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

2L year and talking myself into things

Stone Arch BridgeI always say I’m going to write more in the summer, as if the heat and light could coax the right words into existence, lifting them into the unwavering humidity where they’d hover long enough that I could write them down. Summer evaporated, as usual, with happy hours and crop tops and long runs.

It didn’t happen, of course, as I finished my first legal internship, studied for the MPRE and explored my *technically speaking* home state of Minnesota. I waited for the right words, wondered where they’d gone, if they were ever really there at all.

My journal from 1L year is 4,454 words and reads like a frenetic plea for help, a cacophony of all-caps crises, italicized epiphanies and wine-fueled run-on sentences. Did I run out of words?

I was unusually one with nature in Minnesota this summer.

I was unusually one with nature in Minnesota this summer.

I thought a lot about home this summer, the way it can exist in multiple places at once. The way that people I met over the summer are a big reason it ever felt like home. The way that sunrises and sunsets seem to linger longer when a place becomes home, the way the pinks and oranges and yellows cling to imaginary folds in the sky, staining it with color just before I fall asleep. Continue reading

I don’t trust summer

I still feel personally attacked by how beautiful Ithaca is.

I still feel personally attacked by how beautiful Ithaca is.

I don’t trust summer. I’ve said it before. The heat, the mosquitoes, the humidity. The boldness of a season that blazes on, burning skin, igniting old flames, blurring deadlines and routines in simmering heat. The sunlight never seems to dim in Minnesota, clinging to the last sliver of brightness.

I’m on a plane right now, and I’m bonding with an adorable toddler in the row in front of me. Summer is like that. You’re friends with everybody, suddenly, wholeheartedly, as if the warmth and sunscreen somehow unite us all. I don’t trust summer.

My Minnesota summer has been amazing. Rife with long, meandering runs and meaningful legal work and crushes I can’t get out of my head.

Catching feelings was inevitable, really. I swear the sun and sand and heat and humidity conspired against me. Summer, as usual, is beguiling, cunning. It wanted me to feel things, damn it. Continue reading

‘It’s easy to talk yourself out of leaving.’

Cold ICIt was the kind of frigid January day where my breath seemed to suspend in the air longer than usual, droplets hovering, obscuring everything around me for a moment too long. OK, maybe that was just him.

I walked into his palatial house, high ceilings and curved banister towering above me, even above him. He was tall. I was into it, of course.

He told me that his mom might come home at some point while I was there that afternoon. If she saw me, he told me to tell her I was a medical student in his class. That I was about to take the boards, too.

I’m a law student. I have bachelor’s degrees in journalism and writing. I managed social media and marketing at a museum for three years after undergrad.

I do not study medicine. I am not in his class. Continue reading

Not every day has to be productive

St. PaulSummer is strange the way time and light stretch on, the way I lose track, unsure what hour it is, whether it’s Monday or Thursday, May, June or July. Yet I often feel like I should be doing something else, something productive. Homework or reading or job hunting for next summer. Or, maybe I’ll finally attempt the recipes that sit abandoned in an email folder.

In undergrad, I often found it difficult to transition from the stress of finals into the profound lack of structure summer provides, relatively speaking. That difficulty is particularly pronounced in law school, where I struggled to structure my time in the first few weeks after 1L year.

Much of the toxicity of law school is rooted in the competition, in the persistent feeling that I’m not studying enough, reading enough, briefing cases enough, preparing for class enough. I’m settling into my summer externship at the Minnesota Department of Services, and I’m happy to have some structure back in my days.

Still, I find myself feeling the pressure to be productive every moment I’m not working, whatever the hell that means. Continue reading

Spaces filled and unfilled during 1L year

A year later, Iowa City is still extremely bae.

A year later, Iowa City is still extremely bae.

I’ve been thinking a lot about spaces filled and unfilled this past year.

After locking my carrel after my last exam of 1L year, I stared back at it, marveling at the wooden shell that had since transformed into an inhabited space with books, a blanket, the floral-print stapler I’ve had since middle school and the “Frozen” Kleenex box I haven’t opened yet purely because it makes me laugh every time I see it.

The intense, unrelenting silence that defined much of my study time. The time a fellow law student said “bless you” from several carrels away when I sneezed, and I momentarily felt less alone.

I learned to sit with the silence rather than run from it. Most of the time.

The time I walked along the river crying over my appellate brief and saw another person crying and walking along the river and clearly feeling deep shit, too. University campuses are, like, cool in that I can’t possibly be the only person crying over who knows what at any given point. Continue reading