An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

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Hello, World.

I usually wait a day or two to write a review after finishing a book, but after finishing An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, I have so many emotions that I wanted the feeling I have to be reflected in my review. Honestly, few books leave me with a physical reaction to a book. But this book has my chest tight, my eyes watery, and my heart heavy. To be perfectly honest, I’m a bit surprised by my final reaction to this read because initially, I was having trouble getting into the story. I was lukewarm on the characters. I didn’t dislike them, but I was also having trouble liking them. However, the struggle with whether I liked them or not was fitting by the end because the story doesn’t have a “happy” ending, but it has closure, which I think is better. I will say this book is beautifully written. I found myself loving the language, loving the similes, the comparisons, and the unraveling of complex human relationships that are sometimes beautiful, often messy, and seldom perfect. The book’s synopsis reads:

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

During the first third of the book, I felt like I was gaining into a relationship and lives that I shouldn’t have access to. It felt so deeply personal, probably because roughly 50 pages is just letters between characters, which feels like an exchange I shouldn’t be able to infiltrate. Once I hit the 200-page mark, however, I couldn’t put the book down. I wanted so badly for things to work out, for things to improve, for things to sort themselves out. While this book is very focused on the criminal justice system, race relations in this country, and the problem of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I think it ultimately portrays how circumstances outside our control cause inadvertent changed and shifts within us that affect our relationships immeasurably and forever in ways we never imagined. Circumstances happen and then we react and sometimes we react imperfectly and that’s a hard thing to expect. What I struggled with while reading was that some characters felt like they didn’t seem to have empathy for Roy, the man who is convicted of and imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. I wanted to shake Celestial and Andre and say, “Can’t you see you’re being horrible and lacking understanding?!” But at the end of the day, they make choices that they have to accept and those choices play out how you’d expect for the most part.

I didn’t necessarily love any one character, but I appreciated that they were fleshed out, real, raw, and human. Specifically, it was interesting to watch them fight against stereotypes that were trying to attach to them, stereotypes they thought they’d escaped long ago only to realize that such things weren’t always in their control. There is an exchange between Roy and Andre in which Roy is basically saying that his situation could easily have happened to Andre, and Andre acknowledges this and shakes it off in the same breath. Roy, however, knows that he lived his whole life trying to avoid a certain fate, only to have that fate catch up to him in the worst way.

A theme I loved that’s threaded seamlessly throughout this book is time. The inevitability of it, the malleability of it, having too much, too little, how much time affects things. Time brings distance in ways miles don’t. Time morphs a person, internally and externally. With time, people discover who they are, who they aren’t, love grows and shrivels and fades only to return. I think time, more than anything, reveals to us which path is ours. Roy, throughout the book, segregates time into a “before” “during” and “after.” He clings desperately to his “before” life, his during life is stagnant and unchanging despite everyone not in his situation moving full steam ahead with their lives, and the after is shaded by the reality of before, the expectations developed during, and the fact that nothing is the same after. For Roy, time stands still and though he’s changing he’s certain things are going to be the same. Celestial, by comparison, can’t seem to find a firm grasp on anything related to the “before.” Andre realizes he never fully addressed his feelings, which complicates things. Andre irritated me because despite claiming he knew Roy’s situation was transferrable to him had he been where Roy was when Roy was arrested, he seems to have a bit of a superiority complex. In short, all three characters are so layered, so complex it’s hard to know how to feel until the final page.

As I read the last paragraph of this book, tears filled my eyes. I just felt a deep sadness for the characters. What happened to Roy was so far from his control and even those that should have fiercely defended him and attempted to ease the pain fell away, leaving him even more alone. And yet, Roy, resilient as ever, still digs deep within himself to let go of the perception of the life he imagined for the life that he has after prison. This book has some amazing quotes, so I wanted to share my favorites:

“Much of life is timing and circumstance, I see that now.”

“But home isn’t where you land; home is where you launch. You can’t pick your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.”

“Sometimes when you like where you end up, you don’t care how you got there.”

“Is it love, or is it convenience?… She explained that convenience, habit, comfort, obligation- these are all things that wear the same clothing as love sometimes.”

“Human emotion is beyond comprehension, smooth and uninterrupted, like an orb made of blown glass.”

AND MY FAVORITE

“But mostly my life is good, only it’s a different type of good from what I figured on.”

Have you read this book? If so, what’d you think?!

Truly,

Callie leigh

 

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Law Journals: Are They Worth It?

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Hello, World.

When I was looking at law schools, I was a bit uninformed about what made a law good. Naturally, I knew a higher ranked law school made getting a job easier and that some schools’ names were enough. However, looking back I think I was naive and didn’t do my research on what made a law school strong. One thing people kept telling to look for was what clinics and journals the school had. To be frank, I didn’t really know or care to find out what this meant. Today, however, I understand why this was such good advice and could kick myself for not heeding it two years ago.

