Quarter Life Crisis

30 Sep

(Since today is my birthday, I’m awarding myself with a rambling blog post.)

At the risk of overusing a cliché (Isn’t that how they become cliché?) I feel like I am truly at a crossroads. The drive, motivation and surety that have carried me through to graduation and fellowship have petered out. If motivation and surety were a car, I’m stuck with a flat. I need to fix the flat and get on the road – but which road?

The road I got here on was pretty straightforward. Since I graduated high school, I knew I was going to graduate from law school. Law school was the logical extension of the “K-12-College” education process which was always a given. I never stressed about getting into a law school and I was lucky enough to get into the one I wanted. I have a lot of debt from undergrad and law school that I’ll need to deal with, but nowhere near as much as some of my fellow grads.

While I was in law school, I squandered a lot of opportunities. I put my brain on autopilot and coasted through, trying to make the process as undramatic and unstressful as possible. This meant that I never really applied myself – my grades were lackluster and I never pursued internships or clerkships with the fervor of my fellow students. The only area where I truly applied myself was on my moot court team – I thoroughly enjoyed the appellate advocacy style of presentation and writing and I am very proud of our team’s accomplishments.

Now I’ve graduated and passed the bar and bought myself a bit of a grace period with my fellowship. I have the next few months to think about what I want and where I should go. Every time I look at job postings or work on my resume or attempt to network, this voice in the back of my head whispers – the choice you make now will decide the rest of your life. The job market, my resume-schlepping abilities and my choices in the next few months will decide where I’ll be in the next year and the year after that and probably the one after that. So what direction do I go?

Small Town Lawyer Extrordinaire – Do I go home and apply for the traditional firm jobs? When I first entered law school, I was sure this was the path for me. I’d go to school and then return to my hometown, where cost of living is low and where my last name has some clout. I’d beg, charm or wheedle my way into one of the firms and work my way into solo practice within a few years. However, after my “experience” working in a legal clinic, I am not afraid to admit that practicing law – courtroom law – leaves me in a cold sweating terror. Law school does not prepare you for the actual down and dirty business of law. I do not know how to be a lawyer. I worry about whether I could find someone willing to be a boss and a mentor – I have skills, I just need to know how to apply them. I also think this might be the best way to go about getting into an appellate practice. I enjoyed the appellate-style of advocacy and would like to try it again.

USMC JAG – This is something that has stuck with me since I was in undergrad, working towards my Legal Studies degree. Like most long term goals, I’ve done nothing to prepare for it and that’s biting me in the ass now. I thought I would take my time in China to prepare myself physically for the demands of simply applying for this job. Instead, I gave myself tendonitis just two weeks into training and now I’m out for at least a month. The thought of travel, a fixed salary with benefits, fewer hours and being something a little more than “just a lawyer” are strongly alluring to me.

Non-Traditional Legal – Recently I saw a job posting on the law school’s career website, calling for law school grads to apply to be landman. I had never heard of the job and honestly, I’m not sure if I’d be cut out for it, but the thought of doing something else with my law degree has major allure. I’ve always enjoyed building things, seing things get done. I’ve always been happiest working part-time jobs that involve manufacturing, heavy machinery, transportation. If I could combine law and actually making things, would I be happier?

Off the Grid – The last concept (which has gotten more and more enticing now that I’m living in a city of 20+ million people and am never alone and never see the sky) is saying screw it all and becoming an organic farmer. Crazy, I know – but with an internet connection and the power of farmer’s markets, the slow food movement and social networking, anything is possible! Plus, it means I’d never have to shave my legs again. No more skirt suits!

As I sit here and type this, 3000 miles from home and the rest of my life, I hope I can look back a few years from now, read this and smile in satisfaction, knowing I made the right choice. Future me will remember the confusion and feelings of isolation that I feel now, that drove me to spend over an hour (on my birthday, no less) typing out this post. Hopefully future me remembers those feelings, but doesn’t feel them. That’s what I’m going to wish for when I blow out the candles tonight.

