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.

ACS_0276.jpg

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

Advertisements

Read This When You Feel Burned Out

Read This When You Feel Burnt Out (1).png

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

How to Best Balance Your Responsibilities in College.png

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

Thoughts on the Law School Summer Job Search.png

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

5 Easy Ways to Practice Self-Care Effectively

When Stress Affects Productivity.png

Hello, World.

Self-care is one of those things I had never heard of before college. Then I got to college and everyone was preaching self-care. Self-care can look different for different people, but I think self-care is one of the most important aspects of a person’s life. I feel like everything in my life improves when I take time for myself and do things that make me feel like my best self. So, today I’m sharing my top five tips for practicing self-care.

  1. Listen to yourself. Seems straightforward enough, right? Well, it’s not always easy to stop and just ask yourself, “what do I want?” and allow whatever comes to mind to control. I used to ignore what I wanted and put what everyone else wanted first. Now, I ask myself, “do you want to do x?” and if the answer is no, I don’t do it. Whether its a social gathering, the gym, a movie, a function, if it’s not what I want to do, I don’t do it. Now, obviously, we have to do things we don’t want to do occasionally. Still, if you can control something, and it’s not what you want, you have the power to say no.
  2. Make time for your hobby. Whether its yoga, the gym, hiking, reading for pleasure, getting coffee and reading The Post, find time for it. The best thing you can do for yourself is really stressful seasons of life is take time to enjoy something you love. For me, I take time to read from “for fun” novels or nonfiction. I miss reading novels and talking about books, so I try to bring a daily reading practice into my routine.
  3. Let go of failures. Did you get a low grade? Did you get turned down for that job? Did you get blown off for a networking call? All of that sucks and can easily cause all types of self-doubt and annoyances. However, a way to practice self-care is to let it go. Don’t let those things, that seem so major right now, define you. You can be successful, and you will be successful, but you have to let the things that don’t work out go.
  4. Quick Spa Night. When I’m feeling really stressed, I will put on a face mask, paint my nails, light some candles, and relax. It may seem too easy, but it can rejuvenate me and give me the extra motivation I need to check more items off my to-do list.
  5. Take a Walk. I go to school near Colonial Williamsburg, and when I’m really stressed or just need a break, I go for a walk around the area by myself. It’s great to get outside, get fresh air, gain some perspective, and just walk around. Taking a walk can give you distance from something that’s stressing you or will allow you to think clearly as you walk around. Taking walks is vastly underrated, in my opinion!

How do you practice self-care?

Truly,

Callie leigh

Creating Your Place In the World: Thoughts on Finding Your Tribe and Building Your Empire

When You Cannot Find You're Place, Create It (1).png

Hello, World.

I recently participated in Hilary Rushford’s How to Make the Right Dreams Happen in 2018, which was a workshop she put together designed to empower people to work hard and reach intentional goals in 2018. I also came across a post on Carly the Prepster where she talked about the beginning of her blog and the somewhat wonky road she took to become who she is today. After participating in the workshop and reading the post, I was thinking a lot about the uncertainty that is all too familiar in the life of a student. Being a student is difficult because a lot of life seems temporary and unclear. For example, I chose to go to law school in Virginia. This was a choice that I made. Yet, after one and a half years in Virginia, I know I don’t want to build a life here long-term. I would say I don’t have anything against the state, but I miss the west coast and I’ve realized I prefer the northeast (hello, New York!). Still, I know that this chapter of my life is so important.

But… uncertainty remains. It’s hard to know what’s going to last and what’s relevant right now but may be less relevant in a month, six months, a year, five years. I read a book recently that said something along the lines of, “you tell yourself it’s temporary. But then you get a job, and you meet people, and you love where you are, and you become a regular at the coffee shop down the street and know the names of the cashier at the grocery, and suddenly your life is here. It’s not there.” As a student, life is often up in the air. So, how do we create a firm place for ourselves in a pliable world? Well, we create it.