If you’re like me, you may be asking yourself… what is a law journal? In my own words, a law journal is a collection of scholarly legal writing, typically tailored to a specific area of the law (specialty journals) or a general publication that the law school publishes (law reviews). Most journals are student-run, meaning the students choose articles for publication and they are in charge of the entire editing process. According to Duhaime’s Law Dictionary, a law journal is ” A scholarly or academic publication presenting commentary of emerging or topical developments in the law, and often specializing in a particular area of the law or specific to a jurisdiction.” For the purposes of full disclosure, most people participate in a journal because it’s a serious resume enhancer. At my school, students participating in journal must complete cite checks (checking the sources and format of citations in the articles published) and write a note (an article on a legal topic of the student’s choosing).

So, how does a student get involved in a journal? I cannot speak for all schools, but from what I’ve heard from other students, the process is similar to my law school. Following finals, students must pick up an entry packet. The packet includes roughly 600 pages of material on a given legal issue and five footnotes to edit for correct Bluebook formatting (the Bluebook is the uniform citation system for legal writing). We then rank our school’s journals in order of which journal we would like to join. For example, I ranked Business Law Review second, behind Law Review. Most people want to be onLaw Review because it’s usually the “best” publication and it gives more leeway for note topic selection because it covers all legal topics. All journals are usually a great experience, but often the question is whether to do one. Even more specifically, students often debate whether to participate in journal during their 3L year by joining the editorial board.

When I was working during the school year, my boss repeatedly told people not to do editorial board, as most people were miserable when they did it. I also have some friends who didn’t compete to join a journal at all. If you’re wondering if journal is worth all the hassle and commitment, I’m here to say that I think it is. Sure, some journals have more intense publication schedules and more issues per year (which translates to more work), but journal was the first thing I participated in during law school that made me happy and made me feel like I really belonged. I loved my journal experience. I thoroughly enjoyed writing my note and cite checks didn’t bother me so long as I planned for them. I have friends who didn’t really enjoy the experience and are glad to be done with it, and that’s a common experience. I have friends who were indifferent and are now finished and moving on, and that’s also a common experience. I think I’m an outlier in my love for my journal and the experience I’ve had. Still, I think 90% of journal is what you choose to make it. If you go into journal thinking it’s terrible, it probably will be. If you didn’t like journal and then join the editorial board, you may feel like it’s a constant nuisance and burden. However, if you pick a note topic you love, manage your time effectively by planning ahead for cite check periods, and choose wisely as to whether to join the editorial board, I think journal is definitely worth doing while in law school!

Truly,
Callie leigh

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

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Hello, World.

When deciding what to read this summer, I looked for books that were popular among readers whose opinions I admire. This worked well for the first two novels I read this summer (Little Fires Everywhere & The Great Alone), so I hoped I’d continue to have luck with my next pick: the highly anticipated The Female Persuasion, Meg Wolitzer’s 11th novel. Hailed as the “#MeToo novel” that we all need, I expected a female-centric, feminist expose of sorts in novel form. What I got, however, was a bit different. I’m going to preface this review by saying I really enjoyed this book. The writing kept me engaged and I honestly expected it to take me a long time (it’s 454 pages!), but it took me just over a week. I liked Greer, the protagonist, and related to her in many ways. I, too, was once the shy, self-doubting young woman who entered young adulthood as one person and became much more empowered during my college years, and began finding “my outside voice,” as Greer would say, in recent years.

Now, what I also want to start with is the fact that I disagree with the notion this is the “#MeToo” novel. In fact, I don’t really feel any single novel can be the Me Too novel because each experience is legitimate and different and personal. No two experiences are identical, so how can one voice speak for them all? While the novel opens with an incident involving shy, unassuming Greer and a belligerent fraternity brother touching her boob, the novel does not tackle sexual assault in a fleshed-out way. In fact, the incident serves much more as a catalyst for Greer to find her voice and invest in a cause and care more about feminism and the female experience than she had ever even thought about. The incident sets up Greer’s future endeavors and is the foundation upon which the awe and admiration grows for Faith Frank, an old wave feminist who comes to speak at Greer’s college following the encounter with frat guy who believed he had license over Greer’s body. The real focus of the novel, in that sense, is not about sexual assault or the Me Too movement, but rather about female relationships, mentorship, and what causes us to admire certain people, to hold them in such esteem we forbid ourselves from recognizing their faults until their faults smack us in the face almost as palpably as unwanted caresses from men as we navigate the roads of being female in this world. So, while I don’t think this book is the next great american novel on sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and holding men in power and men in general accountable for inappropriate and damaging actions, I do think it says a lot about where we are with feminism.

