Tale of the Cursed Hot Pants

So this story is purely for fun, but it’s true and it happens to me a pretty substantial amount, so I’m convinced what I’m saying is fact.

My parents live on a farm in the middle of nowhere, and everywhere around them is a bunch of farms. Population: some people, many livestock. So it’s not uncommon for farm clothes-including clothes which you would not wear out in a large public venue. Enter hot pants. They’re grassy green athletic shorts, so not quite hot pants. But let’s break this down. I’m a large person, wearing what can only be deemed to be booty shorts. They’re not super revealing, but I definitely wouldn’t wear them in public. And they are cursed.

Anyway, my dad always treated everyone with respect, and still does. I definitely am glad I had that as a foundation in my life. And that extended to solicitors at our house.

This is where the story gets interesting. So I had been working out at my parent’s house and was sweaty and gross. I was walking around the front of the house to go in and get some water when who should appear but the two Jehovah’s Witnesses that frequented our house.

Now, of course, I can’t just outrun them and pretend I didn’t see them. So I go inside, grab a towel and by that time, they’re at the door. So I open it and step outside. And they proceed to stand SUPER close and have an extended chat. Great. I try not to be rude, but a teenager in short shorts next to a married couple in Sunday clothes isn’t really what I had in mind. Plus, I stunk. So they show me videos and I wish them well, and then I lock the door and take a shower.

Speed up to this past week. The note on my door said the pest control guy was supposed to show that day, but it was going on 4 and I assumed he’d already come and gone. I’m unwinding from classes when all of a sudden, there’s a knock at my door. I think “Oh, the pest guy was running late.” And holler out “Just a minute!”. I take the dog and put him in the room, and throw on a hoodie. I swing the door open, and who should it be, but the Kansas Jehovah’s Witnesses. And take a guess about what the state of my legs was. That’s right. The same cursed shorts that I’d kept. Great.

And of course, I stepped outside and we all chatted like it wasn’t anything. Except for these two women in floor length skirts and me, in my green athletic shorts. Thankfully, they were much quicker about their message than the ones my dad befriended, but boy was I glad when they left.

So long story short, I need to salt and burn my shorts. Because I’m gonna develop a reputation.

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I became an egg.

Ben and I got into a discussion earlier in the semester about how we’ve both changed. And a great chunk of it is for the better. But because we’re both in school, and surrounded by people that aren’t us, we’re picking up the mannerisms and behaviors of those other people. Me more than him. (I’m a people sponge.) And as we were talking, the story of the boiling water popped into mind.

The Campbell’s soup (condensed) edition of this story is that a child had an anger outburst and the parent, boiling water on a stove, asked them to retrieve an egg, a carrot and coffee. Pouring three cups of boiling water, each of the items was placed in a separate cup for a few minutes. When asked what the foods had to do with the anger, the parent replied that the egg, which had started off soft and fragile, when placed in hot water, became hard and rigid. The carrot, while firm and strong at first, became pliable and easily enough cut down. But the coffee, the coffee changed the water itself.

This is, of course, the metaphor for dealing with hard times. You either become tough and hardened, soft and depleted or you change the situation altogether.

Unfortunately, law school was my hot water and I became an egg.

Last semester was all about me surviving the frying pan without jumping into the fire. I threw up walls, didn’t let others in and became an all-around really oppressive force. I was so convinced that I needed to constantly prove my worth that I began to be, well, a bully. And I felt the change. I felt the words tumble out of my mouth the way bile does. I didn’t seem to be able to stop myself. I had wanted so badly to prove that I could handle everything that I was actually proving exactly the opposite.

Thus the talk.

Image result for free stock images coffee

(Image from FreeImages.com)

Now, I don’t know if it’s possible to become coffee from an egg. But I’ve noticed the shift-just slightly-and I like it much more. I hold what I’ve deemed “Lunch Therapy” where other students come and we all sit and talk about what’s bothering us while we eat lunch. I ask people about their day, their life, I take an interest. Not because I’m trying to change the climate of the school, but because that’s who I am. Not the person who picks up on insecurities and jokes about them, but the person who cares too much. A couple people have really gotten into the idea, and I’m hoping that it will catch on, because it helps everyone focus on that self-care.

And I don’t know why I thought that was a bad thing. Empathy was my style since high school-when I used to stay up all night and talk people down from suicide. People would call and text me and I’d sneak around my house to find a private place and listen. I’ve always created a safe space for people to help themselves heal. Why was I so unwilling to carry that trend?

Because I had wounds that needed healing too.