You may then ask: how do we create our place? I believe that finding your place happens when you feel secure, confident, and comfortable in your life. So, this involves the people you surround yourself with, the places you live, and the way you approach the day. When I got to law school, I felt really lost. I’ve discussed this at length previously, but essentially I was not one of the people who immediately fell into a rhythm and felt like I fit perfectly in the environment. So, I took steps to figure out why. I realized part of the issue was I wasn’t finding my tribe (this is ironic, since my school’s mascot is, literally, the tribe). I started being strategic and selective about who I surrounded myself with, which meant finding people who built others up, who supported me, who made me laugh, and who I felt a connection to. It took time but I finally felt fulfilled when I hung out with people and not sad or drained.

So, how do we find our tribe? Hilary Rushford’s brand is built on community and the idea of finding your tribe. I love that concept and I think it’s so important that we find people who complete our lives by adding value to it. I’ve had many friends over the year who were fine, but never really added to my life. That’s not to say they weren’t great people, but I think it shows why they ended up being temporary. My closest friends are the ones who I can text or call and it’s easy and we’re there for each other and we support each other and we laugh and feel like something is missing when we haven’t heard from them in a while.

Creating your place can look different for different people, but I think the crux of it all comes in the form of being strategic, selective, and confident. If you know the person you are and who you want to be, and you feel out of place in certain contexts, that implies a lack of fit. That’s not your place, so don’t get discouraged because there’s another one waiting for you. Finding your place in life is similar to finding a good college. You need to feel it in your very being that it’s right for you. Some campuses are pretty and offer good opportunities but don’t feel right for you. If you can’t find your perfect place at the present time you can focus on yourself. Read novels, go to yoga classes, run outside, work on yourself. Work on being happy and confident in yourself. The better you know yourself, the easier it will be to recognize the people, places, and things that complement you.

Truly,

Callie leigh

Winter Reads: Two Books I Read Recently

Hello, World.

I’m sorry for my hiatus toward the end of last semester. I had a terrible finals schedule, which meant I was studying from about November 4th until I went home for the holidays. The holiday season flew by, and before I knew it I was back in Williamsburg for the spring semester. Honestly, I had so many blog posts planned for November and December and they just didn’t happen. As most of my planned posts dealt with the holiday season or were more relevant in the past months, I’ve decided to start fresh with a new slew of posts in the new year.

First and foremost, I wanted to share two books I read while I was home in California over the holiday break. One book I picked up with the intention of reading post-finals and the other I had on my shelf for a while before picking it up. One of my goals for myself this year is spending less money, and that includes not purchasing new books. I have quite a few books on my shelves I haven’t picked up, so I’m hoping that if I’m not buying new books it will force me to reach for books I own but haven’t read.

IMG_5478

Anyway, onto the books I read recently. First up is The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Lousie Miller. I picked this novel up after seeing it on Carly the Prepster’s Instagram stories. I was also sold by the Bon Appetit review on the cover that reads: “Ok, it’s Gilmore Girls.” Anything with Gilmore Girls on it is something I will purchase! So, I ordered the novel from Penguin and allowed it to gather dust on my shelf until finals were finally over and I packed it in my tote bag to head to the airport. Once I started the novel, I loved it. For reference, the book’s summary is as follows:

When Olivia Rawlings—baker extraordinaire for an exclusive Boston dinner club—sets not just her flambéed dessert but the entire building alight, she takes a much-needed weekend break in the idyllic leafy town of Guthrie, Vermont. A weekend soon turns into something more permanent when Margaret Hurley, the cantankerous, sweater-set-wearing owner of the Sugar Maple Inn, needs to recruit a new baker who can help her reclaim the inn’s blue ribbon status at the annual county fair apple pie contest. On paper, at least, Livvy seems to be just who she was looking for.

