Fall 2018 is in the Books!


I am so happy to be halfway finished with law school.

So happy. So incredibly happy.

I had a rough ending to the semester. Around Thanksgiving, the dry heaving started again. Being that I hate the holidays and was getting ready for final exams, I sort of dove into the anxiety for a bit. Lost a little weight, which is pretty much the only positive I experience during final exams.

I managed to get the dry heaving and panic attacks under control just before Stuart and I broke up.

It was like a week and a half before finals, which was just spectacular timing. I spent a super-productive week having panic attacks and crying a lot. I’m sure my grades this semester will be super. My favorite part of the breakup was the morning after, when I ended up walking and crying in the rain. Two miles to my thereapist’s office, where I continued to cry, then two miles home again, crying in the rain. When I got home, I saw that Moose had pooped in the floor – I didn’t even have the heart to scold him.

Having never really done the relationship thing before (or the breakup thing), I really had no clue how much I was going to be just like a sit-com. Not only did I cry a lot and have panic attacks, but I called my mom like every-other-day, laid on the floor a lot, and ate nothing but ramen. I watched two full seasons of Survivor in a matter of days, and convinced myself that God was talking to me through one of the characters/players. I walked an average of something like 6 miles each day and read a lot of sad novels when I should have been studying. I even managed to have a real cute text fight with Stuart, although I’m pretty sure he deserved it. 🙂

I’m now in the fun stage of the breakup where I oscillate between denial and acceptance. One moment, I feel pretty sure that Stuart is going to figure out we were meant to be together and show up in my yard holding a boom box over his head.  The next moment, I’m back on Match, imagining how perfect my life would be with this or that person who is messaging me.

Now that the semester is over, I’m doing a bit better. Struggling with how to know whether I’m ready to move on or not. Don’t want to rebound date, but, you know, I want to meet someone and live life together.

I have a hot date planned for Christmas night… Winterhaven. It’s maybe not the most conventional date for a first date, but he seems like a good guy. We’ll see.

Other things going on include final deadline for my substantial paper is coming up. 10 pages to write. Job searching for the summer. Need to figure out if I would be okay leaving Tucson, because the opportunities are definitely better in Phoenix… but I kind of love Tucson.

Hope all is well with everyone else.

Drop me a line if you feel like grabbing coffee. I’ve got time for the next few weeks and would love to see folks.

Merry Christmas!

 

Law school is so good for me.


I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else ever say something like that. I’ve heard them talk about the aches and pains. About whether school prepared them for the Bar and for actual lawyering. But I’ve never heard anyone say that it was a good thing on a personal level. That it helped them grow as a human being.

It’s been doing that for me.

Story…

It takes almost no time for new people in my life to recognize I struggle to ask for help. They usually diagnose me with a pride issue, assuming that I just hate to admit I can’t do everything, but it’s actually a really different thing than that. There’s probably pride in it, but the fears that play in my head when I know I need to ask for help aren’t people finding out I’m finite and human. It’s more like: “Ahhhh! He’s going to hate me for taking up his time! She’ll say yes to be polite, but secretly resent me forever. Ahhhhh!”

I’m making light of it, but it’s actually a paralyzing thing for me. I often would rather miss out on an opportunity than run the risk of having someone feel irritated by my presence.

This year, I’m writing my substantial paper (a.k.a. note). It’s pretty much the same thing as a dissertation. It’s a 30-35 page paper required for graduation and for various certifications (there is a certification for Juvenile and Family Law, for instance) . Also, for students who write for a law journal, there is the chance of being published.

I feel a little bit overjoyed and even giddy about it for a lot of reasons. My topic is something I’m truly passionate about. It’s a complex issue that combines constitutional law with juvenile and family law, plus I get to delve into the psychology of domestic violence. Academia is not over-saturated with articles on the topic, so it may be publishable. Also, I love to write.

For my note, I have an assigned student editor from the journal I’m on and I was required to find a faculty member willing to supervise me. My editor is delightful and super helpful, but…

Problem: I would rather have my fingernails torn off one by one than risk causing a professor to feel irritation.

