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.

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.

My Statement of Purpose

I said I’d let you all read my law school application’s statement of purpose once I’d sent it out and heard back from the schools. And that is true-mostly. As I write today, I have only heard from half of them, but I’ve got one no and one yes! No matter what, I’m off to law school in the fall. So I am here to provide you with my very own, one of a kind, successful SOP. I modified it for different schools by clarifying the programs and whatnot, but this is the one I got in on.

powerful-statement-of-purpose

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I’m an individual with opinions, aspirations and flaws, for which I offer no apology. Of the facets of my personality, fandom presents a unique outlet conducive to my lifestyle choices. What began as casual consumption of fictional realms and revolutionary ideas rapidly refocused into philosophical pondering over gender norms and fan theory. I am determined to spend my life as a crossover between Les Misérables, Supernatural and Daredevil.

Our country was set up with the ideals of justice and freedom at the core. I believe that to be true not just for the majorities, but for each of the minorities as well. I helped organize protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in Columbus, Ohio because I see the actions of that company to be against the values of equality. Sacred and treaty lands are not something that should be impacted just because of business. I also have been quite vocal about justice for rape and sexual assault victims, engaging with others through petitions to government and protests against unjust rulings. Just as Enjolras in Les Misérables, I do not intend to remain silent at the injustices I see, especially when I have the capacity to enact change. I refuse to be silenced, my passion will only be raised.

Building lasting connections with people is not only how the human species has remained a persistent force on our planet, it’s how we find meaning in our work. I have a network of support at The Ohio State University which I find invaluable, who have aided me in narrowing the scope of projects, degrees and law schools to pursue my muses. These connections are vital in my work as a social justice writer, both in my blog, where the focus is on sexual assault survivor advocacy, and on my work through The Mighty, where I contribute writings about mental health and suicide. I started writing about these issues both out of personal experience, but also because of my growing appreciation of Supernatural. The show in and of itself is an extensive metaphor for mental illness, sexual assault and many other harrowing issues under the guise of demons and monsters. I know how important it is to always keep fighting for the greater good, and helping other people along in that journey. Dean Winchester, a main character, was saved from death with the understanding that he had work to do. So too, do I feel strongly convicted about my purpose in life.

Of all of the Marvel superheroes, Daredevil was my favorite male character-well before I knew I wanted to go to law school. Matt Murdock engaged his clients with a dedicated compassion, and not only did he stay dedicated to the need for law and order, the same level of tenacity he showed in his studies before his accident, he continued to maintain after he was blinded. In a proposal I gave to The Ohio State University, I chose to take a stand for victims of sexual assault by educating students about risks, but also by providing gender inclusive actions post-trauma. Instead of furthering the victim-blaming rape culture, I provided a course of action which refocused the blame onto the attackers and sought help for the victims. I will carry this project and it’s ideals with me to law school, where I will continue to work with administrators and educators to ensure a safer future for all people-regardless of demographic.

I take pride in being a well-rounded, open minded millennial member of several minorities. I voted in an election where there were two female candidates for President of the United States of America-something that just a hundred years ago would have been inconceivable. I spend my spare time officiating and planning weddings, amongst which I count the marriage of my brother to my new sister-in-law. I market myself as completely inclusive in thought, offering my services not only to the traditional couples but to anyone who wants to engage in a union with someone they love. I use my title to promote equality and unity, because that is something I believe is going to be an asset in the future of the world. Building on my ministerial duties and privileges, I am attending conferences about how to enter politics-something I had not even considered until I educated myself on the policies I voted for in the general election.

I’m going to use my law degree to become a district attorney. In my research of sexual assault, the numbers are overwhelmingly clear that the two demographics which need attention most are LGBT individuals and Native American women. The path to ending rape culture, for me, means that I graduate from law school with experience in criminal prosecution and social inequality, practice as a prosecuting attorney while I build my rapport with the people in the community and then further my reach as district attorney. In order to do this, I simply have to be myself and continue building on the foundation I laid in undergrad.

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So, class of 2020-here I come! And when I cross that stage to pick up my diploma, you can bet I’ve already got plans. Happy weekend everyone!