Livvy’s love life’s a mess and so she does what she does best: relocate. Along with Salty, her gigantic, uber-enthusuastic dog with almost too much personality, Livvy, as the Sugar Maple’s new baker, brings her mouthwatering desserts to the residents of Guthrie, home of Bag Balm, the country’s longest-running contra dance, and her best friend, Hannah. And when Olivia meets Martin McCracken, the Guthrie native who has returned from New York to nurse his ailing father, Livvy comes to understand that she may not be as alone in this world as she once thought. With the joys of a warm, fragrant kitchen, the sound of banjos and fiddles being tuned in a barn, and the crisp scent of the orchard just outside the front door, Olivia Rawlings may finally find that the life you want may not be the one you expected—it could be even better.”

I loved the storytelling and cozy vibes that leaped from the page. While it may not have been the most well-written book I’ve read, I appreciated the pacing and development of the story. I adored the cast of characters, and I had a hankering to uproot to small-town Vermont by the book’s close! This was the first book in a while that I thoroughly enjoyed cover to cover. While there was a plot twist that took me by surprise, I ended up appreciating the decision. I highly recommend this read to anyone who needs a cozy story with great characters.

IMG_5641

Second, I read Commonwealth by Ann Patchett. This book sat on my shelf for a while before I finally picked it up. I think I bought it last summer because it was showing up everywhere on my Instagram feed. I love a good family drama, and I was excited to start this. Though I wish some of the storylines lasted a bit longer or were delved into a bit deeper, I enjoyed the book. The writing was very good and it was easy to keep the characters straight because they were written so distinctly. I would recommend this book to people who like family dramas, who are interested in how family dynamics change and impact our lives, or to someone who just loves a well-written novel that makes us reflect on our own lives.

For reference, the inside flap for this novel is as follows:

“One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly – thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.”

So, what have you read lately? Any books I should add to my to-be-read list?

Truly,
Callie Coker

Stylish Academic’s Guide to Avoiding Drama in College

Avoiding DramaIn College.png

Hello, World.

Remember when Gossip Girl sent a blast announcing the Upper East Side crew wasn’t done with her upon high school graduation and that she would be following them to college? I think we all inhaled and exhaled so sharply in that moment. Bummer for them, but that meant we had more seasons of Gossip Girl! When you think about one’s first year of college, it’s hard to remember that in August, after moving into your dorm room, you’re really only three or four months away from high school.

Some behavior that’s sometimes normal in high school isn’t always welcome in college. The first being drama. Everyone’s life becomes a lot easier when the drama is stuck in a TV show and doesn’t permeate a person’s real life. Note: though this post is focused on college, I will say that in all stages of life minimal drama is desirable. If I notice someone loves drama and does whatever possible to create it, I quickly side-step interactions with them and minimize my exposure to them. So, I think it’s relatively easy to avoid drama in college, but sometimes it can be difficult because everyone is living in close quarters and if you’re at a small school, most people know each other.

I remember when I moved to my college, I thought it was huge compared to my 300-person high school, but others who went to much bigger high schools thought it was too much like high school [pro tip: size of college is something to really consider when choosing where to attend]. College gossip is real and college drama happens, but I want to share my top tips for minimizing drama:

  1. Surround yourself with positive people. Negative people brew drama like it’s a house roast. Whether intentional or not, negative people tend to create drama because their negativity either rubs off on others OR people vent about the negative person, thus brewing drama.
  2. Keep venting to a minimum. People will annoy you most likely, at one point or another. However, if you’re having issues with someone, either vent to someone you really trust, like your closest friend or your friends from home, or keep it to yourself. The more you vent, the more drama will form.
  3. Acknowledge issues as they happen. If someone annoyed you or hurt you, tell them. Handle your problems with people with them directly. There is no worse thing to do than telling everyone but the person that you’re upset. The more you do this, the more you send two messages: (a) you create drama and (b) you aren’t mature enough to handle your issues responsibly, quickly, and effectively.
  4. Focus on individual friendships. Some people believe the best way to live is to be friends with everyone all the time. That may work for some, but it didn’t work for me or many residents I had in college. When you nurture and develop individual friendships, they tend to be longer lasting and more genuine. I’ve never been someone who could hang out with 5 people at once all the time. Sure, I had “friend groups,” but I always made a point to schedule one-on-one time with all my friends. Whether it was coffee dates, study sessions, shopping outings, etc., I wanted to get to know the person as an individual and not just as a component in a larger group. This way, you know what each person is offering and adding, and you can discern if someone fits well in the group, but isn’t someone you want to seek out one-on-one. This also clarifies who the trustworthy friends are!