And by where we are, I mean the muddled, unclear definition of feminism that attaches to so many encounters and choices and lives. I will say, this novel is marketed as having tackled feminism with a capital F, but I don’t think it does that and that by not tackling Feminism as a whole, it is actually a better read. This story is much more personal than feminism with a capital F. It’s about Greer’s relationship with feminism, and Greer only begins to explore what feminism is and get involved with the feminist movement after being assaulted at the frat house in college. That’s what made this book work: it’s one person’s experience with feminism and her discovering what kind of feminist she wants to be. I’ve read some reviews that chastise the story for being too much “privileged white girl” feminism. I think that’s a fair assessment in some ways. Did it annoy me when Greer complained about going to a “sub par” college when some women do not have the opportunity or access to attend college at all? Yes. Did I hope that women of color would be better represented? Yes. But I think part of my disappointments with the shortcomings I sometimes felt while reading were rooted firmly in the marketing of this book. I was expecting the expose on feminism, modern feminism specifically, and I expected the novel to tackle all that feminism encompasses. However, had I gone into this book expecting it to be more about mentorship, finding your voice, and young womanhood, I would have been satisfied and not as critical at points.

I will say, discussing feminism can be a bit daunting. You don’t want to say the wrong thing or inadvertently imply something that’s incorrect. That’s why I appreciated that this novel showed that feminism and the methods through which to achieve equality for women is a personal journey and the reasons that women become more assertive about female issues are unique to each woman. Further, female-ness and femininity is also personal. Also, with the stigma about feminists being man-haters, I think this book begins to address how a woman asserting herself more forcefully and demanding to be heard can affect her relationships with men. In one story, however, the affect is more internal to Greer and she ends up isolating herself. Cory, Greer’s high school boyfriend, suffers a terrible tragedy that sends him home to assume traditionally feminine roles. Greer, a now self-proclaimed feminist seems to believe that in doing so Cory has swerved severely off-track and lost his way and is no longer “good enough.” Though this isn’t explicit, it’s heavily implied. What I liked about this was that it shows that even women who hail themselves a feminist sometimes miss the mark. If equality is what we want, we should not be baffled by men who assume traditionally feminine roles just like we should not be baffled when women occupy traditionally masculine roles. I wanted a bit more from male-female dynamics in this book, but I was still content with what I got.

I would prefer to classify this book as a coming-of-age story that uses various relationships to illustrate Greer’s journey into womanhood and NOT the “Me Too Movement book of the year.” Another important note that I learned about myself as a reader is that I often reach for dialogue driven books. I like to learn about characters through their actions, their words, etc. This book is written much more as a decade-spanning story that is being told through the eyes of a third person narrator. So, it almost feels as if you’re sitting down with a strong woman, say your grandmother or female mentor, and she’s recounting people’s lives to you. There is minimal dialogue and you are told how the characters are much more than you are shown. This bothered me a bit, but honestly the writing kept me so engaged that I just kept reading. I rarely reach for a pen to underline the fiction I read (surprising for an English major? maybe, but I prefer to keep my books pristine when reading for pleasure). However, with this novel, I felt like a few lines just had to be underlined, and I kept saying “yessss!” to myself about certain observations made.

For those who want to pick up this book, I would say go into with no more expectations than you do for other novels. Do not assume this book holds all the answers about feminism because it doesn’t. The book itself doesn’t end with an answer about what we do with feminism, but rather ends by merely observing there is more work to be done to achieve true equality. And that seems appropriate, as there is always more work to be done.

I do recommend this read and I’d love to have a discussion with any of you who have read it! It gave me a lot to consider, and I need to discuss!

Truly,
Callie leigh

June To-Be-Read (TBR) (and why there’s overlap with May)

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Hello, World.

May was not the best reading month. What I read was great, but how much I read was less than I wanted or expected. I think in the chaos of ending finals and trying to move to DC and then start working I just wasn’t in the mood to read all the time. I also, admittedly, was spending a lot of time binge-watching Riverdale, which is so addicting. So, I only got through Little Fires Everywhere and The Great Alone. Had I chosen a smaller second book I may have gotten further on my list, but I wanted to tackle the clunkier books first, so as to get them out of the way early. I don’t mean to imply they are lesser or not as good. The Great Alone was a great read (review is here), but at 430-ish pages, it’s a bit heftier than the other books. Right now I’m working through The Female Persuasion and it’s addicting. I find myself needing to read as much as possible because I love everything in it and I’m enjoying the style of writing. This is another monster book, however, at 450-ish pages. Still, I’m 100 pages in after about 2 days of reading, so hopefully, I find some good reading time soon.