It really wouldn’t be out of the question for a professor to be irritated with note supervision. After all, the nature of the relationship is such that I (an inexperienced lawyer-in-training) will be writing about something I am in the process of learning, and which the professor should know like the back of her hand. It’s a time-consuming endeavor of reading each draft I write, correcting legal and writing errors and making sure I write something worthy of transforming me into Kathryn James, J.D. (or, if I’m real fancy, Esq.). If I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, suck at legal writing/legal research, am lazy, or simply get off on the wrong track, the supervising professor is supposed to guide me back into the realm of competence.

It can be a great collaborative experience, OR it can be the intellectual equivalent of Student climbing into a potato sack and asking professor to drag her carcass from one edge of the desert to the next.

I really wanted to work with my favorite professor. She used to be the dean of the whole law school. She brings so much to the table in every discussion. She is smart and kind. She approaches the law with an admirable intellect tempered by empathy. She sees and articulates both sides of the issue.

She is pretty much the greatest thing since sliced bread, and I want to be just like her someday.

When I started thinking about asking her to supervise me, though, all I could imagine was how much she would grow to hate me for asking her to drag my carcass across the desert. I also assumed that all the fancy students who are in the top of the class would be asking her to supervise their notes and she wouldn’t have time for me. I also assumed that because my topic isn’t fully in her area of expertise, she would tell me to ask someone else.

And yet… I forced myself to ask.

Within minutes of sending my email, I received a response: Yes, but also consider talking to ______ and _______. They can help keep you on-track on areas outside of my expertise, but I would love to work with you.

Woohoo! She said yes!

I felt extreme terror at having to ask two more professors (neither of whom had taught me previously) for their time, but I did it, they said yes, and all seemed to be on-track.

My first real deadline was a couple of weeks ago – the first ten pages were due.

I felt like I hadn’t worked nearly hard enough. I felt inadequate… lazy, even. My paper was probably embarrassing. Laughable. I just hadn’t the knowledge and wisdom to realize it yet.

When I submitted my pages,* I assumed they would be returned to me bleeding of edits and feedback.

And yet…

“Your first ten pages are beautifully written. I usually provide students with sentence-level edits even at this early stage in the process, but I don’t have any for you. You really are a good writer.”

I nearly missed out on receiving one of the greatest compliments of my life… for fear of asking for help.

*I finished up my ten pages while sitting upstairs in a small town coffee shop called Appalachian Java. That day was the first day of my fall break, and I told my mom that I would need about 4 hours of study time that day. 8 ish hours later, I finally submitted my ten pages, having not eaten at all that day and having subjected my mom to a full day of sitting nearby, wondering when I would finish.

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! 🙂

 

 

 

 

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  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!

The Death of a Child, and My City


I met up with the two advocates I was going to be shadowing and the three of us made up Crisis Unit Adam 1. There was also a second group of three who made up Crisis Unit Adam 2, and the six of us went to a restaurant to await calls… or not.

I was a little afraid that we wouldn’t get a call, but then I felt guilty, as if I wanted someone to be a victim. Of course I didn’t want that; I just wanted an opportunity to see what I’d signed up to do. The other advocates assuaged my guilt by saying that there are always victims, whether the Victim Services teams are called or not, so wanting a call isn’t about wanting someone to be victimized; it’s about wanting victims to have support.

About five minutes into dinner, the call came. We were to relieve Baker unit on a DOA call (Deceased on Arrival) with a child victim.

There was a weight that came with going to a child’s death that was palpable, but mingled with a sense of, “This is what we do.”

We ate quickly, and the other advocates tried to prepare me. They let me know that I should feel free to step out if it was too difficult. They said that my well-being was a priority… and we hit the road.

When we arrived, we talked to the Baker Unit, who gave us the background on how the child passed away and some of the family dynamics, of which there were a ton – divorce and estrangement, medical issues, grandparents on both sides, and previous recent family deaths. I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to share, so I’m going to keep the details to myself, but I will tell you that, although the child’s death was unexpected, the cause did not seem to be homicide. Law enforcement procedurally treats all children’s deaths like homicides, but this particular death was most probably due to illness.

So… we couldn’t talk to the child’s dad, who was being interviewed by law enforcement. We couldn’t talk to mom, because of some crazy, crazy circumstances. We couldn’t talk to mom’s parents, because they left about the same time we arrived. Therefore, we went in and talked with the extended family on dad’s side.

