seth Rogen’s goofy but loveable character becomes the speechwriter for the beautiful Secretary of State played by Charlize Theron. They eventually fall in love because of course they do.

I remember going to “Booksmart” on an absurdly warm Tuesday morning, and I was the only moviegoer for that showing, carrying my trusty blanket into the theater on a 90-degree, 100-percent humidity day (I swear it’s always cold in there). I saw so much of myself in Beanie Feldstein’s and Kaitlyn Dever’s high school good girls turned rebels (I was in the so-called “God Squad” in high school, so it checks out).

There was also “Aladdin,” “Rocketman” and “The Sun Is Also a Star.”

Going to the movies in those three weeks before I moved to Kansas for the summer helped me finally piece myself back together, helped me rediscover how to feel a full range of emotions, a range I had lost almost completely during the worst semester of my life. Continue reading

On running, 3L year and life in limbo

Big 3L mood.

Big 3L mood.

Lately I’ve been running without routes, without a time goal, without mileage in mind. After two years of fitting, well, life, into increasingly nonexistent pockets of free time, I’ve been rediscovering a sense of aimlessness. A couple times a week, I don’t set an alarm in the morning; class doesn’t start until 2 p.m., after all. I get home from school and run and run and run, the setting sun my only (extremely rough) estimate as to what time it is.

3L is more uncomfortable, more jarring than I had anticipated. The public interest jobs I plan to apply for won’t open until next semester. Many won’t hire me until I (hopefully) pass the bar next July.

It is a strange sense of limbo, like senior year of high school and college but worse.

A new lease agreement arrived in my mailbox the other day, asking if I’ll be living in this delightfully creaky 90-year-old stone house for a fourth year. I won’t. But I’m not sure where I’ll be, which, cool cool cool. Continue reading

Summer 2019 and finding the light

Hi from the top of the Kansas Statehouse!

Hi from the top of the Kansas Statehouse!

What do you do when happiness shows up out of nowhere, when it sticks, when it clings like cotton candy on the corners of your mouth, sweetness lingering longer than it has in a long, long time? It’s funny how the feeling I wanted so badly during what was a grueling 2L year could be so jarring, almost agitating when it finally returned.

Happiness hit me in little moments. The warm, gold light that bathed my room after a drizzly Fourth of July. Laughing with someone who is important to me over how bad we both are at mini golf (I’ll stick to racket sports for my sake and everyone else’s). The experience of piecing together the Federal Rules of Evidence I studied so hard last semester and discovering that I knew how to solve the problem.

Recently I looked back at photos from last semester, the ones that should have been happy: Law Prom, a spring break trip back to Des Moines, a selfie with my wonderful ESL student on a park bench during one of our impromptu outdoor study sessions. My eyes have a certain dullness. The Tyra smize of my high school afternoons binging America’s Next Top Model wasn’t there (FYI, you can watch seasons 1-14 on Prime, 10/10 would recommend in the name of self-care).

This summer has been amazing. I love my job at the ACLU of Kansas, and I’m thrilled to be back in the nonprofit world. I love my job on the board of one of our journals at the law school. I’ve been exploring Kansas City, eating delicious food and doing the things I want to do whether or not I have someone to do them with. Continue reading

Re-anchoring myself to the world after 2L year

Lake of the IslesI woke up around 7 p.m. on the day of my last exam of the semester, convinced it was a new day. Soft evening light glowed from the kitchen window across my studio apartment, the way that not-yet-summer sun throws soft shadows.

I texted my mom, “I’m leaving soon!” as I had planned to visit my little sister at her college the day after my last exam. It took me several confused replies and a closer look at the time to determine that it was not, in fact, a new day.

My “What day is it, who am I, where am I” post-nap confusion captures 2L year as a whole, the way it bent time, the way it left me feeling unanchored from even the most familiar settings and things.

This past weekend, I visited friends in Minnesota, my birthplace. It’s one of the places I go when I need to re-anchor myself. Several of my past lives converged over that weekend. Continue reading

Reclaiming joy after an endless winter

Big spring mood.

Big spring mood.

Three-ish inches of ice encircled every route away from my apartment building for months, turning the walk to school into a series of little and big leaps as I hoped with each one I’d land on dry ground. Finally, the ice was melting, water and warmth carving away at a winter that just wouldn’t let go.

My copy of Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” album had arrived in the mail when I got home from school. I remembered when I bought Jesse McCartney’s “Beautiful Soul” album in 2004, unwrapping Cardi’s CD with similar enthusiasm 15 years later.

I cried as I opened the envelope, peeled away the plastic wrap, realizing that it had been so long since I’d had a good day, a good week, a good month. Realizing that I deserve to have good days at all.