Because my June TBR is more realistic than my May TBR, the list is essentially the books I didn’t get to in May. July and August will hopefully have 3-4 books each. I figure if I can get through a book a week, then it’s manageable. I want to read more and I’m loving the reading I chose for myself. Last summer I tackled a very long novel that was a slow read, so I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked. I want reading novels to be an active part of my life and so I’m trying to watch less TV and read more. I figure binge-watching shows are easier when I’m in school, so I should use the summer downtime to read rather than watch shows.

So, in case you missed my May TBR, June will consist of the leftovers:
The Female Persuasion
An American Marriage
Educated

Truly,
Callie leigh

2L Wrap Up: Reflections on My Second Year of Law School

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Hello, World.

Today, I’d like to reflect on my 2L year of law school. For those unfamiliar with law school, we refer to the year we are in as #L (1L – first year; 2L – second year; 3L – third year). As many of my longtime readers know, 1L wasn’t the best year for me. The first semester was rough but I seemed to get the hang of things by the end of the year. I entered 2L hopeful and excited. Coming back to school after my summer job, which I loved, I felt invigorated and with more purpose than the naive version of myself who entered law school the previous year. I took mostly business classes in the fall and found myself loving them more than I ever expected. For the first time, law felt clear and understandable and more black and white than super ambiguous.

Were there struggles? Obviously. In the fall, I received the lowest grade in the history of my academic career. I was a bit shell-shocked and cried into my Christmas cookie as my dad told me that he knew I was disappointed, but he was proud of me. In my other fall semester classes, however, I did well and I discovered a love for business law I didn’t know existed. I also worked on my Student Note for Business Law Review, a journal at my school that I work on. Then spring came, and I did an externship at a local law firm. I really enjoyed the experience and got to know the classmates I worked with better, which made me feel more connected to my law school. I left my 1L summer adamant that I would return to California for 2L summer and that I certainly made a mistake by going to school on the east coast. However, I was pretty keen on developing more of a sense of belonging in law school, which was a feeling largely absent from my first year and a half.

So, I decided to go for the Editorial Board for Business Law Review and was named the Senior Notes Editor of my journal. This means that during my 3L year I will oversee the Note-writing process for 2L members and I will work with the notes editors to ensure their writers are meeting the requirements for note writing. Securing a place on the editorial board was so exciting, and made me feel a bit like myself again. I was so involved in college that not having any leadership in law school felt weird and a bit foreign. As a final comment about my journal experience during 2L, my note was selected as an alternate for publication with our journal. I was humbled by this because, though my note wasn’t chosen for publication, I honestly never expected anything from my note. I decided to write about blogging and copyright law because it was a topic I loved. I do not say this to brag about myself, but rather that it’s extremely important to be true to yourself and write about things that are important to you. In law school, we often hear of people picking note topics they think will get them published and how they have miserable writing experiences because of that decision. Do not let others inform what is important. If you are passionate about a legal issue, write about it, shed light on it, and see what happens.

Spring semester was hard. I will say it was the hardest semester of law school thus far. Yes, even harder than 1L fall. I took classes I knew had extremely tight curves, and I put a lot of pressure on myself, to the point where I think it affected my overall performance. Further, while most of my friends had jobs, I was still struggling to find something. You can read about my job search HERE. When grades came, I was disappointed in most of them. I did my very best, but it still didn’t feel like enough. So, though 2L felt worlds better than 1L overall, it ended on a slightly sour note, which was unfortunate. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed myself during 2L, and felt much more content with my experience and with my location than I ever had. Finally, I am currently working in DC for the summer, and I have to say, I’m really enjoying it. I always feel that things work out how they’re supposed to. In fact, I likely sound like a broken record with that sentiment, but I feel it so deeply. There have been times where I say, “I still believe that, but I just do not understand the reason right now,” as tears create blackened, mascara infused streaks down my cheeks. And yet, someday, often in the near future after such an outburst, I realize, “ah… I get it now.” While crying over grades may seem trivial, immature, and melodramatic, I will say that for me, grades have always been something I can do and when I feel disappointed, all the pressure I’ve put on myself releases like a river, and the weight of that can be crushing. Also, I know that sometimes the tears come because of grades, but the root of them is bigger. Law school breeds self-doubt in ways I never expected, and I am not good at feeling uneasy or unsure or like no matter what I do it isn’t enough. However, I will not let grades define me and I will be a successful attorney in the future because I want it, and the only thing stopping me is myself.

To conclude, I will say 2L, in my opinion, is better than 1L and at the end of the day, you can do whatever you want to do. Also, once you get your first job, the grades you shed tears over will be nothing but ink on a page.

Truly,
Callie leigh

My Advice: “Prepare to be Humbled”

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Hello, World.

