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.

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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?

Image result for passion free

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?

Law School Month 2.5 (3) In Review

I’m taking a moment from my homework to reflect on how far I’ve come in three months. That sounds absurd on the surface, I know, but if you consider that there are almost a thousand miles between who I was an who I am now, I think that’s a pretty reasonable thing to sit down and process. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, but why not procrastinate with a little self-reflection?

The Road So Far:

No matter how many blogs/articles/lists/prep worksheets I absorbed, not one told me that moving 15 hours away from my whole life would be lonely. I know-again, on the surface obvious. My husband, dog and I all made the journey and I thought once law school started, I’d make friends, enjoy life and blah, blah, blah. What I didn’t expect: times when I felt jealous that people could see their families on weekends and mine only existed in phone calls. Things I knew-but the gravity of was lost on me.

I hated change. The first week or so here, I hated it. I hated the way it smelled, the way my face puffed up because I’d never been exposed to the extreme quantities of prairie grass pollen, the way everything had seemed so cheery online but so dim and sad in person. I hated how unfamiliar everything was.

Then I started law school.

I loved how new everything was. I could be exactly who I wanted to be, no baggage, no debates, no one to call me out for embarrassing things I’d done in middle school. I was Misha-the coffee guzzling, pop culture referencing student who just wanted to fit in. I found a group of friends who were delightful and I immediately loved all the change.

I settled into the first month the way I think runners collapse into bed after a marathon. (I don’t know, of course, because I don’t run, but I like to think this exists.) I was exhausted, I felt that I had no time to do anything and I couldn’t manage to convince myself that I really could go to school and volunteer or work or anything else but sleep.

Month two was filled with secrets made open. This group of friends I’d only met a month before suddenly knew things about me that it had taken years for my “home” friends. We began to rely on each other for things outside of law school-clothes shopping, excursions to parks and for coffee, funny snaps to brighten days. We knew that there wasn’t so much competition between us: it was us against everyone else.

And now, month three is coming to a close.

I’ve gotten through my first round of exams (and man-what an eye opener!), managed to hand in a legal memo, survived a couple law induced break downs (and helped friends do the same), helped a friend move, and met a ridiculously cool mentor (who makes me feel like I don’t have to change everything about myself in order to succeed). But what’s more-I’ve learned how to debate, draft concise documents, read a bajillion pages in a few hours, set aside time for myself and how to swing a couple splurge moments that helped save the day. I know it’s wildly early to say “I got this.” but it’s a lot better than it started out as. I have a rhythm, I’m making it work.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure how I feel about Kansas. But I do know that I’ve had my eyes opened more often than I thought possible and I don’t hate change anymore. If you recall, my goal for this adventure was to be comfortable being uncomfortable, and I think I’m finally getting the hang of it.

And for three and a half months, that’s pretty good.

Live From Law School

Hi there everyone!

I wanted to give you all a little blurb about my first month of law school. I’m starting week four with a bang-or rather, with a really horrendous cold! Because of the attendance policies of law school, I was able to miss one class this morning, but showed up for my afternoon class. Honestly, I’m not sure it was helpful to me, but my name was on the attendance roster, and that’s a start. Now, I’ve been very good about medicating-I’ve got some serious DayQuil/Advil action going on, and I’ve been hydrating and other self-care recommendations. But I didn’t come here to talk about my cold!

What they tell you: Law school is hard-in a different way than undergrad. It’s supposed to stretch you as a human being and make you think like a lawyer. It will prove useful in all facets of your life, not just the ones that you would think. It will make you more annoying to be around, because you’ll analyze everything. It will force you to work on yourself in and out of the classroom.

What they don’t tell you: You will think about quitting every day for what feels like forever. You will feel completely worthless. You will hate the amount of homework you have. You will debate changing your life, settling for a career that is “kinda” what you want.

And then you’ll get out of the first two weeks and realize that this is something you can handle-it was all just an adjustment period, testing the unfathomably steep learning curve. And you’ll grow accustomed to the labor intensive study patterns, the crappy food plans and the weird cravings for comfort food in the middle of the night. You’ll discover a coping pattern for mornings-which usually require copious amounts of caffeine. You might even discover that you like mornings (I think that day is still a long way off for me, but we’ll get there).

Law school is this weird place where you bring a hundred people and on the first day you’re all strangers, but by the second week you have a core of friends who know everything about each other. You spend all day every day with those same people and suddenly you have friends that you respect, trust and celebrate with-even though you have no idea who they were before.

I came to law school thinking I was a good student. I have decent grades from both high school and undergrad. I thought I knew who I was, what I stood for and believed and that this would just be a quick two or three years of teaching me the requisite knowledge to become a legal professional. Read: this was a means to an end. And if I made friends, that would be great. If I managed to find people that I could enjoy coffee with-who also shared my passion, great. But if none of those things occurred, I would not be upset. 

