Category Archives: On Reflection

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.

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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

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

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

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

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