I recently started my summer job and I am working with some law students from other law schools, and we regularly swap “war stories” about our law school experiences. It’s funny to compare notes and see what is consistent and what is not. When we were talking about advice given or received about law school, I said my advice to incoming 1Ls is “prepare to be humbled.” I usually laugh after this, often trying to lighten the mood of the rather dark sentiment I’ve just relayed, especially when I see the person on the receiving end of this advice either attempt to roll their eyes in an undetectable way or look at me with wide, fearful eyes. The thing is, I don’t say this to be cruel or mean and it isn’t meant as a scare tactic. However, I do mean it.

The reason I say this is simply because law students are, in many capacities, the highest achieving people from their respective colleges. We likely graduated with honors, were leaders in our extracurricular activities, maybe worked in the legal realm between college and law school, and are, if nothing else, academics, logical analysts, and deeply successful people. It is common that Type-A personalities end up in America’s law schools, so it is unsurprising that when you put all the very intelligent, diligent, hard-working Type-A students in an environment grounded in grades done on a curve we start to feel … humbled. Maybe we’re no longer the smartest people in the room. Maybe we struggle with torts or criminal law in ways we’ve never grappled with the subject matter before. Perhaps our writing is suddenly receiving grades previously only known as part of the scale and not where we fell on it. I’ve had people who I’ve given this advice to excel in law school classes. However, I do not mean “prepare to be humbled” to apply only to the grades received in classes. In some way, law school humbles the human spirit. If you’re excelling in classes, maybe your social life is not what it was in college. If your social calendar is full, maybe your grades are slipping lower on the curve, unable to move up the slope. Maybe you applied for the job you were confident you had, only to be rejected from it. Maybe you applied for 80 jobs only to receive 20 emails, 18 of which were rejections and the other 2 were botched interviews.

So, in law school, and in life, prepare to be humbled. Being humbled is not a bad thing. In fact, it is more grounding than anything. There is a reason people say “she’s so down to earth” as a positive compliment to people. Humble people, kind people, always get further in the long run. The people who are not this way may be wildly successful, but my personal belief is that it is better to be humble than the inverse, which is arrogance, aloofness, or just outright condescension. Sometimes you are the smartest person and the room, and others you are not. A good rule of thumb in law school is this: act equally in either scenario because people will likely not respond well to you telling them, informing them, or implying to them that you are the smartest person in the room!

Truly,
Callie Leigh

Little Fires Everywhere

Hello, World.

A few posts ago, I listed out my May to-be-read, which included Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I’ve been dying to read this novel for months, so when I finally had some down time I immediately reached for it. I finished it today and wow. I loved it for so many reasons, which I want to share without giving too much away.

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When I first read the dust jacket flap, I wasn’t sure how all the various storylines would develop and intersect. In truth, I was a bit skeptical. It seemed like Ng was attempting to cover a lot of ground and I was worried character development might suffer. The summary is as follows:

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads to the colors of the houses to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster or heartbreak.

Now that I finished the novel, I can say that the characters were developed in subtle, but poignant ways. I saw a few reviews that said the characters felt one-dimensional, but I feel like if people felt like that they missed the subtlety that was operating within the story that was continually moving characters forward. Each of the children developed as much as appropriate for the overarching story, which is ultimately a story of motherhood and what it means to be a mother. The novel poses a question: is motherhood love, biology, or an unexplainable mixture of moving parts? By the end of the novel, what motherhood isn’t answered by Ng, but I think the readers’ reactions to the major plot points in the work can answer this question implicitly.

My biggest critique of most books I’ve read recently is pacing. The book either gives too much backstory upfront to the point of feeling gratuitous or falls short of having an actual plot (sometimes it feels like you read 300 pages only to find nothing really happened — for example, The Nest, which took me so long and left me wanting). The pacing of this novel felt just right. Certain information came when it seemed most appropriate, we went back in time to understand how much the past informed the present, and we looked forward, to see the enduring fallout of the events in the story we gained access to in this novel. I also liked that the first chapter opened with the burning of the Richardson home because I was immediately hooked and I feel like the characters’ reactions to the fire felt so accurate, but in a retroactive way. For example, some comments felt a little unconventional in that first chapter, but by the novel’s close you can’t help but think “but of course that’s how Lexie or Moody or Trip reacted.”  Ng isn’t frivolous with characters. She takes on each person and explores their motivations, their pasts, and how they came to be where they are in 1997 when the novel takes place. In fact, I liked that Ng rooted a lot of character development in characters’ past decisions. This felt so authentic because, in many ways, our futures are defined by the decisions we make, the lives we choose, the reactions we have to formative events, and the times we left things behind, never to look back but always to wonder what could have been different if we chose differently.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of motherhood within the novel, something that most struck me was the perfectionism and how judgments we make about others can be turned on their head by our own mistakes. I think the juxtaposition of Mia to Mrs. Richardson is so interesting because they parent so differently, and yet they both just want to love their children and give them opportunities and good lives. I also love how certain characters are quick to judge others’ actions until they’re put in a position that forces them to look those judgments in the eye and level with them, perhaps responding to the situation in the exact way that, if they were a third party outsider, they would judge very unforgivingly. There are some cringe-worthy moments when people are so judgmental, but in all honesty, they are things I think people often say behind closed doors, and that should have a little light shined on if only to make us pause and think, “is that what I would say?”

