Category Archives: Student Struggles

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

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.