Category Archives: Student Struggles

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

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

Return to beloved hobby proves the power of leisure

I recently reacquainted myself with a longtime love: reading for fun.

While I appreciate literature whether reading for homework or leisure, there’s a certain thrill in picking up a memoir with the confidence that no essay prompt or pop quiz awaits. In the fall, I’ll complete my English writing degree with a course dedicated to life writing; I deemed David Sedaris’ memoir Naked the ideal choice for renewing my (complicated) bond with the genre.

Already, unapologetic honesty defines the memoir, and though I have little in common with the author, I find myself clinging to the universality of his bizarre tales — all moored on the page with that trademark Sedaris wit.

Even rambling a quick analysis of Naked reveals leisure’s sneaky power. Though I’m reading for relaxation, I automatically engage the more academic, formulaic part of my mind.

And the whole involuntary rambling thing felt productive. Wait, what?

Too often throughout my college career, I’ve felt guilty after taking an hour or two off to watch a movie or delay my homework for an impromptu ping-pong match. After all, that kind of ‘relaxation’ detracted from my ‘career path’ or whatever other jargon I created for an all-purpose guilt trip.

Since taking up leisure reading again, though, I’ve realized hobbies and interests are neither conniving nor determined to invade my life and steal precious time from work.

Rather, they’re opportunities to engage a different, too often dormant part of me. And maybe, in the uncanny haven of an author’s tale about ‘that one time way back when,’ the career-minded, ‘productive’ part of me might discover something valuable — something far beyond the cubicle.

The value of job-hopping

Real people work one job from 9-5. They drive to the office every day, probably in a reliable car with a “Drake alumni” decal (in my world, anyway).

At the beginning of the year, I had it all figured out. In May, I would begin a full-time job with standard hours and a steady paycheck. I would drive to work. That’s what real people do, and damn it, I’m nearing real-people-dom, with my graduation approaching in December.

Forever on the brink of fledgling adulthood, I wanted to meet my preconceived definition. That would prove I’m ready for the ‘real world,’ right? But the year turned out dramatically different — and I’m content.

Rather than drive to work, I ride the bus. Rather than work one job from 9-5, I work two part-time jobs and three on-and-off freelance writing and videography gigs.

Though I initially dreaded rambling off each job when asked the inevitable question, “What are you doing this summer?” I’ve come to embrace and even appreciate the array. Job-hopping proved to be exactly what I needed.

I devoted nearly all my time and energy last semester to two beloved publications, Think Mag and The Times-Delphic. Though I gained a wealth of practical experience and fondly remember my time with both, I often felt trapped in the grueling cycle of each publication.

Job-hopping, however, has allowed me to try a wide variety of skills and projects. Yet again, my pesky (but ultimately dear) friend chaos has returned and proved a beautiful part of my life.

In a ‘typical’ workday at the Science Center of Iowa, I sometimes go from producing video to editing a blog post to writing a press release to pinning periodic table puns (comedic gold, I swear). And that’s only job No. 1. After that, I might update an Excel spreadsheet at job No. 2 before heading to a local softball diamond to cover a high school game for The Des Moines Register.

Along the job-hopping way, I’ve created my own definition of real-people-dom. Rather than a realm defined by a practical car, regular paycheck and “Bulldog Pride” auto decal, real-people-dom, I’ve realized, can be whatever I make it — screeching Dart bus brakes, periodic-table jokes and homeruns included.

I hope to eventually trade my job-hopping habit for something a little closer to the aforementioned definition, but whatever I do, I know I don’t need to meet a predetermined definition of adulthood. I can create my own definition of it. Well, fledgling adulthood, anyway.

Expanding my perception of productivity

“Mean Girls” blared as my friends laughed in harmony, reciting Regina George’s lines and inhaling Sour Patch Kids. Meanwhile, my fingers hovered above my keyboard, pounding feverishly to silence their advice: “Taylor, it’s Friday night. Take a break from work, and watch the movie.”

I’ve long restricted my perception of productivity to two arenas of my life: my education and my work. In the spring of 2012, I realized my limited perception of productivity was sapping my life of valuable relationships and — my ultimate foe — relaxation.