I remember one day this semester, maybe in week four or week six or week seven, I unlocked my door, threw my backpack on the couch and collapsed in the entryway, crying over nothing and everything, all at once. I have cried in my carrel, on the Ped Mall, on the Cambus (but shoutout to the Wednesday night Blue Route driver for playing nothing but Kesha). Continue reading

Coming back to what you need

Winter at UIThis year I have been working on belonging to myself first and foremost.

After my birthday in November through most of January, I had trouble writing anything creative. I would start a blog post, write 100 words, then put it to rest in my journal, a haphazard collection of unpublishable ramblings and unfinished personal essays.

That’s about the point that I stopped belonging to myself and started belonging instead to law school stress, to a relationship that ultimately let me down, to the never-ending docket of 2L obligations. Over three straight snow days in January spent solely with myself, I discovered that belonging to yourself is an active process. Continue reading

The restorative power of late-night tennis

Late-night tennis is deeply comforting to me. The way I can sit on my couch in my pajamas, living room lit only by a vanilla-scented candle and the blue glow of my TV, my 2017 Wimbledon towel wrapped around my shoulders.

It’s 3 a.m. The back-and-forth of the ball nudges me awake, gently. Tennis is a profoundly solitary sport. It’s just the player on the court. From the crouching ball kids to the umpire’s towering chair to family, friends and coaching staff high up in the player’s box, tennis players are literally on their own level — always alone.

Although I love going to tennis tournaments, there’s something pure, transcendent, even, about watching tennis in the middle of a cold, January night in Iowa, mug of tea in hand. The way “Quiet, please” echoes through my apartment, giving me space to watch undisturbed, to be still.

Tower BridgeIt turns out that studying abroad in Europe for two weeks did not actually help me deal with a recent disappointment — I know, truly astonishing.

Healing, I find, happens in unexpected, even mundane places. For me, it didn’t happen as the sun set in Paris, rain smudging the city’s famous lights, softening their glow as my friends and I walked along the Seine. Continue reading

Turning 26 and burning a little too bright

My design aesthetic: scented candles and Iowa basketball bobbleheads.

My design aesthetic: scented candles and Iowa basketball bobbleheads.

I wandered around Target on Saturday looking for matches. That was all I needed, really. OK, and some wine, a crop top, eye shadow and a planter. It is Target, you know.

I’ve gotten really into scented candles recently. I have one named “Baltic Amber.” I’m not sure what the hell that means, but I like it anyway.

When I asked an employee at Target where I could find matches, he said, “Uh, no one really buys matches anymore. Most people use the plastic lighters. They’re over here.”

I wanted my damn matches.

There’s something about the sound of lighting a match, the way it burns a little too close to my fingertips, the way the smoke lifts its way into the air, hanging on for a second too long, clouding everything else in gray. A matchbox costs 92 cents at Target. I wanted my damn matches. Continue reading

Fall and forgetfulness

The tree outside my house becomes more autumnal by the day, and I just love it.

The tree outside my house becomes more autumnal by the day, and I just love it.

I have a good memory for the wrong things. I can never remember if my Advanced Legal Research class is at 12:20 or 12:40 on Mondays. I remember every word of long-deleted texts from men who no longer matter to me — or, more aptly, shouldn’t matter to me anymore.

I forget my lunch as I walk out of my apartment again, sprinting up the creaky, wooden stairs of my building to retrieve it before I’m late to Con Law II. Sometimes I run specific routes on purpose, remembering problems I ran away from, traumas I could only contend with knowing the pavement wouldn’t crumble under me, that it would hold me up and push me forward.

Friends and family have long said I have a good memory. I wonder what that means.

I can tell you all my friends’ birthdays off the top of my head; I don’t need a calendar alert.

I forget to wash fruit before I eat it all the time. Sorry, Mom.

Someone always has to remind me to grab my to-go box as I leave the restaurant. Continue reading

Going to the movies by myself

I don’t see a lot of movies, maybe two or three a year. I rarely plan ahead to go to the movies, instead spontaneously scrunching my still-damp hair as I shuffle to my car on a Saturday night.

“Kedi” was the first movie I saw alone. It’s a Turkish documentary about the street cats of Istanbul. I saw it when I was trying to decide which law school to attend. The sound, screen and subtitles kept me occupied, restored me to a feeling human being as I reconnected with the cats I encountered in the same city, my favorite city in the world, a few years ago.

Iowa RiverLast Saturday I saw “Crazy Rich Asians” by myself here in Iowa City. I had forgotten how heavy the silence is in law school, the way hours and hours of quiet reading sink into your soul. The sensory overload of going to a movie — the screen, the speakers, the inescapability of it all — comforts me, as if it’s possible to refill the silence, to pour sound and light and feeling right back into my emotionally drained spirit.

I sometimes joke that I was a person for a few years before I came to law school. I had a full-time job, a side gig at the state’s largest newspaper, volunteer commitments and hobbies. Sometimes I feel stripped of that personhood here. I am instead a machine who reads and studies and outlines and color-codes. Continue reading