And that, friends, is the thing about self-care. If you don’t keep up on it, if you put it to a back-burner for a while, you’ll be notified really plainly that you’re in trouble. And it’s so much more than drinking water and getting sleep and social activities. It’s the small, annoying things that make a huge difference. And for me, it was a void of validity. I needed something to make me feel worthy/respected/accepted/etc. And I thought that what I was doing was it, but I was wrong.

When I gave up facades for lent (for a religion I don’t practice, no less), this was the journey I agreed to. Restructuring my life so that instead of a rotten egg, I’d get back to being the earthy, grounded, free-spirit, passionate, hurricane of a me.

Things Change, and So Will You.

Speak your truths, even if your voice shakes. -Maggie Kuhn

If you ever find yourself a stranger to your own heart, I hope you find your way back and remember that things change, and you will also. -Zaim Ricochet

I’ve been bouncing between these quotes lately, and I think that there’s no better a time to do a mental purge than when your path is opening and closing doors simultaneously. It starts with a card.

I felt this great change coming, but I also felt kinda stuck, and knowing that I was going to psych myself out over what it was that I was missing, I pulled a card. And of course I pulled the Devil-which is actually way more helpful than I was expecting. I was standing in my own way. I was blocking my own opportunities. A classic Micha move. So I began opening up. Saying yes. Giving myself opportunities to explore. And I was allowed to see just how I was stopping myself from living.

I told myself that I was going to take this semester and live, not just get by. I would go out and see Topeka, make it my home. I would go use the gym, something that gave me great anxiety. I would do my best to be a human. And so in this first month, I went to a chocolate walk with friends, I worked out on machines I still don’t know the name of, I donated power red (instead of whole blood) and I am in the final stages of being vegetarian (next up-vegan!). I am giving myself room to grow. And that’s when doors started opening.

I heard back from my program: I’m now a JD/MSW candidate, and I start my MSW prep this weekend. I’m making exceptional strides at the gym (and even ran for the first time yesterday). I’m reinvesting in my spiritual health and even, finally, have moved beyond soda. At long last, I am treating my life the way it should have been treated all along.

Which brings us back to the quotes.

I let Kansas get to me. I allowed Kansas to claim my passion and my strength and I succumbed to the “blend in” mentality. And I digested it so much that I began to forget my truths. The very things that made me who I am. And I recognized that as my Devil. I should never have compromised.

I think that’s the real lesson of year one of law school. How much of you do you retain? How much of it are you willing to reclaim?

I’d finally gotten to the point where I was done with being pushed to the side because I wasn’t fitting in to the “standard” or “socially constructed as acceptable” point of view. I was done with being told that my ideas were stupid and impossible. I was done with being marginalized because I was the only representative of my truths at the table. And that is when I started closing doors.

Closing the door to being brushed aside. Closing the door on inequality. Closing the door on permitting close mindedness.

I didn’t come to law school to be a mouse. I came to save the world.

And I’ll be damned if that doesn’t start by saving myself.

Cranberry Juice

It’s been a while since my last post, in short because of my health. While usually that means the mental flavor, this time it was physical health. But because it ties in really nicely with a conversation I had recently, I thought I’d pop down some thoughts. This ties into a lot of what I’m about: education, mental health, self-care, and well, let’s just get to the point.

I tell this story more frequently these days, but perhaps it just feels that way because everyone who knew it is several states away. I was a freshman in high school. I was still in the process of being diagnosed (mental health) and the professional assisting me asked:

“What do you do when you think about suicide and self-harm?”

To which I replied,

“I go drink a Dr. Pepper.”

And the advice I received was:

“Then every time you feel depressed, why don’t you go get one and drink it? That will take your mind off of those thoughts long enough to change your mind.”

And that’s where my story begins. What I’m sure was supposed to be a distraction from the thoughts which pervade the angsty teenage years, quickly became a self-medicating venture. Each time I felt sad, down a can would go. That quickly became bottles, which soon became liters. If Dr. Pepper were alcoholic, I would have died of liver failure. But we’re not to that point yet.

Because I drank so much of that delicious goodness (and it’s still my very favorite drink today), I developed a tolerance for caffeine. I was growing more and more tired as the days wore on and soon discovered the mystifying effects of energy drinks. By the time I was a senior in high school, I’d become a connoisseur. I absolutely adored Venom Black Mamba’s, but even those didn’t have enough caffeine. I started undergrad in the fall of 2011 and that was about the time that I’d finally graduated to the Monster BFC’s.