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The Results Come Back

29 Sep

I got my bar exam results while I was in China, sitting in an expat bar next to the Yangtze river. For the people back at home, the results came at 10:00 a.m. Many of them were probably sitting anxiously at their firm jobs, which were of course contingent on them passing the bar. For me, it was 11:00 p.m. before the results came through. (Thank goodness for the joy of online results, because I can’t imagine having to have my parents open that letter and read it to me.) I was at an expat bar with a big group of fellow international students who had arrived to be merry and give their emotional support. I will admit in retrospect it was heartwarming to have all these relative strangers around to celebrate with us. At the time, it was stressful – the sword of failure had been hanging over me since I’d thrown away my #2 Ticonderogas and walked out of the bar exam center. My essay answers had been painfully short; so short, in fact, I thought they might be taken as either flippant or the ramblings of someone who thought they’d signed up for the LSAT. I finished the multiple choice questions with enough time left over to write the lyrics to “The Sound of Silence” backwards across my text booklet. (I have an intense fear of changing more than 5 multiple-choice answers on a single test.)

I spent the next month trying to forget I had taken the test. I hadn’t prepared. I had slacked, the way I did all through law school. I treated the biggest test of my life like it was nothing more than an undergrad midterm. I waited until the last minute and crammed the last two weeks before the exam. If you are unfamiliar with the exam, there are more than 14 topics – this means I was supposedly cramming multiple topics per day, topics which usually require at least a semester of study. In bed at night, I would ponder my options. I figured that my luck couldn’t hold out this far. Finally, this time, a lifetime of slacking would catch up with me and I would get what I deserved.

I had already downloaded the application to sit for the Bar exam of a neighboring state – I’d prepared my reasoning and was ready to launch my plan be when I heard news of my non-passage.

So, when I was sitting in the bar on a typically muggy night, reloading the results page over and over, the people watching didn’t realize that I had already made peace with my failure. I was going to go home, move to my mom’s hometown (where houses retail for about $20,000) and start a new life.

It turns out I passed. Champagne was passed around, though the moment was bittersweet. A travel companion of mine did not pass, even though I felt she was the most prepared of all of us. She’d studied hard, followed the program and got the better grades. I was shocked by this – all this time, I had prepared for my own failure, for the humble acceptance of defeat. I was completely unprepared to comfort someone whose study skills were solid and who had every reason to succeed. I’m still not sure what happened and it is a topic I shy away from. Luckily she has more options and never wanted to be a practicing attorney – she will no doubt have a job before me and will be well on her way to the C-suite while I’m floundering away having a quarter-life crisis.

Now I find myself in a strange place – so much of my planning focused on how to mitigate the shame of failure, how to tell my family, how to move on and rebrand and continue. Instead, I passed. I won a victory, when I least expected it.

Now what do I do?

Random Thoughts on Law

15 Jul

Now, keep in mind I’m not a full-fledged lawyer (yet) so none of this should in any way be construed as legal advice. And you shouldn’t take legal advice from the undead anyway, until you see their class rank.

First, while I know this is really old news, I’d just like to throw down my thoughts on the Casey Anthony verdict. These thoughts are: Our legal system decided it is better to risk letting people who have committed crimes go free than to send deprive defendants who are innocent of life, liberty and property. Sometimes the results of this seem unjust and arbitrary, but really they are part of a larger scheme designed to preserve freedom and uphold justice.

Just like any giant machine which stamps out parts will produce an odd cog, so too is the machinery of justice. Though we may never fully understand what went through the heads of jurors that day (and juries are strange and skittish creatures which do not act in predictable ways), somewhere they decided that there was not the necessary evidence. While Ms. Anthony was tried, sentenced and executed in the media, we can trust that less than half of the “evidence” offered by the media was actually admissible at trial.

This may seem pretty random and indeed cold-hearted, considering what happened to Caylee Anthony. I personally believe in a system of karmic retribution which should have someone being hit by a truck any day now.

Keep in mind these thoughts are tempered by my time as a defense attorney at the legal practice clinic at my law school. People ask all the time how one can stand defending people who admit to drug use, battery, assault, theft, drunk driving, et cetera. Over time the answer I gave – and the one I truly believe – is that defense work is rarely about the specific client. Yes, I do want to see my client get the most equitable and fair result for his or her unique situation and I want to make sure that my clients rights were not violated by the state. Yes, sometimes my client truly is innocent, despite what the state alleges and I want to see that justice truly is served. But really, defense work is not about defending the people so much as it is about defending the system. Defense attorneys defend the system and our personal rights and freedoms by making sure the machinery of justice is well-used and well-tuned. With each individual client, they make sure that the state has not allowed certain parts of the machine to gather rust. Each time a defense attorney challenges the state when they have trampled over a seemingly insignificant bit of process, they are oiling the machine against the atrophy of time. And believe me, that the machine works perfectly may not matter to you now, but it will be the only thing on your mind if you are one day sitting in the shoes of the defendant.