Waiting on Superman

I really adore superhero(ine) movies. I enjoy the comics, I enjoy the messaging, I enjoy it as a fan who simply wants to be transported to a different place for a little while. I love that the hero(ine)s have dark pasts, tragic events and things that make them relatable. I also happen to enjoy Disney Villains (especially Maleficent and Ursula) and I do quite like Star Wars and Star Trek with equal measure. I belong to as many fandoms as I can (although none so much as Supernatural, Sherlock, iZombie, Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer). And do you know what? All of this has one simple thing in common.

Almost none of the protagonists believed they were “the chosen one”.

So, before we get into this, no-I’m not in the middle of a serious delusion. Seriously. Let me tell you the story.

When I was asked the first time what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said mortician. I was told that was improper for a lady (by the teacher). When asked again, I said doctor. No one ever asked past that-until I asked myself. And when doctor just didn’t fit, I toyed around with a LOT of other ideas. Nurse. Wedding Planner. Phlebotomist. Social Worker. And then I found anthropology. And I LOVED it! But I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. I was stuck in the “swamp” for a while-where you just want to do all of the types of anthropology. Then I leaned cultural. I wanted to study religions and the occult and spirituality. But could I get a job in that? So I shifted to religious intolerance and hate crimes and religious terrorism. Surely that would be a useful career! But I wasn’t quite set on it. It just didn’t “fit”. And so I kept looking for the thing. It was quite like finding an academic soul mate. And then I fell upon law and rape prosecution.

I’ve applied to law schools. I’m trying to make my life. And it’s hard and scary-and I haven’t even heard from my schools yet. But you know what I keep thinking?

Am I even cut out for this?

I read cases pretty regularly. I think the cookies in my browser history just knows I’m going to want to follow cases and it finds them for me. And I read them with integrity. I read them, I research them and then I cry. I ugly cry, scream into my pillow and mourn the loss of humanity. It breaks me so much. I fall asleep with puffy eyes and wake up exhausted. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve talked it over with my husband. And now, I shall trust you all with my secret.

I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I will lose my cases and have to look my clients in their eyes and tell them I did my best without being able to give them justice. I’m afraid I will cry in the courtroom because I am so emotionally attached to my cause that it’s all personal for me. I’m afraid that I will wake up one day, after crying myself to sleep and realize that I can’t face any more clients or judges or courtrooms because hearing one more “Not Guilty” will do me in. I’m afraid that I won’t be good at it. 

But get this.

Every now and again, when I wake up after a particularly brutal article, I feel it. I feel the revolution. I feel the change in my brain that says “Hey. You don’t have to be perfect. But if no one stands up, nothing will ever change. What if the person we’re all waiting to stand up is you?” And I look at the fictional characters that I relate to most. Sam and Dean Winchester. General Organa. Buffy Summers. I see them given an impossibly frustrating task-one that they don’t feel qualified to handle and they feel overwhelmed and hopeless. I look at the characters who struggle with themselves. Liv Moore. Anna Marie (Rogue). Selina Kyle (Catwoman). Castiel. I see them fighting their own identities, trying to figure out why their lives are the way they are. I look at stories that split the line between misunderstood and wrongly judged. Maleficent. Prue Halliwell. Captain Janeway. I see people who had terrible things happen that forced them to react.

I wrote my personal statement for law school over heroes. As soon as I hear one way or another, I’ll post my Personal Statement here, because I’m actually kinda proud of it. It’s something I need to keep looking over. In it, I referenced Les Miserables, Supernatural and Daredevil. I spoke of Enjolras standing up for what was right, Dean Winchester’s redemption and Matt Murdock’s humanity. The story lines that spoke to me most about being brave, even when you’re afraid.

The great thing about superhero(ine) stories is that they apply to you whether you’re dealing with a bully, you’re fighting your own inner demons, you’re focused on saving the world. Uncle Ben’s words are still as true today as they were the first time they were printed: “With great privilege comes great responsibility.”

So no. I don’t feel like I can do this. I feel overwhelmed and terrified. I feel hopeless and insignificant. And that’s exactly why I have to keep trying.