Four easy steps to an as-much-as-possible drama free college experience. I think the biggest thing is remembering that people talk. You don’t want to build a reputation as someone who talks negatively about people or stirs drama. Additionally, if you realize someone isn’t a good fit for your life, you can slowly step away from them. This may be difficult, as sometimes they’re very present in your life, but I think minimizing interactions is a great start. That way, it’s not some huge dramatic blowup, but rather a mature departure from the relationship. Drama can come about in ways you weren’t expecting, but it’s always best to be the bigger person! Or, if that doesn’t work, you can do as one of my duty partners did in my RA days: ignore it away!

Truly,
Callie leigh

 

 

Handling Rejection with Grace: Jobs, Relationships, and Life

Handling Rejection with Grace.png

Hello, World.

It seems only fitting the banner image for this post is a street in New York, a city that can eat people up and spit them out. New York City isn’t for the weak, but it is somewhere many people go with a dream that may or may not come to fruition. At the end of the day, some people will inevitably fail while pursuing the dream they so desperately want. Inevitably, we all fail in some aspect of our lives. We won’t just fail once, either. We will fail multiple times in different aspects of lives. However, how one handles that failure says a lot about their character. On the same vein, some failure results from rejection. The rejection that rears its ugly head at the worst, most earth-shattering times is the most damaging, but rejection in any form, even the insignificant, can impact us.

When we want to succeed so badly it hurts, someone telling us, “no, now is not your time,” stings a bit extra. It’s like getting lemon juice in a papercut. So, how do we handle rejection with grace while also subtly saying, “that won’t deter me, but nice try!” to our nay-sayers? Well, I think the biggest thing we can do is not let people in our heads. Don’t let someone’s comments or “not good enough,” insinuations get to you. You can take constructive feedback, but if the comment is just flat out hurtful and beyond the nature of constructive, it’s perfectly fine to disregard. I was scrolling through Twitter the other morning, as so many law students who aren’t ready to face mergers and acquisitions reading do, and I noticed a thread from the author of The Nest, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney that immediately caught my attention and made my thumb lift from the lit-up screen. Her tweet said this:

“When I heard When I heard an agent say a ‘middle-aged woman in a writing class’ was not a client he wanted & I thought I’LL SHOW YOU #misfitsmanifesto”

When I read this, I wondered what had spurred it. There wasn’t anything in particular that preceded this in her feed that indicated it was a response to something. However, following this tweet, there was another:

“So don’t listen to dummies and don’t be discouraged. Just make your manuscript the best you can.”

I liked the sentiment of the tweets because the author is encouraging people to ignore those that say such rude, condescending things, and keep pushing forward. The agent who said this was rejecting D’Aprix Sweeney as an author, belittling her work in the process, but D’Aprix Sweeney, rather than curling up and crying, said, “hm. let me prove you wrong.” She may not have said it to the agent’s face, but she took action to become a successful author whose novel is the topic of book clubs and Goodreads threads around the world. This is, of course, just one example of someone handling rejection well. However, handling rejection isn’t easy…handling it well is even harder.