Which leads me to a cross-stitch sampler I’m going to hang on the wall of my practice (in the break room, so no one can see it): “Defense Attorneys – Defending justice and due process one asshole at a time.”

In other news, the Bar exam. If you read in the news about a blogger who ran screaming through a Midwestern city with her hair on fire, you’ll know who it is.

Be Bold and Full of Awesomesauce

15 Jun

So, I’m going to get mushy on you here for a second. I’ve been in a real mental rut in my personal relationships lately; I’ve been taking people for granted, been devoting effort to the wrong people,  got myself shoved out of people’s lives and have tried to avoid being a part of other lives. It may come as a shock, ya’ll, but Zombie does not do well with human emotions, human lives and human drama. So anyhoo, I was fortunate enough to meet a couple of people this weekend who kind of helped shake me out of the mental rut and made me realize that it might just be possible to live in a balls to the wall fashion which I had heretofore only confined to weekends and dreams.

In light of this weekend revelation (and my efforts to maintain that euphoria), I am writing a list of rules for myself to live by. (On a similar note, Ii you stepped away from looking at cat pictures a few weeks ago, you may have noticed a blog post going around called Regrets of the Dying. My list owes a lot to that collection of wisdom.) Here is that list (so far):

Zombie, Esq.’s Guide to Happiness and Awesome:

  • I will not let people who are not happy with their lives drain me of my happiness.
  • Consciously ask where my decisions will take me. I won’t make choices that are just to bide my time.
  • Always strive for awesome and badassery. I have only one life and my time is finite. I will fill that time with awesome.
  • Don’t settle.
  • If other people’s decisions are upsetting to me, I will not let that drag me down.
  • I will allow other people to make their own decisions. (I will resist the urge to eat their brains when their decisions suck.)
  • Don’t hide my emotions. Be passionate. Stop suppressing feelings.
  • Be a bold person. Find other bold people. Do bold things.

Don’t Go to Dinner With Me

9 Jun

Up until a few months ago, yours truly had pretty dang short hair. Like, pretty much shaved up the back, long bangs in the front and short on one side hair. It looked better than that description sounds, believe me.

Up until I graduated from undergrad, I had hair down to my waist. Serious hair, yo. Lots and lots and lots of hair. Scientifically, I believe the formal measurement would be “shit-tons” of hair. Someone who was more of a hair whisperer no doubt could have made use of my locks, but I usually scraped it back into a pony tail and went about my life.  Until one random day after graduation, when I whacked it all off on a whim. Call it reinvention or whatever – it was a great decision because it totally meant I could sleep later, which is one of my major priorities.

It had some…unexpected consequences, which I rightfully should have anticipated. If you know me, you’re aware that I’m a lady who possesses more than my fair share of manly skills. I can hang drywall, I have driven a garbage truck. I’m the go-to gal for home plumbing repairs – while I may not have hair skills, I do consider myself a toilet whisperer. (Except for the toilet in my current apartment, which chuckles and cackles despite my best efforts.) I am also a proud alumna of a women’s college. All of these factors, seemingly unrelated, right? You’d think so… Except after my locks were shorn, rarely a week went by without someone being shocked to find out I’m not a member of the LGBT community. (Hugely supportive – just a fan of sausage.)

This was all just an amusing exercise in social comedy and awkwardness until last summer, when a fellow law student and I became roomates. She’s my hetero lifemate, and we do have some intense chemistry, I suppose. But still…From that day forth, any time the two of us went anywhere (anywhere!), we always got one check. Always. For those of you who were waitstaff, I heart you. I could not be one my feet and civil all day, dealing with people. (As a lawyer, I get to sit down and deal with people – using my ass improves my outlook on the world.) But, my roomie and I often have giggles at your expense – nothing like watching your waiter consider which woman is going to receive the check. For the record, I almost always get it, but I think that’s because they can tell I want to drive a Subaru.

