All consuming

I just semi-turned down* an invitation for a social thing this weekend, even though it's with a bunch of people that I like a lot, doing exactly the kind of low-key social hanging-out that I like the best (that is, NOT centered around drinking, bars, or late nights).


I mean, seriously, it's not even that I want to go but don't think I should because I should be studying. I know I can only study for so long, the occasional break is good for you, it's not like I'd have to stay out late, etc. etc. Going out for a few hours one evening is not going to make or break me.

It's more like right now, I can't even IMAGINE sitting in a room of cool people (who are NOT taking the Bar) and thinking about something OTHER than the Bar. It's not that I WANT to think about the Bar all the time; I just. can't. help it. It's like I've entered a damn cult or something.

I can hang out with other Bar-takers, because we're all in the same place; we all know what each other is going through; we're all living in the same country right now. But people who live somewhere else, who've never visited – I don't know, I just don't think they can get where I'm at. (Which is not their fault – they have no reason to know this country. It's just a gulf between us right now.)

More to the point, I do not wish to inflict myself on them! Because, my friends, studying for the Bar? Is really, really BORING. Real law is interesting; the Bar is duller than fuck. So I can only imagine how much fun it would be for my non-Bar friends to hang out with someone who can think about nothing but the world's dullest subject. I really like all the people involved, and don't want them to think I don't want to hang out with them; but I also don't want to expose them to Me, Barzam Edition. 

*I said maybe, so that if I get some kind of freak burst of sociability that evening, I could buy some chips and head on over. But I doubt that's going to happen. 

The kind of ad campaign I’d like to see

I am so sick of food ads aimed at women which are all about weight loss. I saw one tonight that said something about helping to "get you started on your summer weight loss!" Really? So every woman has her own summer weight loss going on this season??

I would so like to see an ad for food that is directed at women that just says something along the lines of:

Buy this food, because it tastes good and you'll enjoy eating it.

Or even:

Buy this food, because it will give you the energy you need to do the stuff you want to do.

Or, you know, combine the two – that's cool, too.

I'm just so sick of ads for food that assume there's something wrong with me, and whatever food it is will fix me. Because it's not a magic potion – it's just food.

This is when the flaming chainsaws all come tumbling down*

I was supposed to be writing a paper for my grade in one class.**

I thought the paper was due on April 28.***

I found out today that the paper is due NEXT MONDAY.****

I also have to finish a project worth 50% of my grade for another class.

I thought that project was due a week from Friday.

It's due a week from Wednesday.***** 

Did I mention that I'm traveling this weekend for a third class? And still have two projects to finish for my internship? And that my brain is so very very tired?



* AKA: this is when my belief that I can! and will! do! everything! there! is! to do! in law school! comes back to bite me in the ass. I have got to get it through my head that doing everything isn't some kind of accomplishment, it just means I perform mediocrely at a whole bunch of different things.

Or, AKA: don't take 17-18 credits in your last semester of law school!

** Here is the place in the lesson where I gloss entirely over how little much work I'd actually done for this paper so far.

*** I don't know why. I had no good reason to believe this. I just made it up in my head for some reason.

**** Praise be to all the gods and goddesses, this class offers a paper option OR an exam option, and the prof allows us to bail on the paper right up to the paper's due date and take the exam instead. Of course, since I was convinced I was going to write the paper, I have been less than diligent about the reading for this class. But I have decided it will nonetheless be easier to catch up on all the reading and prep for the exam than come up with X number of pages of original thought by next Monday. Not EASY, but easier.

***** Hey, two days makes a BIG difference at this point in the semester.

Continuing on a theme from my last post…

Damn, I hate suits.

I have no real objection to the concept of suits – and they look totally adorable on so many of my (younger, thinner) classmates. But I find it almost impossible to find suits that actually look good on ME.

Recently, not long before I was set to travel for a moot court competition, one of my favorite suit purveyors had a sale. (Their stuff is fairly spendy at full price, but they have awesome sales.) And since I still hate all my suits, I thought I'd give some stuff a whirl. I ordered a charcoal lightweight wool skirt suit, a black lightweight wool skirt suit, and a black lightweight not-wool skirt suit. Unfortunately, I loved the black lightweight wool jacket, but the store had sold out of the skirt, so I couldn't get an actual suit, which is what I was looking for. I loved the charcoal skirt, but was iffy about the matching jacket. I thought the black lightweight not-wool skirt suit was fine (and the jacket has a very cute striped lining), so I kept that and took it to the competition. 