My first month here has been, well, eye opening. I’m a good student-but I was not a good law student before. Now, I understand the change I needed to make. I’ve found that in the last few weeks, I’ve discovered more about myself than I have since my freshman year of high school. I have a new perspective and it shifts slightly every day, as I learn more. And friends? I have a group of them-5 people in fact, who I believe are the foundation for the best years of education of my life.

Life isn’t all about the expectation. You can plan and plan and in the end, it may not be the way you thought it would. And that was the biggest lesson of all. That no matter how much I thought I knew, how much I planned, some things are just gonna happen-without your permission. Your job isn’t to fight it, but to adapt.

Lawyered.

I’m Only Human

 

I did a LOT of research when I first decided I wanted to go to law school. Like, obsessive amounts of it. And I think I needed to. I planned for every option I was interested in, found places that would accommodate my husband’s academic interests and then found schools where I would thrive, but also where I would be challenged. I went big-picking places I’d always wanted to go, places I never thought to look at, places I wasn’t sure I’d love but thought I’d try anyway.

I applied to a college in Kansas, Ohio and two in Washington (state). Ohio was my “not sure I’d love” school; Kansas, my “never thought to look at”; and the two in Washington, my “I’d love to go”. It was a journey getting accepted, to be sure. So when I found myself in a pressure zone, I applied one more time. This time, to a place I never even bothered to look at, because it was lower on the rankings, it wasn’t somewhere I’d ever heard of and I thought I’d hate it. Wouldn’t you know it, they were the place I accepted an offer from?

So I took a chance. They took one on me, I might as well return the favor. And so a new wave of research took me over. What were they like? Did they cater to their students? Would I fit in? Drawbacks? And I began making calls to apartments.

No one said anything bad.

And that’s not to say that I expected them to, but I’ve been looking into American Gothic stories and seriously-it began to sound like a cult. “The school is so wonderful.” “I have a relative who went there.” “We just love the school.” “The school has done so much for us.” And the list goes on like that. That’s the thing. I wasn’t expecting “Oh it’s terrible. You’ve made a mistake.” But EVERYONE had something nice to say. And they said it. You’d think *someone* would have just said nothing, but no. And a little flag popped up in my head. Maybe I was jumping into something WAY over my head.

So I did more research.

And either I drank the Koolaid, have fallen under the curse or something mundane, I have actually come to love the idea of moving there.

They have a chocolate festival, a library that’s decorated as giant classic books, a lantern festival (like floating lanterns-like in Tangled) and it’s in the capital, but it’s a fraction as populated as the one here. Plus, they have trees-a luxury I am currently not afforded.

Each time I get nervous about it (and it happens quite a bit), I sing “Defying Gravity” to myself. And it’s kinda fitting, but more so, I need that reminder that the only thing holding me back is me. It’s my choice to “close my eyes and leap”.

Now, when I announced I was going there, a good many people came to me and told me I was making a mistake. And while that could be true, the reasons were pretty limited to “it’s so far away” and “their political action right now is very damning”. And I have had some time to come up with responses.

First-I know it’s far away. That’s what I wanted. I want to see the world. I’ve lived in the same state my whole life, never seeing much of anywhere else. That doesn’t set me up to help people, does it? And my parents were both from Ohio, met in Colorado and then came back. My husband’s dad was from Ohio, met hubby’s mom in Arizona and came back. Wandering is in my blood-and there’s no way I’m letting other people run my life. I’m too old for that and I don’t have enough time for it anymore.

Second-there is a kids movie called Robots  (with Ewan McGregor and Robin Williams, may he rest in peace) in which a single line pops up repeatedly: “See a need, fill a need.” I knew from a very young age that I was meant to change the world. That sounds crazy, but it’s something I have never truly doubted. I thought I was meant to do that through medicine, but it was justice. And although I’ve had several talks with myself about my capabilities, I know that I can do this. So yes. Each state has their problems right now. Does that mean I should move in with my parents and hide away from the world until someone fixes it? ABSOLUTELY NOT. If I see something needs fixed and I have the ability to do so then it quits becoming a concern and starts becoming a duty. So while I know I’m moving to a pretty conservative red state, maybe I’m meant to change the world starting with them. And if this is but a stepping stone, I’ll have gained some lessons at the very least.

I saw a post in a Facebook group about the Bill Cosby case being a lesson in rape culture. The response was “if I had been on the jury….” and while I appreciate the sentiment, being on a jury isn’t the only way to make change. Being a lawyer isn’t the only way to make change.

It’s our duty as citizens of the world to be passionate. To be passionately involved, to be passionately informed.

Change is hard. Life is hard. But if we all pitch in, at least we’re all together.

As a White Woman, I’m tired.

I know-I’ve set myself up. But hear me out.