Now, for those who never got into energy drinks, or just simply don’t know, the BFC (Big Fucking Can) contained 32oz or 4 full cans of Monster in one. And I would drink it in one go. This is about the time that organ failure came into play. I didn’t make it through my first semester of undergrad because my kidneys began to fail. I spent a great many days in the hospital because I couldn’t process water. Water. And I learned that I would need to do a great deal of care to rebuild what I had damaged.

My symptoms were fairly simple and were immediately confused with stress induced fainting spells mixed with a cold. But the fever, the fainting and the dehydration were incredibly strong indicators that I wasn’t just stressed. Even so, it took a long time before someone took me seriously. What had begun as a UTI became a bladder infection, became a kidney infection, became almost death. All from the things that were supposed to stop me from thinking about dying. Huh.

I’m not saying that I blame the healthcare professional who told me to drink a Dr. Pepper each time I was in a bad place mentally. What I’m saying is that for a teenager who wasn’t in a good place, vague instructions like that nearly killed me.

So zip to more recently. During my finals, I met the wrong end of a cross-contaminated batch of food and ended up taking a law school final with a fever so high, I was delirious. I drank water and gatorade until I felt like I was going to burst. But not once did I think about how what was going on would affect my kidneys.

This would end up being my mistake. And I’ve spent the past week and a half chugging water and cranberry juice, mixing essential oils and all kinds of medicines. And I remembered what it was like to be that teenager away at college and not understanding what was happening to them. This time, I knew the signs and knew how to fix it. I’m feeling better (finally) and I’m looking forward to the new semester.

You hear a lot about eating disorders being food. And obviously that makes sense. But I wonder how many other people out there are medicating not with chewables, but with soda and energy drinks and the things that simply don’t require a legal age-but are absolutely just as destructive as the things that do. Perhaps we need studies on this.

So folks, I’m not going to say not to drink these things. I’m going to say treat your energy drinks like alcohol: one can + one bottle of water. Your kidneys will thank you!

All At Once (The Semester was Over)

I made it.

It’s hard to believe that 116 days ago, I was anxious about not having friends, being in a new state and trying to take on an entirely new career trajectory. I asked myself how I could possibly have thought so many changes was a good idea and before I knew it, it was time to set my morning alarms to get up for my very first day of law school.

Sure, it was orientation-so not entirely my first day, but you have to start somewhere and for me, that somewhere began at the North wing of Washburn Law. I was greeted by smiles and for the first time in the three weeks since I moved here, I thought “huh, maybe I didn’t make such a big mistake after all”.

I told myself that I was going to make at least one friend that day. Turns out, I was being strongly pessimistic. I made three friends that day, and four more before the week was out. I began to release some of that doubt that had done its best to burrow inside my head and tell me I wasn’t good enough. We were asked to give an introduction and people were speaking of their legal experience, where they were from and how excited they were to be there. Seriously. Everyone mentioned being excited. I knew I was only going to get one shot at being authentic so my introduction was a little different.

Hi, my name is Michelle B-B, and as if that weren’t pretentious enough, I also went to THE Ohio State University where my focus was rape culture and mental health. I got here because in a caffeine binge watching Supernatural session, I decided I would Legally Blonde it and apply to law school. And speaking of caffeine, if I don’t have a coffee cup in my hand, it’s probably best that you start running-there’s probably an emergency.

This garnered a few laughs and I figured, well, at least I’ll be memorable.

When classes actually began, so did the panic. Why was I so bad at reading? Why were 10 pages of cases taking me an hour to digest? Was I going to finish the work? Had I made a mistake?

It took a month before I found a rhythm and then BAM-midterms. I held my head high, even though my eyelids drooped. And just when I had readjusted to the learning curve, grades were released. Another stepping stone in the path of doubt. You see, I’d never experienced bell curve grades, where a 36% could be an A and a 99% could be a C. The math made no sense and I had no way of knowing it would be that stressful.

The last week of classes came and went and finals stared me down. Suddenly reading cases didn’t seem so bad. Surely we weren’t done yet! And that’s true. Because in many ways, school was only beginning. I relied on that group of friends and began quizzing each other. Sometimes this would go on for 14+ hours (and I wish that were an exaggeration). This was my week last week. The first final down and I felt invincible.

My birthday was last weekend and that’s when everything went a little off kilter. I spent most of the weekend praying I would stop being sick long enough to study. It was my unlucky fortune to suffer from cross contamination and a bad case of shellfish intolerance. I walked into my second final with a fever high enough to make me delirious, made it half an hour without walking out to throw up and then finished it as best I could. The seeds of doubt were replanted. I finished my last final this afternoon, and thankfully have recovered from my little excursion with death (I probably wouldn’t have died, but I remain unconvinced.)

