Surviving 1L Semester 1


There are some really hard things about being in law school.

The level of stress I’ve felt exceeds any I’ve felt in my life. Lots of you are aware of my blood pressure issues. A few are aware of the dry heaving. I’ve had a change appetite and lost weight. My sleep patterns aren’t really a pattern at all. It’s competitive. It’s a lot of reading. It’s terrifying to be cold-called in class.

Honestly, the first semester of law school is a wad of stress that is indescribable to the uninitiated.

However, the most important thing that happened to me this semester has nothing to do with classes or rankings.

Law school has been a beautiful mechanism for reminding me who I am.

And the spirit of Mufasa fills the screen:

I have been blessed to maintain most of the relationships in my life for years if not decades. It is a true joy to have such a shared history with people and to love them as I love family. I was reminded of these enduring relationships when I went to apply for a legal fellowship for the summer, and I listed my references and how long they’ve known me. Personal reference: 17 years. Spiritual reference (it’s a Christian fellowship): 12 years. These relationships are an enormous part of who I am, and it’s lovely to be reminded.

I’m also overwhelmed with how supportive the people in my life have been. Like all of my life decisions, attending law school was abrupt and without much explanation. I was hit with a divine whisper and that was the end of the conversation. I consulted exactly two people before signing up to take the LSAT, and had they told me not to do it, I probably would have done it anyway.

And yet, they’ve been there for me. I did not once consider the amount of support and understanding I would need from the people in my life to get through law school. I have that luxury, because they are there for me even when I don’t ask them to be. No one in my life has guilted me when I’ve canceled plans because I needed to study, and I’ve canceled a lot of plans. They’ve listened to me obsess about my blood pressure. They’ve counseled me. They’ve put up with my constant and inept legal analysis of everyday life. They’ve encouraged and been patient in ways I’m not sure I have ever or will ever reciprocate.

I don’t deserve any of you.

Alongside that, I’ve met so many amazing people in school, and they’ve reminded me of certain things about myself that I’ve forgotten or that I’ve refused to believe.

People at school seem to like me. They tell me that I’m nice, open-minded, stylish (who knew?), and that I’m a good student. They laugh at my jokes and don’t make me feel like an idiot when I do stupid things. They send me encouraging text messages when my crazy is about to overtake me, and they help me celebrate my birthday.

My conception of myself so often fills in the blanks with the worst things people have ever said about me: stubborn, conceited, too busy with tasks to spend time with others, judgmental… it’s so easy to believe.

Thank you to all of my classmates who remind me that I’m okay. I pray that as my weird quirks become more visible to you, you’ll continue to like me anyways.

And let’s all lift a glass to surviving 1L Semester 2! πŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

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Thanksgiving 2017


Dear Readers,

I’ve been contemplating writing a post about what law school is like, because that seems to be the question right now. It’s the small-talk question. It’s the part of my life that’s new and wonderful and terrible. It’s the all-consuming, aching, needy monster-robot that’s sucking the life right out of me, and making me question everything I know.

I’m convinced that it is best described as IDENTITY CRISIS!, and in Β that spirit, and the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are the deepest thanks built into my heart right now.

I’m thankful for…

Mom & Dad, who made me smart, independent, patient, and athletic. You gave me a (slightly off-beat) sense of humor, and a love of Star Trek and “Dance Band on the Titanic.”

Mr. Morrill, who made me a writer.

Dave and Lisa, who have been chosen instruments of God in my life, softening my stubborn heart and planting seeds of grace.

Steve and Lori, who have voluntarily stuck by me longer than anyone else has, through Sin City, wildfires, and soggy marshmallows.

Shasta, who forced me to dance and have fun.

Matt and Ashly, who were my first holiday benefactors, who taught me to love food and wine.

And Roni, who makes me laugh and seems to only see the best parts of me.

Thank all of you for making me the person I am today. Happy Thanksgiving!

About My Week


I had a difficult week – not bad – just difficult.

The primary struggle this week was friendships.

There were two or three different instances when I felt like a friend or friends were being competitive with me. It centered around the big life decisions I’ve been making, and really stirred up anxiety and sadness in me.

I hate comparison.

People are different. Circumstances are different. There is no possible way for one person to look at another person’s decisions and believe they should also do (or have already done) the same thing.

I completely close off when people start comparing themselves to me, and I wish I didn’t. I wish I had it in my to tell them things like, “Don’t play that game. Don’t get sucked in. Make the best decision for you. Don’t take the decision I made for myself and think it somehow provides commentary on the decisions you’ve made for you.”