There were probably 15-20 people there who said they were cousins. We introduced ourselves: “Hi. My name is Betsey. This is Claire and Katie. We’re with Victim Services, and we’re here to be of help to you. Our entire purpose in being here is to help you with whatever you need.”

Crickets.

You would think there would be tears. You would think the room would be filled with pandemonium. A child died. I had never met the child, and I felt pretty stirred up.

The family, however, was almost completely unemotional. It was odd. In discussing the call after-the-fact, one of the advocates pointed out that she thought the family probably distrusts law enforcement and also distrusted us. Although we aren’t with law enforcement, we look pretty official. I was just wearing normal clothes, but the other two had polos with badges sewn into them. They had ID card things, plus law enforcement took us into the room with the family and helped with the introduction, so it makes a lot of sense that people who don’t trust cops would want nothing to do with us. They politely, but coldly told us that they didn’t need anything, so we said we’d step into another room and just be there if they needed us.

And we waited.

And waited and waited.

Standing in a tiny, stuffy room for something like two hours. We interacted a bit with a hospital social worker whose primary task was to get hand prints of the child to later present to the family. I saw the person from the medical examiner’s office, who was there with a camera and stood around the corner from us, just outside the room with the body in it. There were two police officers sitting guard over the body. One of the family members came out and asked us if the family would be able to see the body one last time, but we didn’t know the answer. Evidently, the medical examiner can and sometimes does refused to let families see a body.

And that was the extent of what we did for two (maybe even three) hours.

Then, the detectives let us know they were done interviewing dad, and we could talk to him. We went out and talked to him, and he was also utterly unemotional. He was worried about his cell phone, because the detectives had kept it. Another family member stepped in and politely asked us if we could just give them our card and go, which we did.

It wasn’t what I expected. I’m not sure what I expected, and I can empathize with the unemotive response. It’s a lot to process, but the lack of chaos and (for lack of a better word) drama was something the other advocates kept coming back to. They thought it was pretty unusual.

And all I can really think about is how much I want to go on more calls. I don’t think we made much of any difference to this particular family, but I can definitely see how it might make a difference to someone else.

All night, we listened to the police radio. There were people doing crazy things… a lady who was hysterical because she couldn’t remember where she’d parked her car, a guy with a machete, a drug deal going down at the Redbox, another DOA that Crisis 2 attended, and a major incident with a guy with a gun at an apartment complex. I think all of those things stuck with me more than the call in which I participated, because that’s what my city is like. When I’m not receiving training in Victimology and Victim Services, those things are all going on, unbeknownst to me. They are occurring at locations I frequent. They are always occurring.

Right at the moment, I feel like I’m doing the right thing with my life. I feel like this could be my niche. Who knows how long it will last, or if I’ll even make it through training, but for now, I feel like I’ve found my element.

 

Who Knew I’m Such a Terrible Interviewee???


While working for Aflac, I’m continuing to look for something a bit more permanent and better suited to my talents and desires.

I’ve had a ton of interviews, but very few job offers and no job offers that seem like good places for me to settle in. And it’s totally not them; it’s me.

I hate interviewing, because I’ve spent my entire life trying not to be arrogant. With softball, school, writing, etc… I was always trying to pretend that I didn’t believe I was awesome. Now, all of those attempts at fake humility are coming back around to bite me.

I am an incredibly organized, literate person. And yet, I can’t seem to communicate that in interviews because I feel the need to tell people that, well, yes, I’m organized, but…

Why can’t I just tell them that I’m organized? I put the damn silverware into the dishwasher in such a way that my roommate and her parents commented on it. I separate the forks, spoons, knives, and specialty items into their own sections.

It’s actually funny because I think what I’m struggling to overcome is something I studied in a linguistics class in college: hedges. These are words and phrases that don’t carry any meaning, but get inserted into sentences to soften them. Women use more hedges than men use, because they want to maintain a softer persona and the workplace is one of the most unfortunate places for hedges to come out because they make an otherwise competent person seem less competent.

