Thursday, December 21, 2006


My first semester of law school is over. To celebrate, I'm drinking a gin fizz (just one... I'm not a big fan of excess), working Kakuro puzzles, and otherwise sitting around doing nothing. Tomorrow I clean my apartment and relegate all the law-related stuff back to its one shelf where it belongs, as opposed to all over every available surface where it's migrated over the past few weeks. Then on Saturday I drive home for some much-needed time with my family.

They say this is the toughest semester, and I hope that's true. I made it through mostly unscathed. I feel like, even if school doesn't get easier per se, knowing what I know now, I can make it through, and that's a pretty good feeling. Though I have to admit that eating food that I actually cooked myself for once is a pretty good feeling too.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Frustration of Purpose

Again, I am two letters away from solving the NYT crossword puzzle.

Why does this always happen to me? Why are there always exactly two letters I can't figure out?

Proof positive that there is something more frustrating than trying to teach myself Civil Procedure, perhaps?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Digging In

Since my Contracts exam on Thursday, I have done many things. Very few of them have involved studying for the Civ Pro and Torts exams I still have to take. Yesterday I baked a batch of chocolate cupcakes and frosted them with mocha buttercream. They are delicious and almost too rich to eat. I've also done two loads of laundry and two loads of dishes, and this morning I swept my kitchen floor for the first time in weeks. I've gotten within two letters of solving both yesterday's and today's New York Times crossword, and I completely solved a Sunday Times crossword, none of which would have been impressive a couple of years ago when I was a crossword-solving madwoman, but all of which are encouraging to me now since I've let my skills lapse recently. I made a to-do list, which does not contain any Torts- or Civ-Pro-related items. I tried to psych myself up for next semester by reading the past course evaluations of the professors I'm going to have. I listened for the first time to the copy of The Juliet Letters that I bought in a fit of Elvis Costello craving last month (My Aim Is True, on the other hand, has been in my car CD player approximately 90% of the time since I bought it), and also bought albums by Lyle Lovett, John Hiatt and Ben Folds Five from iTunes. I went through many of my books of knitting patterns and decided which sweater to start next (I finished two while studying for Contracts). I considered writing a treatise on how to brew great coffee at home. I figured out how to update the firmware for my old, crummy wireless router, but then chickened out when it came time to actually do it because I thought about how hard it would be to study for exams with no internet if I messed it up. I concocted a grand plan for avoiding this kind of pain next semester (though something tells me that nearly all law students concoct such grand plans every semester). Finally, I bit the bullet and started rereading the Emanuel outline keyed to my Civ Pro casebook, and after I post this, procrastination possibilities practically exhausted, I'm going to outline.

Let me just say that, while not having anything due all semester was nice while it lasted, having my grade for an entire course rest on my performance on a single three- to four-hour exam is not nice. Especially not when central Virginia has been graced with a week of 60-ish-degree days and perfect blue skies, and I'm pondering the vagaries of personal jurisdiction over corporations. It's times like this when I have to remind myself that alternatively, I could be back at the bank, wearing heels and filling out forms all day in a stuffy, yet simultaneously freezing cold building where the windows don't open. And there's no Elvis Costello. Or chocolate cupcakes.

Monday, December 11, 2006


Today I took my first law school exam, and plainly, I survived.

I think I'm through panic, remorse, anger and bargaining, and on to numbness. Which is good, because I have three exams left to study for and take, and no time for silly things like emotions.

This semester did not go according to plan in any way, except in that I did in fact do the reading for and attend the vast majority of my classes. I thought I'd have school and sleep as my main activities, perhaps with small amounts of time set aside for church and for some sort of extracurricular activity (just one, of course). I wanted to read between classes and have weekends free. Of course, that was when I thought I'd be living with someone and wanted to have lots of time to spend with him doing non-school stuff. That's not how it happened. I spent Sundays reading, poured a huge amount of time into a political campaign, missed school twice to go to political events, lost my grandmother, went to church a grand total of five times all semester, stayed up until 3 a.m. working on a memo, went weeks on end without grocery shopping, and cried a lot. With the possible exception of the political involvement, I don't want to do any of that again next semester. Well, the Sundays reading weren't so bad, but really, if I can avoid that I will.

This is not to say that it was a bad semester, or that I don't like law school. I'm actually looking forward to doing all of this again in the spring. It's just that I could really use a break, preferably one involving several 12-hour nights of sleep. And although I still don't, and have no intention of starting, I now understand why law students drink so much.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


My friend Caitlin, at the bank where I used to work in Pittsburgh, once told me I was "entirely too functional." I've been called Martha Stewart, which anyone who's ever lived with me can tell you isn't a very apt analogy, and I've been told that I talk like a self-help book. I realized the other day that I've never said "I hate you" to anyone, even if that's how I felt at the time. I'm just... careful. I care about being emotionally healthy and I care about other people being emotionally healthy. And here in law school, I feel a lot of pressure to stop doing that.

Exams are coming very soon. Our first one is in nine days, and I have a lot of work to do to be prepared for it. Anxiety, for me, is nearly a binary condition: either I have it or I don't. If I do, it's pretty debilitating, but most of the time I don't. Accordingly, my goal for these exams is to make absolutely sure that I'm not anxious going into them.

To be calm on the big day, I have to be prepared: that's a given. But I also have to be relaxed in a larger sense. My life has to be in order as much as it can be. That means, as exams approach, I'm not going to give up sleep, or laundry, or showering, or washing dishes. I'm not going to live in the library. I have to do the things that make me feel like me, and if that means less time spent studying, that's fine with me.

I knew all along that this would be the approach I'd have to take to preparing for exams, and I knew it would be difficult. I hate walking through the halls at school and hearing everyone talking about how late they were up last night outlining. It kind of makes me miss the attitude that infuriated me so much when I was an undergrad: then, we all did work, but we all pretended that we didn't. I have to learn not to let other people worry me so much.

The take-home lesson here for me is: yes, I'm entirely too functional, and I'm fine with that. And after exams are over, and when I get my grades in the spring, I'll still be functional. That knowledge—not any desire to beat my classmates to the best grade—is what's going to get me through the next few weeks.