One of the times I felt I was being watched and compared to others this week was at a get-together of some old friends. There were about 9 of us, I think, and I hadn’t seen or talked to any of them for months. Realistically, I’ve been intentional about moving on from 7 of them, so it was bound to be weird. I almost wish, however, that I didn’t have so much news to tell them. I wish I could have faded into a corner and let them catch up with one-another. I wish we’d gotten together a couple of months ago when I wasn’t getting ready to take the LSAT and sell my house.

I’m not selling my house to make money, although I am glad to discover that I probably will make money. I’m not taking the LSAT to feel smart or to impress. I didn’t quit teaching as a commentary that all teachers should get out. But it feels like that’s exactly what 6 or so of those old friends saw… the assessment, judgment, and occasionally envy or admiration was palpable last weekend.

It bothers me. It feels too much like a jockeying for position, like there’s some hierarchy and everyone is trying to figure out where I fit and where they fit in comparison to me. I don’t want to fit. Anywhere. I don’t want to fit at the top or at the bottom or in the middle of any hierarchy. It bothers me that a hierarchy exists.

My anthem for this season: “It is the most difficult thing in the world for a person to run her own pace when she knows someone is watching.”

I no longer even remember where that quote comes from, but I find great comfort in it. That quote brings me a peace, because it strips away the hierarchy and recognizes that every runner has a pace that fits her, that’s her own.

When I start to see my flaws or my strengths, this quote reminds me that racing isn’t about beating anyone else. It’s about taking the person I’ve been given – taking Katie… her muscles, her fat, her brain, her heart, her whatever – and running the best pace she can run. This quote reminds me that no matter how many people are watching and evaluating my race, the pace I set can never depend on their evaluation.

Have a good week, friends, and run your pace, regardless of the pace others around you are running.

The Status that Can Never be Updated


Something Lori said to me about six weeks ago has stayed on my mind, because it so reflects the gospel. She was talking about her family, and she said that you can be completely, fiercely angry with family and they can be completely, fiercely angry with you, but your status doesn’t change: you’re still family. And the next time you talk, family doesn’t think less of you.

I’ve struggled for what seems like ages with the fact that my status with family changed to the degree that I was no longer welcome at the holidays. I’ve struggled with where the line is that just cannot be crossed without a status update: ___________ is no longer sisters with Katie James…

I almost have a numbness to people saying they don’t want me as around; it feels like it happens all the time. It’s really only a few times that it’s happened, but sometimes I think it’s my fault. I think about how I must’ve really done something terrible… I must be a terrible person for family not to want me.

It’s actually been the absurd responses of people who don’t know me very well that have most steadied my nerves about it. They say things like, “What did you do? Have you been selling drugs?” or “They must’ve found out about that time you shot a guy and had to get the hell out of Reno.” People saying that to me is so incredibly and unexpectedly helpful, because it reminds me that I’m not an uncommonly bad person. It helps me put it into perspective… I was disowned because I wrote a blog post… or because I wasn’t good at being a Maid of Honor… or because I…

Sticking with people is really difficult and painful. There’s no denying it. I get that it’s really stressful to work out conflict, and it’s much simpler to just find a person to replace me. There are endless masses who are looking for a new spouse/friend/sister/etc… at the very same moment someone has decided it’s time to move on from me.

But I wonder how it would change the world if each of us looked at our lives right now, listed the top ten most important people to us, and determined we would stick by them no matter what…

Mom, Dad, Jennifer, Dave, Lisa, Lori, Steve, Ashly, Matt, Lauren, and Danny.

Okay, so I picked 11 – that’s not the point.

What if we looked at our lives and committed unconditionally to however many people…?

I really struggle sometimes to believe that my status before God is consistent – that He adopted me once and for all – that He looks at me like I’m His daughter every single day and every single moment. I struggle to believe that He sees me as righteous, blameless, and pure. It’s honestly the greatest struggle of faith to trust that Jesus took care of it and I’m okay. There’s nothing more I can do to be cleaner and more perfect before God. My status before Him is secure.

I think it would be easier to believe if my status before my friends/sister/coworkers/etc… wasn’t so subject to change. I’m going to try to be better at letting those closest to me know that their status isn’t subject to change.

The Definition of Home


I started reading a book called Saturday Night Widows. It’s not a book I intended to read or had ever even heard of, but I happened upon it when a volunteer was using my office, so I had nowhere to go for awhile, and I really couldn’t work on anything because everything was in my office. Thus, I was skulking in Sally’s office, bothering her. The book was on her desk.

I picked it up and started perusing the blurbs, eventually realizing it was a book I needed to read. So I’ve been reading it.

“Holding on there through so many momentous changes, I often wondered about the definition of home. Is it the place where you live, or is it the place where the people you love reside? And if the people you love are gone, where is home then?”