I can’t seem to get myself to stop using hedges in interviews. Rather than saying I’m well-organized and providing examples of my organization, I say that, “Yes, organization is sort of one of my strengths.” Saying it that way makes it sound like it actually isn’t one of my strengths. I know that, and yet, I’m still sort of using hedges in the middle of trying to convince employers that I know what I’m doing.

Career Change and the Education


I haven’t posted in awhile because I’ve been busy learning about insurance.

Upon passing my Life and Health Insurance Licensing Exam, I will start working for Aflac. I take the exam some time next week. I can take it 3 more times if I fail, and I’m not that worried about failing.

Some things about this:

1. I’m so sad that I believe I’ll be making significantly more money than I made in the classroom. As my teacher friends go back to work, I feel a bitter-sweetness because I know I made the right decision. As they tell me about their weeks, I feel a reinforcement that getting out needed to be done, which is terrible. They mention their first meetings and how they discussed marketing their school and came up with department mottoes… and I think I might vomit. Since when is it a teacher’s job to write a department motto? Since when is education something to sell? Since when did education lose its status as a privilege and a social mandate? Since when…????? While my decision is reinforced because I can’t stand the ways education is warping, I miss it. I haven’t even been away from it yet, but I miss it. I miss the kids. I miss the colleagues. I miss the shared commitment to and direct impact on the future. I miss it.

2. The class I’m taking to prepare for my test is a 10-day online thing, and it sucks.

I’m a decent student, but the class is built so that I read for something like 4 hours a day (on a screen), and I watch videos for something like 10 minutes. The reading is dry and cold. The vocabulary is pulled completely out of context. Sure, insurance was always going to be technical and legal, but a good teacher can find ways to present that information so that it’s relevant and accessible. Also, I would have rather purchased a hard-copy book than this insufferable book built of pixels and links. It doesn’t even offer me the capability of taking notes in the margins, so I keep taking notes by hand on paper, which is easier done if I have a hard-copy book. Also, I’m realizing that one of the primary ways I accessed info from school as a kid was by building a map of the book in my brain. Even if I couldn’t immediately recall info, I always knew which part of the chapter the info was in, as well as which part of the page to look at to find the info. The class also doesn’t allow me to build my own flash cards; I have to use the ones they created, so I’m writing out my own hard-copy flash cards. So, without the technological benefits of getting to type out my notes or cards, I still feel the nausea of staring at a screen all day. Luckily, I can print the chapters for a fee, so I’m doing that, but sheesh…

The videos begin with someone speaking in a soothing and cheesy voice about how so-and-so and his spouse died in a car accident after he purchased a a $100,000 life insurance policy on himself and listed the spouse as the sole beneficiary… if spouse dies, where does the money go????? Aside from the fact that the video isn’t explaining anything that wasn’t already explained in the reading, and isn’t explaining it in a more comprehensible or even a different way than the text explained it, I find the voices to be sort of surreal in that they are clearly uncaring about the hypothetical people who are dying or being dismembered. Yes, those people are fake, but they represent real people, and I want the voices to show some empathy. All I can think is, this would be sooooo much better if I had a teacher with whom to interact. A teacher would have a human tone and visible empathy… I hope. In all fairness, there’s some sort of webinar thing I can sign into to watch a real teacher, but I’d really like to be in the same room with a human being who knows me and will talk to me. I’d like to be able to raise my hand and ask questions.

The world is changing, and I don’t like it.

3. My pay will be entirely commissions, which is terrifying, but also awesome. This means that I’ll have flexibility in my schedule, and my pay will likely have a direct correlation (or close to it) to the number of hours I invest.

And now, dear friends, although there is much more I could write, I must return to the studying… I’ve got about 2 more hours of reading to do today to stay on schedule, and I’d like to re-read some of the more complex and detailed ish that’s been tripping me up on quizzes.

*And, sidenote: Aflac has been amazing thus far. I’m not complaining about Aflac. I’m complaining about… the future and our culture’s obsession with online everything, and I’m complaining about education. And if you wake up tomorrow, and find that somehow all of the technology in the world is broken and you have to chase down a Javelina for your dinner, you can scream out to the heavens in anger, knowing that I am responsible. And even if I die of dehydration because I live in the desert, it will have been worth it to restore humanity to humans.