Rejection is just part of life, unfortunately. Whether we’re working hard in law school to get that big firm job, or on every dating app in search of something, or trying to maintain friendships we can feel are failing, we set ourselves up for someone to tell us “now is not your time,” over and over. However, success is kind of like lightning in a bottle. You’re not always sure what’s going to happen, how you’re going to get X, but once you hit it just right, it’s pure magic. So, we have to put ourselves on the rejection chopping block time and time again to see if this time we’ll hit it just right and find success. Handling rejection with grace isn’t some equation or perfect step-by-step process. If anything, handling rejection with grace is saying, “thank you for your time,” walking away and trying again tomorrow. While someone can say no to you, they can’t rob you of your gumption. So for every “no” uttered, remember you only need one yes to get somewhere.

I grew up in an environment where I was told, “the worst they can say is no,” every time I was hesitant to do something – talk to a romantic interest, apply for a leadership position, go after a job, apply to law schools I knew may not take me, etc. It created a less scary aura around everything I wanted to do – if they said no, bummer but I could move on. If they said yes, well, I got what I wanted! Being fearless but realistic is important in handling rejection. We cannot be so scared of rejection that the fear alone is the biggest roadblock in our lives. We have to keep going, putting ourselves out there, and remember that we will get what we want if we work toward it strategically. If you can’t get X immediately (I know, hard to believe in the instant-gratification world we live in), maybe try getting to X the long way around, by starting with Y, moving to Z, and attacking X tangentially.

I’m not going to tell you rejection gets easier or that you become immune. Rejection is discouraging as hell and by the fifth or so “thanks, but no thanks,” you can feel your ego bruising. However, if we stop putting our name out there and let the few rejections push us so far down they become the end game, we’re letting ourselves down.  So, how do we handle rejection with grace? We say, “I understand,” take the night to drink a glass of wine [or a scotch, neat], take a bubble bath, listen to some James Arthur before getting up in the morning, putting on our big-girl pants and showing the world it cannot shake us.

Truly,
Callie leigh

 

Revisiting Law School Admissions: What You Should Know, How to Approach Applications, and How to Decide Where to Attend

Revisiting Law School Admissions.png

Hello, World.

Now that we’re into October, I thought this would a good time to discuss law school admissions again. I’ve discussed the various aspects of law school admissions before, but I always think it’s a good idea to revisit topics, rather than just refer you back to my old tips. Given that I’m currently in my second year of law school, I also feel I have a different perspective on law school admissions. There are questions that I didn’t ask that I now wish I would have. There are factors I didn’t consider that I wish I did. You get the idea. So, today I wanted to share with you my thoughts on law school admissions now that I’m two cycles removed from the process.

When I was applying to law school, I was so sure that law school was the logical next step for me. I went through the process thinking I was on top of it, asking all the right questions and doing all the right things. However, hindsight is 20/20 and I know now there were things I would have done differently given what I know now.

In terms of what you should know about applications, I say this: I’m becoming more and more convinced admissions at any level is random. While schools say they have an objective method of choosing students, some admissions officers may see something in an application that others wouldn’t. I was watching some YouTube videos the other day when I was bored and had been in the black hole that is YouTube browsing far too long. The videos were current high school seniors or college freshman talking about their experiences with admissions. After the fourth video of someone being denied from top universities — Yale, Harvard, etc. and then getting into Stanford and Columbia, or being rejected from Harvard but admitted at Yale and waitlisted at Princeton– I decided admissions is random. There’s no “hard science” as to why students do or don’t get into a school. I also watched a video from a former Stanford admissions officer, and the process of how they look at applicants is intense. While this is all for undergrad, I will say I believe the methods carry over to graduate level admissions as well, but I do recognize that the applicants may be more diverse (people who took a gap year, people who have legal experience or have none, etc.). So, apply where you want to apply, but know that if you don’t get into a school, it is nothing personal. You will get into a great school and you will be happy.

To continue on to how to approach applications, I say this: you have been creating your application by making the choices you made in college and beyond. Your application consists of the following: general information, personal statement, LSAT score, letters of recommendation. The general information is easiest, obviously, because it’s simple data: name, address, sex, family information, etc.