I’m tired of watching my friends with higher melanin counts be discriminated against. I’m tired of hearing stories of Muslim women getting their hijabs pulled. I’m tired of seeing violence against minorities. I’m tired of police instigated violence against those minorities. And I hear you, getting up in arms-I’m tired of police getting a bad rap for the crimes of the few bad apples too.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? I’m tired of a few bad people ruining life for everyone else. I’m tired of ableist, sexist, racist, classist culture that tells people I love that their love isn’t good enough to count as the real thing. I’m tired of the people who decided that unless a person fits a certain mold, they aren’t worth anything.

I’m tired of people coming into fast food establishments on Sundays and looking down at the people working for being there on “God’s day”. Because if you didn’t come in, we wouldn’t have to be there either. And while we’re on the subject, I’m tired of being looked down on because it’s not a cross around my neck, it’s the symbol of my belief system.

I’m tired of people whitewashing. I’m tired of watching the political ideologies systematically remove the concerns of myself and the people who need to be heard so that those with the most money can continue to sweep us under the rug. I’m tired of our news outlets labeling every murderer and deviant as “mentally ill”-unless of course we’re talking about rape and the perp is a collegiate, white athlete.

I’m tired of listening to people apologize for their broken English because they’ve been trying, but it’s hard. I know it is. You’re trying-no need to apologize. And while we’re on the subject, I’m tired of seeing the fear in people’s eyes when they’re out and about. I know I’m not imposing that fear on them, but I belong to this culture and can’t help but feel it’s my fault in some way.

I’m tired of being caged in a rape schedule. I’m tired of living in a country where more than half of the people didn’t want DJT to be president, but because of a 200-years-outdated system, and laws which require fealty over logic, here we are. I’m tired of speaking with my international friends and hearing them talk about “Americans” with hesitation and an almost disgust-and completely understanding why. I’m tired of feeling like I belong to a country that hates diversity-because that’s the most awful thing a country could do. Apart from create refugees and then not take care of them.

I’m tired of being poor. And now, I know that comes with degrees-and I’ve heard the “it could be worse” speech-and that’s true. But I know what it’s like to go through a food pantry line and receive moldy, outdated food and have to make it work because that’s all you got. I know what it’s like to live on pizza rolls and peanut butter and jelly (all off brand of course) because that’s filling, but not really nutritious. I’m tired of being poor enough that it hurts, but not poor enough to qualify for help.

I’m tired of seeing people on the news who served the country and are now homeless. I’m tired of seeing families on the street because life was hard on them in one way or another. I’m tired of abusive spouses or partners taking their anger out of others. I’m tired of the justice system that is “innocent until proven guilty” unless you’re talking about rape or domestic violence, because then it’s guilty until, well, always guilty in some way.

I’m tired of people being removed from their homes because they weren’t born here. I’m tired of seeing families broken apart by immigration officials, because their kids were born here but they came in hopes of a better life and now they’re getting that life ripped away from them. I’m tired of hearing the word “illegal aliens”-because it’s impossible to be an illegal human being. All humans are equal-because we’re all humans. And it’s beyond time for our social structures to catch up.

I’m tired of people getting denied healthcare because their bodies came a little frayed at the edges when they entered this life. I’m tired of people rising from the ashes who forget what it’s like to be at the mercy of the system.

I’m tired of abuse of our people. I’m tired of waiting for the corrupt government to tell me that instead of waging war on women’s rights to choice, they’re waging war on poverty, on neglecting human rights. That they’re going to provide healthcare to the people in Flint-because they’re owning up to what happened. I’m tired of wondering if those poor kids understand that the government fought for them to gestate nine months, but because they’ve been born, no one cares if they survive. I’m tired of staying up all night wondering if the heroin epidemic that took people I went to school with could just end if our education system didn’t cause so many mental health problems.

I’m tired of watching the injustices done against the First Nations. Since the first white people came to America, all we’ve done is pillage and murder and worse. And for what? Manifest Destiny? Since when does the white people’s god desire human blood to be spilled in order to gain redemption? And why are we still taking? Why is there so much greed for something that we’ve already taken by force? I’m tired of watching the government I have to pay taxes to use my money to wage war on the health and well being and sacred lands of the people who were here long before the ones who look like me.

I’m tired of being lumped in with the people of past generations who believe that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps-because so many of us don’t even have boots. I’m tired of people looking at my generation, the most diverse one yet and lumping us all together as lazy, ungrateful, entitled. Because maybe all we’re entitled to are the liberties denied us by those who want to use our own identities against us.

I’m tired of being made to feel ashamed because my sexuality doesn’t exist. I’m tired of being ashamed because my mental abilities aren’t neurotypical. I’m tired of being made to feel less than because my weight is “more than”. I’m tired that it’s 20-effing-17 and we still don’t have equality-even though it’s been fought for for much longer than I’ve been alive.

