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
My box of beloved cards feat. the stack of letters from my pen pal, who’s a friend from undergrad.
I said I needed to deposit a check; that was it. The store with all the cute cards and crop tops and feminist trinkets and houseplants was just a block away. I *needed* a snarky pin for my backpack, maybe one of those velvet shirts with corset-style lacing up the front. A party shirt. Yes. I needed a party shirt.
That’s why I was walking a block out of the way to the store where the cool, edgy birthday cards also happen to be. Yes.
I didn’t buy a single crop top, feminist trinket or houseplant, but I bought a birthday card for a man I really, really liked. The kind of crush that had overwhelmed me.
As I walked to the store to make a questionable decision, naturally, I gave myself the kind of pep talk I reserve for such situations: You’re amazing! You’re out here doing the damn thing! You’re in law school!
It’s perhaps a balancing of factors: I reminded myself of all the things I was doing right to balance an ill-advised walk blocks out of the way to buy a $5 birthday card for a man who had treated me like an option at best.
I had let it last for too long, of course, drafting increasingly elaborate excuses for his behavior, the kind that stretch reality and anxiety and hurt into a pale taffy of emotions, one that has been tugged too far, too long. All the sweetness had gone away. Continue reading
It’s been pouring rain all day, the kind of rain that seeps into my soul. The grayness defies my windows that usually lend endless light, sapping the room of its energy. I drive to the hardware store.
I walk slowly through the aisles of plants, holding one in each hand only to replace them with new pair after new pair. I like to think of plants choosing me rather than me choosing them.
Houseplants have helped me heal over the years.
I bought a cactus a few days after I was discharged from the hospital in 2016. It was flowering at the time, the blossom an ombre bulb of red, pink, orange and yellow. Like a cute, little, prickly sunset or something.
The flower shriveled almost instantly, and I thought I had killed the cactus (not a good omen for a girl who had just had two blood transfusions, TBH). But it came back from that scare with two new arms, and I still have it today. It’s lopsided and awkward as ever, but I could never part with it. Continue reading
The full moon illuminates my room, its edges softened by a thin layer of clouds. Moonlight isn’t as harsh here, as if it doesn’t want to startle me; it just wants me to think, meditate, reflect. Maybe, it wants me to dwell. I’m good at dwelling, overstaying my welcome in my own thoughts.
I leave the ceiling-to-floor-length curtains open. I’m getting up early enough that it’ll still be dark when I leave — the kind of darkness that wakes you up gently, distant lights nudging you into a new day. This past week in London was like that: nudging me to adventure on my own, do whatever I want to do.
It was the perfect way to end 2017 and enter 2018, capping a year of dramatic, somewhat daring changes and starting one in which I’ll continue adjusting to law school and exploring what I could do as a lawyer. Continue reading
The quiet in the law library pulses almost — the kind of silence that asserts itself. I want to be like it, I sometimes think: unapologetic, ruthless, unwavering. It’s a bit extra in the best possible way.
Silence like it used to suffocate me. I wanted to fill it with people and stories and questions and words. Anything.
Since starting law school in August, I’ve gravitated to the quiet, letting it swallow me, or maybe “embrace” is the better, gentler word.
But this past year has been anything but gentle. There is something about actively taking control of my time and energy that still feels a little dangerous — like the time I told my parents I was going to the neighboring town to play tennis when I was 17, but I really went to see the boy I liked at the time. (Sorry, Mom.)
That’s what I did this year. A lot of cool, scary shit.
I got into my top-choice law school. I quit my first full-time, post-grad job. I went to Europe for 10 days and visited three countries. I battled my insurance company because it didn’t think my IUD was a medical necessity (and won). Continue reading
The fourth floor student lounge offers a beautiful view of Iowa City.
I keep thinking I should get a curtain for my kitchen window, something teal or maybe patterned like a picnic basket. I imagine light peeking through the folds of fabric. Maybe I’ll sew the curtain myself, I think, dreaming of spare time and the fancy Singer sewing machine I once used in middle school.