Becky Aikman is the author and that quote is about losing her husband to Cancer.

I’ve been blessed to have been adopted by more than one family at the crucial moments when I needed help understanding what home truly is.

As a kid, my understanding of home was sort of impersonal. I came from a hoarder’s house, so items were to be protected, catalogued, and hidden away for the future behind stacks of newspapers and beneath protective layers of dust. Food came out of bags and boxes. There tended to be a lot of television, solitude, and homework at home, while the substance of life existed elsewhere. Work/school/athletics were the primary focus of the day, and home fell into that the same way rest stops contribute to road trips.

I’m not writing that to complain. It’s just… I needed someone to show me that home wasn’t like that for everyone.

In adopting me, the Johnsons showed me that home came be a place of connection and community. It’s possible to invite others in, even when it’s messy. They showed me that food can slow down the relentless forward motion of a day, and wine can completely pause the world on its axis. There is a discipleship I received Mr. Miyagi-style by eating weekly dinners in the Johnson house.

The Hilsts, in adopting me, showed me that holidays can be simultaneously prepared for, yet relaxing. They showed me how tradition can feed the heart, and how Black Friday may not actually be beneath me. In my childhood, my family had a strong aversion to events. We liked for things to be casual and informal, but I found a joy in the eventishness of Hilst holidays, and I never once felt formal. They also taught me how to watch television with others, rather than next to others.

Home is, and probably always will be, a struggle for me. I always worry about decisions I make regarding the other people who inhabit my house, because I never feel like I’m a strong enough force to build the sense of home I want in the face of opposition. I fear the various ways others have robbed me of my sense of home in the past – both family and roommates.

I own the mortgage on a 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom house, and as much as I’d like to see myself as that person who has people coming and going the way Martin Luther and Katerina Von Bora did, I find myself wanting to curl into myself a little bit. With my parents in North Carolina, the Johnsons in Phoenix, and the Hilsts in California, I feel a little lost. I feel like home is so incredibly fragile.

Sadly, I’m not writing this out of a mopey feeling at the loss of the Hilsts. I’m not wallowing or melancholy.

A year has passed, and with that year, I’m beginning to accept that home is no longer with the Hilts. It cuts me to write that because I really wanted to believe things would change only in superficial, unimportant ways when they moved. I believe that, of course, I was their home and they were mine. In the wisdom of Pink: “If someone said three years from now, you’d be long-gone, I’d stand up and punch them out, ‘cus they’re all wrong…” I write that sort of absurdly, because I can’t believe I’m like that – thinking in sappy song lyrics, but I do. I don’t think them begrudgingly at all; I don’t feel there’s a wrong in the quiet and distance the Hilsts are keeping. It just feels unaligned or off that I’m not close with the people who’ve been home to me.

As always, season turns to season, and I’m beginning to feel it might now be the worst thing in the world to be vulnerable with a few people with whom I’ve never been vulnerable before. It might not be the worst thing to tell geeky stories of ComiCon to people who’ve never heard them before, or to try to convince a whole new people to attend ComiCon with me. Maybe it’ll be okay to go through those beginning stages of friendship with new people, trying to explain why 200-mile relay races are awesome, books are wondrous, predestination is beautiful. It’s a stage of friendship I haven’t had to do since like 2005, but it is a fun stage of friendship when you embrace it.

 

I hate vulnerability, but it’s probably time to give it another chance. After all, it worked out pretty well for me last time; I found myself adopted into two great families.

 

Wanted: Roommate Who Throws a Great Duck Funeral and Loves Aaron Sorkin


Roommate Kendra is moving out… well, sort of. She’s beginning to get more serious about it, and I’m saving boxes for her. And, the thing is, I’ve never had a better roommate than she’s been.

When Kendra and I first met to talk about the prospect of her moving in, I felt really nervous. You see, I’ve had 3 previous roommates, and it’s never once gone smoothly. I almost always manage to anger roommates by not meeting their emotional/home needs, and I really don’t notice anything is wrong until they get pissed.

So when Kendra said that she really didn’t get mad about things, I didn’t quite believe her. But I totally should have, because I feel I haven’t met very many of Kendra’s emotional/home needs at all, and yet, we haven’t ever fought. Not once. It’s been a blessed few years of living, and I so appreciate the respite I’ve found in home being home, largely because Kendra just let me be and didn’t try to reshape me at all.

Therefore, in honor of the best roommate there is, I’d like to create a top five list of Kendra expreiences:

5. The running – we didn’t run together all that often, but I loved talking about running, which is way better than the actual doing it. Also, I’ve been blessed to run a couple of Ragnars with Kendra, and she’s proven an excellent van mate.