I’m tired that there are people who think human rights are negotiable. I’m tired that people are abducted from my neighborhood and sold into modern day slavery, with the promise of money to fix their poverty. I’m tired of explaining over and over again that feminism is equality-and it had better be intersectional or it’s not even feminism, it’s just a lie. I’m tired of fearing for my friends who are transgender, because the patriarchy is so ready to have them removed.

I’m tired.

I grew up with stories of having dreams, of independence, of resistance. My fourth grade teacher threw out the lesson plans and we spent all year learning about African American individuals who would largely go unnamed in history. My seventh grade teacher spent the year teaching us about the Holocaust and how when books were burned, it was work on progressive sexuality first. I grew up with a fondness for people like Thurgood Marshall, Sojourner Truth, Phillis Wheatley, Noor Inayat Khan, Cleopatra, W. E. B. DuBois, Amra binte Abdurrahman and Sayyida Nafisah. I was taught the stories of First Nations people-the story of the Great Turtle, Coyote and Iktomi, and the to-be-feared power of a woman during her cycle.

So yes. My skin is a pale tan. But my heart breaks for the suffering of people who bleed the same color as I do. And it is for these reasons that I have accepted my admissions offer to the 2017 Fall cycle of law school where I will focus on a combination of criminal law/trial advocacy and tribal law. I cannot speak for anyone other than myself, but I can stop this cycle of being the white woman tired and start being the white woman trying.

SAAM 2017: Engaging New Voices

The theme for Sexual Assault Awareness Month is Engaging New Voices. According to the NSVRC (National Sexual Violence Resource Center), the targets for involvement are: Greek life members, Coaches, Fathers and Faith Leaders. It’s one of those occasions where I get to don my faith leader hat and use it to further an important cause.

I’m Pagan. Those words are already a turn off to a lot of people, and I know that. All it means is that I find the divine in nature. I think that’s pretty amicable grounds-Chrsitians often cite nature as a way to prove their beliefs. Islam’s holy book is filled with depictions of nature. It’s universal because it surrounds us. But I’m bringing this up for a different reason.

A LOT of mythologies contain depictions of assault. Native stories about Coyote have them, Celtic stories, Norse stories, Greek and Roman traditions, even Slavic ones. And there are mentions of it in Judeo-Christian texts as well. It would seem, from the beginning of the written word (at least), sexual assault has occured. I think though, the most well-known story about it is Medusa. This story is one that I hold dear-but for a little different reasons. I’ve told other people, but I think it’s a really good lesson for others as well, plus it fits with the current climate.


(Cellini, 1554)

The version that is spread around in academic settings, and even in pop culture is the following.

Enter Medusa, an incredibly beautiful woman who devoted herself to her beliefs. She worshipped the goddess Athena, who was a virginal goddess-meaning her followers would also be virgins. Poseidon, god of the sea, seeing that Medusa was beautiful, came to visit her and try to woo her. Medusa was devout and refused his advances, returning inside the temple to pray. Poseidon followed after her and raped her. Athena, then angry, cursed Medusa to live as a Gorgon-a winged snake woman with snakes for hair and eyes that turned men to stone. Medusa is then killed by Perseus and her head was removed and used later. Perseus is hailed a hero, having vanquished a foe, with the help of other gods.

But that’s not the version I know. Here’s the version I learned.

Medusa, an incredibly beautiful and intelligent woman, lived her life devoted to her faith. She worshipped the goddess Athena, known for her wisdom and strategy, as well as being a virginal goddess. Her followers, then, chose to remain chaste as well. Poseidon, god of the sea and enemy of Athena, saw that Medusa was beautiful and came to visit her, to try to woo her and make her one of his followers instead. Medusa refused his advances, returning to the temple to pray in safety. Poseidon, angry at her rejection, followed her and raped her, then left. Athena returned to her temple to find Medusa, no longer a virgin, crying. Athena told Medusa that she could no longer be a servant in the temple, but that Athena would like to help her. When asked what she needed, Medusa told Athena that she needed a way to protect herself from all who would harm her. Athena then turned Medusa into a Gorgon, giving her the power to stop anyone who came to harm her in her tracks.

The first version is told from a male perspective. Perseus conquers the monster and sets everything back in balance. The thing I couldn’t ever get past was Athena punishing Medusa for being raped. That wasn’t her fault. Rape is NEVER the victim’s fault. And for the longest time, I felt like mythology had made a giant mistake. Until I came across the version I know. Instead of punishing someone who was already punished, the victim became a survivor. And that’s why I share that story.

Sexual Assault and Rape and Domestic Violence is not the victim’s fault. It doesn’t matter the circumstances, the clothing, the drinks, the location.  That’s why SAAM is important. 

Rape culture isn’t a new concept. It’s not a myth.