(It's probably worth noting that I was deciding all this about two days before I left, when I was also trying to learn/polish my oral argument and do a ton of other stuff, so I was a little crazed at the time.)

Of course, after wearing the damn suit all day for the competition, I discovered that: 1) the jacket and skirt were both boxier than I'd thought they were, and 2) the skirt pulled a bit more about the hips than I'd thought it would. So it was not the world's most flattering suit on me.* 

And just now, I packed up the other stuff to send back, and made the mistake of trying on the charcoal suit again. And deciding that I like it MUCH better than the one I kept and wore. 

Because I really can't afford to keep both suits (and don't need that many suits right now, since I won't start a real job till next fall, and even then I don't think I'm going to need to wear a suit very often). Grrrr. I hate suits.

*That said, I don't think ANY suits are especially flattering on me. Suit jackets are pretty much all designed to nip in at the waist, which sucks when, like me, you don't HAVE a waist, or, indeed, lean toward the apple shape. And most suit skirts are pencil-y, which I like as a professional look, but they don't look very good on the apple figure, either, because they just make you look widest in the middle. The concept of a pants suit is totally appealing, but for some reason, while I can generally pull off this store's pencil skirts not-too-terribly, their pants do not fit me at all. 

A glimpse inside my head – look away, look away!

Damn, I hate bars.

In many respects this is a rational hate. I don’t drink, I don’t like to talk to people I don’t know (or at least don’t have any kind of connection to me), I don’t smoke (though admittedly you can’t smoke in most bars now anyway, so that’s not so much of a problem – and besides, I don’t actually generally mind being around smokers), and I don’t like having to shout to engage in conversation. So, really, why the hell WOULD I like bars?

And yet, not liking bars makes me feel like a complete and utter loser. LOSER. Big L right on my forehead. Because everyone else there seems to be having a high old time, to be the life of the party, to have lots of people to talk to, and it’s me, just me, who is the problem.

It’s funny because tonight’s abortive attempt at hanging out in bars with my classmates was making me feel old, and ugly, and boring, and old, and out of place, and old, and like a social misfit, and old. Did I mention old? But then I remembered that I have really NEVER liked bars, and have always felt out of place and stupid in them. So I think it’s probably more that bars bring out my social anxieties, and right now, with this law school crowd of people at least, my social anxieties happen to center around being old, rather than that my age has anything to do with my social success.

I should think of age as making me wise, but instead, this society being what it is, it just makes me feel ugly. And dumb. And a loser hanger-on who has no friends because who would want to be friends with me?

(I should mention that in grad school I had lovely friends who are as much older than me as I am older than my classmates now. I feel bad for not being able to recognize then the weirdness they probably felt, although maybe I’m projecting that, and also I feel bad that I don’t give some of my younger classmates the credit they deserve by refusing to believe that they now, like me back then, could actually consider someone 15 years older a true friend.)

What’s especially dumb about this (my whole attitude tonight) is that 1) the youngest person in the group was clearly not thrilled to be at this bar, and bailed fairly soon after I did. So it’s not at all about age. And I don’t think of hir as a social loser – I just think of hir as someone who doesn’t like bars. And 2) the people I’m with are actually NOT (for a change) all that much younger than I am – one is 25 and one is 26, so there’s that, but one is 30 and the other two are of indeterminate ages I don’t know for certain, but I believe well into their 30s. So it’s not like I’m some kind of dinosaur in the nursery, and the problem here is clearly not about my age – it’s about all the dumb social anxieties I carry about with me, and have since I was a teenager, and probably will until the grave.

(The other thing going on here, probably, is that I’m a dyed-in-the-wool introvert who has spent time around other people around the clock since Thursday morning – and I mean intensely interacting with people I don’t know that well, nonstop – and having a minor crisis about my social ineptitude is a great mechanism for propelling me away from other people for a while. So this is all a bit mountain-out-of-a-molehill-ish. Kind of a shame, really, because I’d been doing so well up till now! I even met totally new people earlier today and we really hit it off and I enjoyed talking with them a lot. So to relapse in this way is a bit of a bummer, but I guess my minor social success this afternoon should remind me I’m not actually a hopeless social misfit, even though I feel like one sometimes.)

So yeah, that’s how the evening’s drawing to a close – with me feeling like a loser. What’s funny is that loser is the word I keep coming back to, the one that really encapsulates how I see myself in these moments. What I don’t know is what it is that a loser is actually losing, and what one is supposed to win and how, but the metaphor still works for me anyway. Is “loser” a universal thing? Is it everyone’s word, or just mine? When you’re feeling down about yourself, what is the label that you pin on yourself?