4. The prank war – It was pretty epic coming home to find my coffee maker, painting easel, and a few other important items up on the second-story shelf thing… despite the fact that we didn’t have a ladder at home. I also loved that it took hours for her to notice the dixie cup tower I’d built in front of her bed room door.

3. Watching TV, especially The Mentalist and The Bionic Woman.

2. Madelyn’s First ComiCon. Kendra put together the cutest session for Hero Bear, featuring cupcakes and a build-a-bear contest. I knew there was a geek in her, just screaming to get out.

  1. The duck memorial, complete with slideshow, poem, and sappy song.

There are certainly others. The wine drinking. The Bible studies. The worship nights. That time when all of those college boys came over and used our showers. Will coming over ever Sunday night for awhile. Getting a turtle and a dog. Hearing about Victims’ Services calls and the food kitchen.

As I begin looking for a replacement roommate, I’m saddened, because Kendra is irreplaceable, and I’m nervous again that whoever takes the upstairs room will hate me for my dirty dishes and emotional detachment. 😦

I’ll miss you, friend.

So, everyone, make sure you give me a call if you know a low-maintenance female looking for a place to live in NW Tucson.

The Question that Threw Me


I’ve decided to pursue volunteering with Victim’s Services. From what I can tell, this means that I would go to crime scenes and help victims meet their immediate needs, whatever those may be (a glass of water, a quiet place to sit, phone calls, etc…). Plus, I’d leave behind resources for them in the coming days – pamphlets with phone numbers and information to help them make the next steps.

I like thinking of it as going into the darkest dark of a person’s life, being a soft light next to them for an hour, maybe two, then leaving as quietly as I came, but also putting a flashlight and some batteries in their hands so that they can start finding their way out whenever they’re ready.

There’s a rigor to volunteering with Victim’s Services that’s to be expected, which is why I found myself downtown at 6:30 on a weeknight, in a building with metal detectors and a security guard.

I thought I was going to nail the interview. You see, the volunteer program at Casa de la Luz has a similar rigor to it, and I’ve been interviewing prospective volunteer for the past three weeks.

I answered their questions, but one of them really stuck with me.

Somehow, the question to get to me wasn’t the one about times I’d been victimized in the past. It wasn’t the one about what the most difficult scenario would be for me in volunteering. The question that’s haunting me is: “What did your friends and family say when you told them you wanted to do this?”

I feel a little like Creed in The Office when new HR person Holly asked him what he did at Dunder Mifflin, and he was all, “Who does she think she is, asking questions that are none of her business?”

I know it’s a fair question. And yet… the truth is that Victim’s Services was never much of a conversation with any of my friends or family.

I’m pretty sure I told my mom. I told Danny and Lauren; Danny said he thought I’d be good at it… and that’s about it. I mentioned it to a friend at church, but only because the training was going to prevent me from attending Bible Study for 6 weeks.

I mean, I went to Mongolia without anyone’s permission. I pierced my nose and got tattoos. I bought a house, quit my job, went to Peru, fell in love, adopted two ducks and a dog…Not only did I do those things without anyone’s permission, but I didn’t even really ask for feedback on most of it.

To some extent, I think I may now understand all of the conflicts I’ve had in my entire life.

I know, it’s been quite the week for me.

Steve and Lori, Ashly, the Johnsons… all of the people I’ve been closest with in my life have the unmistakable ability not to take it personally when I tell them they’ve given me great advice, but I’m going to do exactly what they said I shouldn’t do. They also don’t take it personally when I don’t explain why I didn’t take their advice. They also have a pretty wonderful way of never acting like it’s bad for me to take risks or do things differently than most people do them. When I think about it, how they relate to me might boil down to them having the ability to entrust me to God.

All of the people in my life with whom I’ve had major conflict have the unmistakable need for people, items, ideas, and everything in existence to fall in line; they take it as an insult that I don’t communicate my thoughts and reasons for doing the things I do. They have a sense of right and wrong that extends beyond what’s actually in the Bible, and it’s frustrating to them when I discard things on which they place moral significance.

When I think about what those close to me would have said if I’d asked them what they think about me volunteering with Victim’s Services, I think they’d all have probably asked me a lot of questions and said it might end up being really awesome, and if it wasn’t awesome, I’d figure that out, and stop doing it. Also, I think they’d say that I’ll probably learn a lot, and they can see why I want to do it.

Regardless, I may try a little harder to talk with people BEFORE I go running off to foreign countries, changing careers, etc… I may try to make friends and family a part of the decision-making process, rather than just updating them once the decision has been made. That would probably be a good change for me to make in my life.