And that, dear friends, brings us back. 116 days ago, I was an undergrad with questions. Today, I’m a law student with answers. I’m exhausted, I’m proud of myself, and I’m completely convinced that I deserve this break. I’d be a liar if I said I did it alone. I met some fantastic 2 and 3 (and 3.5) L students, other 1L’s, some J sectioners and learned a bit about myself all the while.

My next semester starts in 31 days. And you’ll see me walking confidently in those same North doors, coffee still, very much, in hand.

Save The World

I think that for a great many people, there comes a point when your dreams are forgotten. And I’m not talking about asleep dreams. I’m talking about passion. About what wakes you up to push hard enough to fall asleep in exhaustion.

I think it looks far too specific when we’re young. What do you want to do when you grow up? requires a specific title. Doctor. Lawyer. President. Ballerina. Veterinarian. But what is lacking from that question is the follow up: Why? I think it’s there that people (myself included) run into trouble.

If you’d told me, at the ripe old age of 5 (or 10 or 15 or even 22) that I was going to be a lawyer (student) at 24-what would my first question have been?

Why?

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When I was younger, I would answer that first question with mortician. Not because I particularly liked the idea of working with dead people, but because I’d seen a couple close up at funerals and they looked terrifying. I wanted to make them look like they were sleeping, to catch the bad guys, or something like that. I wanted to help people. I was told that that wasn’t a proper job for a lady (which is absolutely wrong), and looked further. Doctor? Pediatrician? And then much (much) later: Lawyer?

It was hard for me to give up the idea of working in medicine. By the time I was old enough to decide what field to go into, I hated the idea of going into it. I was still trying to fit my heart and soul into that lab coat I’d been metaphorically carrying around for more than a decade. Why was it so hard to let go?

Because no one told me that there are a thousand ways to save a person.

I wanted to change the world, save lives, help people. No one ever really explained to me that saving people is possible in nearly every job-you just have to see the possibility. I learned that saving the body may not save the heart and soul, may not heal the pain and ease the burden of the baggage they carry. I learned that while I wanted to fix bodies, there was much more to a person than just their skin.

So in the wake of all the bad news that’s burst through televisions, over radios and across paper these last few weeks, I have to ask.

How are you saving people? Are you living your passion?

One Eye Open

If the America of my youth could be said to be the “melting pot”, my adolsecence found Columbus to be the snow globe version of the whole. I was surrounded by differing opinions, religions, ideas and lifestyles-and found merits in almost all of them. Some of my favorite moments were when I could engage a stranger in a conversation that brought my faith in humanity up. I remember working at Subway one day and being able to understand the Latina woman before her son translated and then wished her well in her own language. She started laughing and the son and I spoke of how wild it is that I would take the time to treat his mother as an equal (well, formal equal). I remember interacting with a Muslim woman who became overjoyed that I would understand her not eating pork, and that I knew it was her holiday. If Columbus was my own personal melting pot, I became delighted to explore the rest.

I’ve had a lot of eye opening experiences-and not all of them for the better. When I was assaulted, I saw the depravity of human nature. I saw the victim-blaming and felt the humiliation that came from not being able to cope. When I moved to Kansas, I was confronted with the fact that people didn’t accept my belief system, and that the names of the LGBT club members were not released because of fear of violence and possibly death against them. I was a blue dot living in an overwhelmingly red state. I came to understand why it was such an issue to blend in when you were born to stick out. I was rebuffed for my naïveté-that I should not have been surprised that the things that made me (and millions of other people) different, were suddenly the things that made it dangerous.

And then I understood.

You see, I had always been on the other side. I was the ally that showed others that not all (insert category here) people were bad. I was the person who worked hard to be the best ally I could be-without ever really understanding the gravity of what I was allying for. And now, being on the flip side-they’re even more important. I’ve met friends who accept me for who I am, and that’s wildly important. Because how many times have we all needed someone to make the darkness stay away? 

But I now understand why speaking Spanish to a woman in a predominantly white neighborhood was a novel thing. I now understand why being kind and considerate to a Muslim woman was considered something out of the norm. It isn’t because they expect every single person to be vehemently against who they are- it’s that too many people are against who they are. They, much the same as I, were looking for a beacon, a person to tell them that it is okay to keep being absolutely just yourself. That there is a place for all the differences, no matter how alone you might feel.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” -Dr. Seuss