I will say I was a bit sad about one aspect of the ending, but it’s hard to explain why without giving away too much. So, I will just say I wish I had a bit more closure with some characters, but I still really enjoyed this read and I definitely recommend it!

Up next, I’ll be reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah!

Truly,
Callie leigh

Read This When You Feel Burned Out

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Hello, World.

I recently completed my second year of law school and while preparing for finals I felt an unparalleled sense of burn out. Studying was so difficult, finding motivation was a challenge, and I just felt so … burned out. I blame this, in part, on not having a true break since January. I went to California for spring break, but that was a busy trip and I didn’t rest as much as I normally do when home. So, I wanted to explore the concept of burn out a bit more. When motivation isn’t coming anymore, and when you’d rather just quit, and when you feel like there’s a constant weight on your shoulders that gets more and more difficult to bear, you’re probably burning out.

My mom called me a few months ago about an article she’d read that claimed that people who didn’t take time off before graduate school showed higher levels of burn out. I can’t say this conclusion was particularly surprising, but what was pertinent to this discussion was the encouragement to take time off. I think “time off” used to be, at least where I’m from, is a bit of a dirty phrase. When I think of taking time off I think of a season 5 and 6 Rory Gilmore having a major crisis and just about ruining her future by dropping out of Yale. However, what’s missing from the analysis of Rory’s choice was that she did what we should all do when our goals, aspirations, and dreams are no longer clear. She took a step back. She took a breath. Unlike the article my mom read, Lorelai Gilmore thought Rory taking a step back was the end of her life, a decision that she’d never recover from. To be honest, I think most viewers shared Lorelai’s view. However, two years into law school and a lot of frustration later, I think my view on “taking time off” has drastically changed. I no longer feel like taking a step back and figuring out what you want is a terrible thing. In fact, I think it’s probably the best thing you can do.

Though the burn out I’m discussing is related to academia, I think it’s important to take a step back anytime any aspect of your life isn’t clear or you don’t know what you want. The nice thing about academia, rather than working full time, is we have summer and scheduled breaks. While most of us still have internships and things to keep us busy on those breaks, I think they break up our routine enough that burn out is delayed, but still happens. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re burning out. We’re so focused on finishing task after task that we don’t stop to listen to ourselves. We should.

We should listen to ourselves, be honest with others, and take a step back when we need a moment, a breath. The world is so loud, especially with everything going on right now, and it seems everyone has a say in what we should be doing (and yes, I recognize in writing this post I’m also advising you, my readers, on what you should be doing). I think some of us, when we’re unsure, solicit such advice. I’m guilty of this. I often ask my friends their opinion, and if that doesn’t clear it up, I call my sister, and if I still don’t know (or simply haven’t gotten the answer I secretly want) I call my mom. I run through their advice, hoping to figure out what to do. Other times people offer up completely unsolicited advice, which is seldom helpful. BUT, and this is the big but, the voice I should listen to is my own. I should trust myself, trust that even if I make a decision and it’s wrong or a mistake, its a decision that I have agency over and I can deal with on my own, away from conflicting advice and opinions and people who are not me.

If you’re feeling burned out, that’s normal. Burn out is, in many ways, inevitable. However, if you’re feeling yourself getting there, take a moment for yourself. Leave the books in the library and go to yoga. Leave the paper on the table and go for a run. Go to a used bookstore and browse. Go to the record store. Go do something completely unrelated to what is making you feel burned out and enjoy being in that moment. Remembering that you are in control of your life is hard at times, especially with so many voices contributing to the chorus of your life, but what is important is you. So, the next time you feel burn out stirring in the halls of your being, listen to it and take a moment to be with yourself. Sometimes solitude is the only cure.

Truly,
Callie leigh

Overcoming Self Doubt

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Hello, World.

For the past year and a half, I have been pretty transparent about my battle with self-doubt and confusion about whether I’m where I should be and doing what I should be doing. For most of my life, I’ve been known as confident, firm in my convictions, and moving toward a specific goal. While the goal sometimes changes, I remain steadfast in my pursuit of it. However, leaving California and moving to a new state, struggling to find friends, and having some other personal issues at play, I’ve never felt more displaced. At the end of this post, I will link to posts that I think expand on the feelings I’ve had, which I encourage you to read if you haven’t already. Anyway, I think a large part of my self-doubt is rooted in the feeling of displacement that was so present during my first year of law school. I never felt smart enough to be here, I consistently felt like my tribe was nowhere to be found (and sobbed just thinking about my college friends), and I generally felt like I made some massive mistake. However, I took specific steps to overcome self-doubt and they really improved my confidence and I slowly felt the feelings of self-doubt being replaced with feelings of confidence or at least contentedness.