This became even more amusing when I was in Chicago for a legal competition. During a day of sightseeing, I had told the fellow ladies on my team that I was growing my hair out because I tired of always getting one check. They laughed, “Surely it’s not that bad, Zombie. Surely it doesn’t happen all the time.”

That evening, four of us went to dinner – one gent, three ladies. We enjoyed our meal at a pretty snazzy Italian place in the theatre district. Then, our waiter (who was absolutely fantastic, by the way) showed up with the checks. Two of them. No one noticed, but I sat back, already anticipating what was about to unfold. The waiter hands the first check to the gentleman sitting across from me and then proceeds to reach across the woman sitting next to me and places the check directly in front of me.

Dead silence at the table. Horror on three faces. I look at the woman next to me, open the check. Kids, it took all the strength I had not to ask her if she was going to put out later. I might’ve winked.

To this day, she can barely look at me. I always take pleasure in scarring someone for life.

So, that’s why you shouldn’t sit with me if we go to dinner. Or at least wait a few months – I’ll have hair by then.

My Sense of Humor is Rotting

8 Jun

One of my goals for this whole bar study process is not to lose my sense of humor. As time goes on, I realize that while my sense of humor is still present, it is mutating into something dark and sinister… Lawyer Humor.

Take for instance, a conversation which took place between some comrades and I down in the basement of the gulag (also known as the Lawbrary). We were discussing a recent study lecture we had just watched, which featured a nationally-known and super famous constitutional law scholar. While this particular scholar is undoubtedly a genius, he possesses all the warmth and human interaction skills of Marvin from the Hitchhiker’s Guide.

This gave rise to this particular gem of a conversation:

C1: “I’m pretty sure [famous Con Law scholar] is a robot.”

Me: “That would explain so much.”

C2: “I don’t think he can be a robot – he told jokes. Everyone knows robots can’t tell jokes.”

Me: “Yea, but his jokes were so out of date and dry, it was like Issac Asimov wrote them.”

C1: “Its possible that [famous Con Law scholar] has actually been dead for decades.”

Me: “Yup. Asimov programed him decades ago to adhere to the Three Rules of Con Law Robotics. ‘We shall not allow Con Law to be interesting, or through our inaction allow anyone to be interested in Con Law…'”

And then we all laughed. Real, honest to god laughter. Obviously the disease of lawyer humor (and bad nerd humor) is much more advanced than I had ever imagined. God save us all.

Carpe Scrotum

8 Jun

I am seizing life by the balls.

You hear that, life? These bony fingers are coming for your hairy dangles, and I’m going to grab hold.

You may wonder what has lead me to the conclusion that I need to grab life by the short hairs and that would put you in a club that also has me as a member.

I recently graduated from law school. Before that, I graduated from undergrad and before that, I graduated from high school – all with nary a break between. Since before kindergarten, I have been incarcerated in the educational system, with my next step clearly defined, all paperwork in place, hall passes in hand.

Until now. Now that I have graduated law school, I have reached the conclusion of a path which has taken up my entire life. I now stand on the terrifying threshold of becoming a professional and starting a career. And following the bar exam, I will be kicked in a most unceremonious fashion over that threshold and into real, honest to macaroni, adulthood.

I always assumed I couldn’t actually be an adult until I owned a lawn mower – it seems life (and the student loan overlords) have other ideas.

Before I can enter into my chosen career, I must overcome the looming menace of the bar exam. That’s where this blog comes in. I realized recently that if I do not reach out, interact with others and attempt to convince strangers that I am funny, I will go batshit crazy during the bar exam. And you can’t pay back all your student loans if you’re locked up somewhere wearing one of those backwards-armed canvas camisoles.

Beyond the bar exam, I am also looking for a way to chronicle what goes on in these exciting (exciting? awesome? pants-shittingly-terrifying?) times of flux.

By this time next year, my life will change in so many ways: I am going to be a lawyer. I am going to travel to the other side of the world. I will live in a country where I do not speak the language. I am going to be an aunt. I will find my calling. I will be an adult(ish)!

In order to do all these things, and to do them well, I need to reach down past the waistband of mediocrity, under the underpants of the status quo, and commit unspeakable acts upon life’s junk.

This blog is all about grabbing hold where things are sweaty and confusing, and not letting go. Life and I have just been polite until now – now its time to get to third base!