Author Archives: Taylor Soule

30 books for 30 years

Reading Room with PlantsA moth hums in the screen door, either trapped or chasing the light from the lamp beneath which I am reading, light it will (hopefully) never reach. I am not sure which is better. But alas, I am not a moth, so I cannot say for certain.

It took me a long time to get to this point, that point being reading for fun, for leisure. Reading without constantly checking how many pages I have left, how much time has passed, how much longer the library is open.

At first, I had to set timers. 15 minutes to start. I would read for 15 minutes, without underlining, tabbing, or taking notes. Reading just to read. Not to memorize or test or ingrain.

Reading like I used to, before law school ruined it, ruined a lot of things, at least for three years, anyway. Continue reading

On turning 30 and finding my own source(s) of power

Green CircleI’ve been thinking a lot lately about things that seem like magic, even though I objectively know they are not.

The steam rising off my skin in the bath.

The sound of crunchy autumn leaves falling from the trees in our backyard. I like to picture the leaves hyping each other up, saying “Let’s go together!” to any leaf friends who are holding onto the final wisps of fall. To be fair, I do the same thing, clinging to sweaters and flannels for dear life, refusing to admit that it’s cold enough for a coat.

Every Sunday evening, I take a hot bath, as if the steam and warm water can somehow shield me from the inevitable reality of my busiest day of court, Monday. I rest my arm on the edge of the tub, pulling the shower curtain back just enough to let the light in. It feels like a hidden superpower as I watch the steam rise from my skin, droplets hanging in the air. I move my arm in a little circle, just to see the steam swirl and take on whatever shape I choose. Continue reading

A little piece about plants

Vehicle safety is for houseplants, too.

Vehicle safety is for houseplants, too.

Sometimes I find myself thinking about all the things my houseplants have witnessed in their silent—but I maintain—supportive, way. There is something to be said for another living being, even if it is an unruly fern or a homely cactus, being a party to all the pain, hope, love, excitement, anxiety, and so on, in life. Perhaps this is why I can’t seem to stop buying plants. Why every little blank space I see, on our bookshelf, on the filing cabinet at work, on the corner of the TV stand, is a plant spot just waiting to be occupied.

I think about my cactus Lorenzo in particular. He was my first houseplant, and I got him when I was 22, shortly after I moved out of my college apartment into my first real apartment, a studio in downtown Des Moines where I hung a shower curtain (to be fair, it was cute and floral) to separate the “bedroom” from the living room. It was the kind of apartment you’re in awe of at that age, one that caught the reflecting light and harsh angles of the towering bank across the street in the mornings, tossing straight-line shadows across the floor and walls, bending its orderly façade into new shapes. Lorenzo is derpy at best. You can see the rough edges of the places where he has simply lost an arm once it got too heavy. And where new arms have grown in downright disorderly ways. Still, seven years later, Lorenzo keeps growing and thriving, in his own weird way. Continue reading

Assorted reflections after year one of practicing law in a new place

I often think about all the different iterations of me that have existed in each of the places I have lived: nine cities in four states, by my count. We all carry every place we have ever inhabited in our bones, in my opinion.

Those four instinctual turns to the grocery store, street names, intersections and GPS directions quickly replaced by that specific dip in the road, the one that signals a left, the tree that got struck by lighting two summers ago. That one’s a right turn.

Spring in WausauI wasn’t sure if I really wanted to write about Wausau, to “wrap up” what can only be described as a year with some of the highest highs and the lowest lows.

But I also believe it would do a disservice to the past year, and maybe to my own mental health, not to at least try to ruminate on it and capture it, at least a little.

Continue reading

On finding new ways to like myself and like where I’m at

Springtime Tay in Door CountyTime has taken on a strange, shifting shape over the past year, I think. For a lot of us. Time gained, in some senses—in commutes that were suddenly no longer, in evenings once spent at happy hours or the movies or any other number of events from the Before Times. Time lost, as well. It seems to take me longer to get going for the day when I work from home, as I watch Schitt’s Creek and drink my tea, lumbering from task to task until I finally sit down at my kitchen table or couch to work.

Law school gives you so little time to deal with, well, anything beyond school itself. When I went through a breakup and the death of a family member within a span of a few weeks in law school, I just buried all that hurt and sadness and moved through the semester completely numb. It was the unhappiest I have ever been.

The opposite was the case this fall, both due to the pandemic and to my move to a new state, to a small city I had never heard of. In the aftermath of a breakup, especially, the dichotomy between the exciting, terrifying, dizzying pace of a new job and career—only to come home to my giant empty apartment and sit alone with Netflix and my feelings for hours—felt jarring at best, and completely crushing at its worst. Continue reading

Learning how to like my own life

10/10 would recommend buying yourself pretty cards just because.

10/10 would recommend buying yourself pretty cards just because.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about something a coworker said to me the day after my breakup. “I promise you will like your life, too.” It is hopeful but realistic; I don’t know that any of us go around loving our lives. After all, there are doctor’s appointments and bad hair days and bills to pay and that one ex who still texts you “Hey stranger” even though you never respond.

In 2019 I learned that not only could I like my life but that I deserved to like it. I was fresh off a breakup and a death in the family when the worst semester of my academic career began, catapulting me into a routine of sobbing in a heap on my couch nearly every day after school, unable to deal with anything in a meaningful way because there were cases to read and papers to write and jobs to look for. I learned that I could like my life that summer as I wandered around Kansas City on the weekends (convinced as ever that anything is walking distance if you simply believe in yourself), did legal work at my dream nonprofit organization, sang karaoke and made new friends while reconnecting with an old friend, too.

Yet again, I have been thinking about what it means to like your own life in the aftermath of a devastating breakup I didn’t see coming. As Hanif Abdurraqib so gorgeously explores in his column “On Breakups” about HAIM’s “I Want You Back,” “The thing I never learned to understand about breakups is that, even at their largest, the moment of the break itself might not be the hardest part. If you have no children together, or no assets worth squabbling over, or no other reason to hover in each other’s lives, the breaking itself can be sudden, with an entire world of grief to stumble into after.”

The breakup came in the form of a two-minute phone call I didn’t see coming on a random Wednesday night. It’s hard to even know how to begin putting yourself back together in that situation. This particular ending had at no point seemed like an even remote possibility to me. Continue reading

On unexpected endings

Congrats to the Iowa Law Class of 2020!

Congrats to the Iowa Law Class of 2020!

I’ve been thinking about endings lately. Or maybe “dwelling” is more apt. It makes sense, given that I graduate from law school in nine days. Only the endings I’m dwelling on seem to multiply and linger, if you will, as new losses emerge daily.

I cry on my drive from Newton to Iowa City nearly every time, remembering that my three best law school friends—the people who made my beloved college town a home—aren’t there anymore.

I cried as I cleaned out my carrel, the unlit law library shielding my tears from view (as if there was anyone else around to see them). Staring into the dull, reflective plastic of my carrel lockbox for one last selfie, I saw a different person, three years later: one who got good grades and bad ones (looking at you, Trusts & Estates), one who wrote a whole Supreme Court opinion, one who had gotten into and (almost) graduated from a university she’d loved her whole life, one who found her calling as a future public defender.

The books from my carrel are still in my trunk, strewn about. I haven’t summoned the strength to bring them up the stairs into my apartment. Somehow, I think putting them in a neat stack would only do a disservice to this chaos in which I end my law school career and earn my J.D.

My beloved carrel blanket lays over some of them as if trying to shield me from some of the heartbreak of this ending, the way it all happened. Continue reading

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