The personal statement is trickier. I read book after book of “successful” personal statements. I wanted to get an idea of what makes an application stand out in this realm. However, the most important thing is that the statement is well-written. The admissions committee wants to know you can write concisely, coherently, and effectively. You should pick a topic that explains who you are as a person and why choosing law is logical and a clear choice for you. You don’t necessarily have to explain why the law is the right fit, but I do recommend folding it in somehow – even if it’s subtle. I also recommend bringing out character traits you possess that will 1) contribute something unique to the class and 2) make you a successful lawyer. Law schools want people who will make strong alumni, so they want to be confident you will succeed in law school.

In terms of LSAT scores, they’re important. Depending on where you’re applying, they may be more or less important. I say choose your reach school and aim for their median score. It’s always better to aim higher than lower. However, know that you can get into a school with a lower-than-their-average score. You can also not get into a school that you have a higher-than-their-average score. So, just know that you want to get a competitive score, but know that the score will not make or break your score. I recommend taking a prep course that is in-person. I also recommend studying more than you think you need to. Take as many practice exams as possible, and take them in exam-like conditions (timed, quiet room, etc.).

Finally, the letters of recommendation are important. Honestly, what people who have had the chance to teach your or work with you have to say is informative and important for admissions officers. I had three letters of recommendation for each application and I know that the people I chose wrote strong letters. It’s important to think about who you want to write your letters and what they will say. I, like most, recommend asking professors, supervisors, etc. At the end of the day, letters of recommendation may sway admissions officers one way or the other. Sure, you have great numbers and credentials, but maybe the letter is generic and could easily be about any student. However, there is a student with similar numbers and credentials as you, but who has personalized, amazing recommendations form important figures on her campus. That student, if I had to guess, is more likely to stand out in a pile of applications.

So, once your applications are in and you get your decisions back, it’s time to consider where you want to attend. I decided fairly early where I wanted to go. There was one school that may have changed my mind, but as luck would have it, I was waitlisted there. When deciding where to attend, I recommend choosing a school that has great, welcoming faculty. This, on the surface, may seem to be offered everywhere. However, attend admitted students days, go to presentations, do research to see how many lawyers teach courses in the areas of law in which you’re interested. You should also consider the courses available – is there a lot in your area? Another important note: look at clinics available and see if there is one that you want to do. I didn’t look very in-depth at clinics, and now I kind of wish I would have. You should also consider how many externship opportunities are available. Externships are a great way to get experience on your resume during the school year while earning class credit.

Another important consideration is the student body. You’re going to be spending three hyper-intense, stressful years with people and you want to be sure that you’ll enjoy the company of your peers. Talk to current students, talk to students who plan to attend with you, and talk to alumni from your undergrad who now attend the school. If you’re out of state, ask people who moved from your state to that school how they like it and if they’d recommend it.

I think there are four questions I would have asked that I didn’t in terms of career services.

  1. How many people did you place in x state at a firm job?
  2. How many people spent their summers in x state at a firm?
  3. Of the student who summered at firms their second summer, how many were outside the top 20%?
  4. What resources do you have on-campus for people conducting an out-of-state job search?

There is a surprising amount of confusion when it comes to searching for jobs. While jobs may seem super far away during the application stage, it’s something important to consider because the point of going to law school is to get the job you want when you’re done… and a large percentage of people get their post-grad offers at the end of their second summer. So, jobs are important and you want to make sure that you’re applying and getting into schools that have the resources to make getting your dream job early easier!

While there is a lot more I could say, I recommend doing thorough research and figuring out where to attend based on your gut. I know it sounds cheesy, but sometimes the right decision comes down to a feeling. You feel it’s right and you go with it. I should say: if you get to school and feel you made a mistake, transfer after your first year. You should weight whether transferring is right or not… but if you decide to transfer, do so after your first year. If you transfer any later your degree is from your original school and you get a certificate from the second institution! A few transferred from my law school, and I think sometimes there is a stigma that transferring is bad. However, I think it’s worse to stay somewhere that isn’t the right fit.

What is the worst part of applying to law school?

Truly,
Callie leigh