But I like watching the light shift from season to season, shadows softening in the fall. Already-orange leaves blow from the trees into my open windows, wedging their way between the glass and screen, as if they know they’ll soon enough dissolve in snow. It’s October, and I’ve officially started outlining everything I’ve learned in law school this first semester. There are wayward exceptions and clauses and cases that don’t fit into my bullet points yet.
There’s a certain grad school loneliness for which I want to insert a footnote, the kind of thing that doesn’t catch your attention right away, but hell, you know you’ll have to deal with it eventually. I find myself retreating to my carrel in the law library before, between and after classes, the hum of fluorescent lights and rustling papers my company in the maze. Continue reading
There’s something steadying about braiding my hair, about trusting myself to somehow hold it all together. Shaking it out, I watch my curls fall in every direction. As I braid, I fold structure into something that simply doesn’t have it.
Five weeks into my first semester of law school, I find myself seeking out structure in unexpected spaces. I focus for a moment on twisting my hair into a crown, tucking in loose strands throughout the day, checking to see if it’s still in place.
The breadth of new information is almost dizzying, my head spinning with new terminology, Latin words, commas in places my essayist brain can’t comprehend. Focusing for a moment on something like braiding my hair, something I taught myself in middle school, is restorative in its simplicity and innateness.
As if I can do this one little thing really, really well, certainly I can get through 1L year. Continue reading
Raindrops bounce into my kitchen, stamping little, dark circles on my refrigerator collage of Post-Its and postcards and pictures. I should get up and close the window, I know. It’s storming outside, the kind of Iowa summer storm that arrives unannounced, cool rain calming the charged air.
I look up from the court case I’m reading. A streetlight in the distance illuminates the raindrops as they fly in. As if this is the only place they want to be.
I started law school last week, and this is the only place I want to be, I keep reminding myself. So far, it’s fun and exciting and demoralizing and empowering and overwhelming and scary, among other things.
Law school is the process of rewiring your brain, I’ve heard again and again, and it makes frightening sense now that I’m here. Continue reading
Molly and me during our freshman year at Drake.
I tried to pack my excitement and sadness into boxes. Surely they would fit somewhere, nesting among sweaters from college I can’t seem to part with, books I always open to find a postcard or old to-do list wedged between the pages, its tasks reading like a secret English major code.
“Books, office supplies, consuming sadness, TV stand trinkets,” the Post-It on the box would say. “Photo frames, globe, guilt-laden excitement, box of cards I never open.”
It’s been a bizarre last few weeks; I had a different blog post written, one about Europe and adventure and contentedness and the electricity of meeting Twitter friends in real life. About bargaining at outdoor bazaars and souvenirs and making eyes at smoldery European men because I knew I’d never see them again.
Two days after I got back from a nine-day trip to London, Vienna and Bratislava, I found out a friend from my freshman year at Drake had passed away suddenly over the weekend. I started packing for law school in Iowa City a day later, crying on and off as I turned my sadness and anger into an apartment maze of boxes, bags and things that didn’t belong anywhere.
I approached my excitement and grief in much the same way, unsure where to put them, wondering whether I should put them in separate boxes or let them vie for space in the same one. Continue reading
I carve out time in my week for epiphanies: evening walks, early mornings with hot tea and a book, my drive to Target. How soon I forget epiphanies are disruptive and delicious like the unexpected swirl of an ice cream flavor I didn’t ask for; I stir it in, relishing the strange, fleeting taste.
For weeks I’ve been typing half-realized sentences into the Notes app on my phone, searching for the anchoring words of a blog post about Des Moines, about what I’ve done and who I’ve become in six years here. It’s funny how none of them are anchored in the moments I set aside for reflection, that lurking buzzword and habit I had to establish while finishing my bachelor’s degree in English.
Cold lentil soup sat on my desk in the faded Campbell’s Tupperware I’ve had since the ‘90s; ill-advised, I packed it for lunch on a 96-degree day. Again. I usually have a to-do list for this week and next, moving and reordering items in the order I need to do them. But this final week at my job, I changed the header to, “GIRL, YOU’RE DOING THE DAMN THING.”
As I prioritized items for my last week of work and started an email to a local attorney, I realized I’ve learned to advocate for myself in Des Moines, a fitting epiphany, I suppose, as I move to law school next month. Continue reading