First, I was selective about where I invested my time. I was so involved in college, but in law school I decided to be more selective and focus heavily on my classes, adding things to my schedule only when I was really passionate about them. The selectiveness made me feel in control – a feeling I was missing.

Second, if I felt like someone was taking away from my happiness, I minimized interactions with them. I recently visited my college with one of my law school friends and when relaying the details of our visit to my family she said, “those are Callie’s people.” I laughed, knowing it was completely true. When I first got to law school, I wasn’t finding my people. People I was spending time with operated very differently than I did and I felt so drained after spending time with them. That may seem harsh, but in all honesty, they’re fine people, just not my people. So, I asked people I did enjoy spending time with to go for coffee and made a more pointed effort to see them more.

Third, fake it ’til you make it with daily reminders. Something people may not know is, when I was really struggling, I started meditating and I would meditate on confidence or self-doubt. I would try to meditate and clear my head, reminding myself that I am good enough, that I got into this law school for a reason, and that just being me was enough. Small reminders and pointed thinking helped me tremendously.

Fourth, take time to do the things you know you enjoy and are good at doing. Do you enjoy running? Are you good at playing the guitar? Do you enjoy coffee? Do you enjoy reading a book before bed? When you’re feeling displaced or confused or overwhelmed with doubt, ground yourself in the things that make you, you. I started reading before bed, and it’s changed my life. I feel so much happier going to bed and I sleep better, which makes my day better. I listen to music and stretch. I go for walks around my town, getting sunshine and fresh air, and I feel so much better afterward. When you’re struggling, I think it’s helpful to return to your passions and the things you know you’re good at in order to feel like a more confident you. I left college feeling so capable, sure, and motivated. That all faded at an alarming pace and returning to small things that I loved (e.g., reading novels before bed) made all the difference.

Fifth, when small changes won’t do, make big changes. Sometimes what is making your unhappy or unsure about yourself is more rooted in your daily life. This was true for me. I felt like when you’re trying to high five a person and you just keeping missing hands, unable to meet the other person where they are or maybe they’re unable to meet you where you are and you just do not mesh. If this is the case, make a major change. Figure out what is best for you, and take the plunge. While it can be scary and may cause drama, know that making the decision is a heightened version of self-care that we could all use more of in this life.

Sixth, establish a support system. Reach out to mentors, talk to your family, express your feelings to your friends (your real friends, not acquaintances or selfish people). I feel like a bit of a broken record when I talk about support systems, but if the last year has taught me anything, it’s that support systems are invaluable and you want to make sure you have a support system that will last a while. There’s nothing sadder, in my opinion, of seeing people throw away people who care in favor of people who care right now.

Posts you might like if you enjoyed this post:

Read this when … you’re scared to take the risk

When You Can’t Find Your Place, Create It 

Read this when … someone massively disappoints you

1L In Review

Truly,

Callie leigh

 

Thoughts on the Summer Internship Search in Law School

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Hello, World.

I want to preface this post by saying I wasn’t planning on offering advice on the summer internship search that law students go through as 1Ls and 2Ls. However, I did a content survey at the beginning of the year, and one of the questions I received was “what tips do you have for the job search in law school?” I ignored the question at first because I was so frustrated with my own search. However, I like to believe my blog adds some clarity and comfort to my readers’ lives. So, I decided to share my experience with both the 1L and 2L summer job search, some observations I made during and after the search, and provide a general overview of my understanding of how the job search goes in law school. Finally, I will not be addressing post-graduate searches, as I have not started mine and can’t speak with any authority on it.

My 1L summer job search was fairly easy. I started applying for jobs January 1st and I got an interview in early February and an offer a week after my interview. So, my mid-February I had a job doing legal aid work in my hometown. I found job postings through Indeed, Glassdoor, and my law school’s job website, Simplicity. I applied for a number of in-house positions and government/non-profit jobs. The job I took was definitely the right fit and an incredible experience. In general, 1Ls rarely find paid summer positions. I had a friend who worked at a firm, and I believe she was paid, but that was only one person in my class that I know of who had a firm job after 1L. A lot of other people went to work in-house, for a judge, for a non-profit, or for the government. Any job you take 1L should give you (1) transferable skills (2) research experience and (3) familiarity with practicing law. During my summer, I handled a number of cases and did a ton of hands-on work, which made me more confident, a better problem solver, and gave me a better understanding of how legal issues play out in real time. I think of the two summers you have in law school, 1L summer is less important, but it’s important to use the summer to gain experience that will make your 2L summer job search easier.