While I admit I yet refuse relaxing at times, I’m slowly expanding my perception of productivity to include down time, family time and friend time.

Napping, playing pick-up sticks with my sister and watching “Mean Girls” (again) hardly advance my journalism goals, but they enrich and balance my life.

Productivity, I’ve discovered, is a broad term for any experience that contributes to personal growth.

Family time, for example, reveals that my achievements are the result of others’ lifelong belief in my abilities. That belief merits my gratitude. Under the hypnotizing spell of to-do lists and due dates, however, I neglect to thank my family.

Friend time reminds me to laugh, joke and enjoy my Drake University years. Work and play are equally fundamental to goal-achievement.

Even napping is a catalyst for self-development, as it reminds me again and again of my invincibility. Taking care of my body is a key step in taking care of my latest to-do list.

I’m moving toward balance in my life, one Regina George quote at a time.

Looking back at my second year as a Bulldog

It’s the end of the school year, so I have a steaming plate of spaghetti on my mind. OK, I have more than spaghetti on my mind, but I’ll get to that later.

At the end of the school year, my fellow Bulldogs and I always head to Spaghetti Works, a Des Moines staple, for one last meal. As we spin the slimy noodles and gulp ice-cold Italian sodas, we discuss the year — the highs, the lows, the mistakes, the lessons, the realizations.

I’ll give you a taste of my piece of the discussion (Don’t expect a taste of my pesto spaghetti, however).

This school year, I took on a new role as a manager. I was no longer solely responsible for my own work. As sports editor at The Times-Delphic, I had to manage a staff of 20 writers, some novice, some not.

Slowly, I realized what kind of support each writer needed. Some had never been to a tennis match. Some, I only had to say, “Hey! Write 500-600 words about men’s tennis,” to receive a well-sourced, publishable recap.

Management in the news is all about the staff and what it needs to succeed. It’s not about a title, a fancy nametag or using the “boss” voice whenever possible (I have yet to develop a “boss” voice, and that’s OK).

This school year, I also realized that I want to take my talents to a major city one day.

NBC building in ChicagoIn October, The Times-Delphic staff visited Chicago for the National College Media Convention. I was in awe as I gazed at the glowing NBC logo atop an insanely tall building. My awe didn’t stop at NBC, though.

Later that same day, I gazed up at the glowing logo at The Chicago Tribune. That was all it took to convince me that I want to live, work and write in a major city.

Lastly, I realized that I am bilingual as a J-School and English student. In a single day, I wrote an essay about revenge in the English Renaissance and a Times-Delphic story about the delay in the plans to install a key-card system in the residence halls.

The two disciplines mingled in my mind, making for two odd assignments, initially.

My revenge paper consisted entirely of one- to two-sentence paragraphs, an English no-no.

My Times-Delphic story included words like “oppositely,” a news no-no.

Luckily, my edits fixed the odd blend of English and news on the page.

Alas, my stomach is now roaring, so I am off to relish in a heap of pesto spaghetti, the company of my favorite Bulldogs and the realizations of my second year at Drake.

Giving The TD a new side of me

Recently, as I talked to a news-Internet professor, he said the sentence I had long avoided: “You know, Taylor, you won’t be able to write as much next year as editor-in-chief.”

While I realize the scope — and limitations — of my new job more and more every day, I had sought to delay the inevitable as long as I could. Maybe, I reasoned, if I ignored it long enough, I could devise a plot to trick both sides of my Times-Delphic identity.

Writer Taylor would simply avoid Editor Taylor, and Editor Taylor would simply avoid Writer Taylor. The two could coexist in mutual oblivion, and I could continue to write story on story as I edit the whole paper and manage the whole staff.

Since that talk, though, I have realized that I won’t be able to write every story that interests me.

Even the story about the set of identical twins on the Drake women’s golf team. Even the story about the Drake men’s basketball team’s buzzer-beating win over in-state rival UNI for the 2014 MVC title (I hope I don’t jinx the Bulldogs).

I have to rely on my staff to take over the bulk of a job I have long loved.

While I won’t be able to give The Times-Delphic as many stories in 2013-14, I hope to give guidance, instead.

It’s a give-and-take at The Times-Delphic, and it’s time I give The TD a new side of me.