The 2L summer job search was terrible. By terrible I mean it was hard, long, and at times, deeply frustrating. I started my search in June 2017 and started applying for internships in July. I was working on cover letters almost daily for months. I had a spreadsheet of the places I applied, which was color-coded (red lines meant rejection, blue lines meant I was being considered, and yellow lines meant I was offered a position). I had roughly 90 or so job applications in the spreadsheet at the end of my search and one yellow line. I started my job search with the intention of going back to California. So, for the first stretch of my search, I applied exclusively to California. Then, around December, I opened up to Seattle, Portland, and New York. I also applied to a firm in South Carolina and a few other random states. It’s also important to note I primarily applied to firms until January 2018.  I did networking, calling alumni of both my law school and college, and attempted to make contacts with people who worked at the places I applied.

My inbox sounded like crickets. Rather than a satisfying “ping,” I heard deafening silence. My stomach lurched anytime an email came through and I began to resent any email that came through that wasn’t related to a job. Nothing came, not even rejections. Most firms just didn’t even respond to my application. Some did, but only to tell me that “while impressed with my qualifications, they would not be moving forward with my candidacy.” I was so frustrated. Here is a good time to note something about the law school job search I didn’t know until I was in the middle of it: on-campus interviews, which usually take place in August, are the single most important recruitment tool firms use to hire summer associates. So, if you’re in law school listen up: SIGN UP FOR ON-CAMPUS INTERVIEWS. My issue was most on-campus interviews were for firms on the east coast, so I didn’t participate. I do not regret that decision, as I am very excited for my upcoming internship, but if a firm is what you want, sign up!

The disappointment, annoyance, and frustration ate at me for months. Finally, one Friday afternoon in February, sitting in Starbucks, on the verge of stress-crying, I applied to a few jobs in Washington D.C. through my law school’s job-posting website. I heard back two days later from one of the jobs and was offered the first interview of my search. There was hope. Then, a few days later I got an interview for the second job I applied to. On the day of my first interview, I was offered an interview with a government agency’s San Francisco office (a job I applied to in October). I did two interviews and got an offer from the first job a bit later. Then I did my third interview with the second Washington D.C. place. Leaving the interviews, I knew in my gut which job was the right choice, so I accepted the position and withdrew my application at the second place. The San Francisco job wasn’t offered to me, which was okay because in my mind I knew the D.C. job was a better fit.

All of this is to say the job search can be super easy for some people. My friend who worked at the firm after her 1L year? She’s going back this summer, which she knew in August. My other friends got firms jobs also in August or September. By February, I was just so defeated. Right when I felt the search was futile, however, something came through. So, I want to summarize my observations and what tips I would have wanted to hear when I started my job search (including tips I did, in fact, receive but ignored).

First, do not let geography govern your search. I think if you’re going to a school where you want to practice, you can absolutely apply to the areas around your school and be fine. However, if you’re going to school in a location that you do not ultimately want to practice, you should acknowledge you may have to begin your practice elsewhere. It is important to recognize that you cannot control the job market, and sometimes you go to the job (it does not come to you).

Second, take advantage of your law school’s career services office. I communicate regularly with my advisor and she is a great help. She has great advice and even called me over spring break to help me reason through what to do about a few issues I had during the job search. I will also say most of my friends got jobs that they applied for through our school. Yes, one person I know got his job because he happened to meet a partner at a big firm at a baseball game and they hit it off. Yes, some people applied directly to the job. Yes, some people knew someone who pulled a lot of weight and got the job as a result. However, the people I just listed are outliers from my experience. A LOT of people get jobs by using the career services at their law school.

Third, network, network, network. In real estate, people say prices are governed by location, location, location. In law school job searches (and any job search for that matter), ability to get your dream job is governed by who you know. So, be sure you know someone. If you’re applying for a firm, search their attorney list to see if there is ANY commonality between you and an attorney. Do they practice an area of law you’re interested in? Did they attend the same college/law school? Are they also interested in running? Find something you can latch onto, and introduce yourself. Networking and information interviewing will get your much farther than simply applying blindly to places.

Fourth, and finally, choose an opportunity that will add something to your resume. So, it’s April and your dream job still isn’t yours. You want to get there eventually, but accept that this is the time to just take whatever opportunity you can. If you’re choosing between going backward [to an old job, to doing nothing, to doing something non-legal] and choosing something that sounds like something you’d rather have nothing to do with but will offer new skills, a learning experience, or will allow you to make contacts that will help you get the job you want.

I hope this sheds light on the process for summer internship hunting. This post is largely based on my experience, but I did try to acknowledge that not everyone has the same experience and that sometimes things work differently for different people. So, try to keep some perspective during the job search, don’t get down on yourself, and remember something will work out.

Truly,

Callie leigh