Histoires ou contes du temps passé

I know I’ve said a bunch of times that I don’t miss academia, and I don’t, but I figured out something tonight that I DO miss, and that’s publishing.

It’s not like I was remotely a publishing goddess. I have three real, good articles in my field. (I also have a bunch of book reviews, a co-authored thing that in the context of my field doesn’t count for much, and a few commentary-type pieces. Oh, I have a bunch of conference papers that I like, not to mention 100+ pages of book that will never see the light of day, but those don’t count, of course.) But I miss taking part in that kind of academic conversation.

Because it’s funny – when I was writing this stuff, I never really thought of it as having anything to do with OTHER people. I wrote because that was what you do, you think about things and then you write about them, and you publish because that’s the coin of the realm. But I never quite expected anyone else to READ this stuff, and was always flabbergasted to find out that anyone had done so.

The thing is, of course, that people have, because that’s also what you do. They’ve pretty much only read one of my articles, because it’s the best-placed, in a book with lots of big shots in this (not very big) subfield, published by a good press, and available in paperback. (One of the other articles is in a dense but widely-ranging collection, published in a crazy expensive hardback by a respected but very very niche European press. I don’t think ANYONE’s read that one.) But amusingly enough, people in this subfield HAVE read it, and have cited it, too. Someone’s even assigned it in a course.

(What’s especially amusing about this? I originally wrote this article in grad school. In a seminar I took in my THIRD YEAR of grad school. Or was it even my second? I know I finally finished the revisions on it in 1994. Mind you, the collection didn’t come out until 2001, when I was in a tenure-track job, which worked out well for me. But the point is, when I wrote this thing, I was pretty damn green. And it’s still a pretty good article. Not great, but good.)

(The second one is, meh, fine. I really like the third one. No one seems to have read that one yet, either. But oh well.)

What I find interesting is how much the accretion of time works to your advantage. When I first started going to conferences, I didn’t know anyone outside of my grad program and felt tiny and insignificant and out of place. By the time I left academia, I wasn’t any more significant, but I loved conferences – in part because I got to see a lot of friends, but in part because I had a niche, a professional crowd to run with. It’s not like I set out to create that or worked very hard at it; it’s more that after over 10 years of being in the field and attending the same conferences, you get to know people and they get to know you. I’m sure there are things I could have done to accelerate this process, but it happened on its own regardless. I wish that I’d REALIZED that would happen, when I was a terrified grad student; it would have made life much easier!

People citing my article is like that. The dumb thing has been out for a decade now (shoot me, I’m ancient!), and if you’re someone writing on that subject (which is a small but constant number of people) (after all, we’re talking the Middle Ages; there are only so many sources), you’re probably going to run across it. Some people are going to feel the need to reference it (almost invariably not historians. It’s not very history-y).

In fact, this basically supports my central belief about academia: that perhaps the most important quality for academic success is persistence.

All this commentary was inspired by vanity – I googled myself tonight, and found more citations to that article than existed the last time I googled myself (at least a year or more ago).

I also found a few people who had thanked me in their acknowledgments, which I hadn’t known about. That, more than the scholarly citations, made me miss my past profession.

Which also suggests that it’s not really the publishing per se that I miss – it’s the human connections that went with it. And the feeling like I knew something, and was contributing SOMETHING to my chosen profession. It’s going to be a looooong time before I can say that about law. I guess what looking at my academic career reminds me is that showing up is half the battle, and that 10 years from now
I’ll be in a totally different place.

And that really, 10 years goes by pretty damn quickly. I have to remember that most of all.

The most wonderful time of the year

Finals, that is.

(I'm being sarcastic.)

The other night, I dreamed I was taking the final for one of my classes this semester. I was surrounded by friends of mine from school (who aren't actually in the class), who were all zipping through the exam, talking about how easy it was. (For some reason we were all hanging out taking it in the law school cafeteria, not in our classroom.) It was like a college exam – questions typed on plain white paper, with spaces for you to handwrite your answers. And I couldn't answer ANYTHING. I had NO IDEA what the questions meant, at ALL. (When I woke up, I realized this is because the questions made no sense. But in the dream I didn't figure that out.)

So, about halfway through my panic, I realized I could use my outline, so I opened it up and started throwing anything I could think of onto the page. 

When the time ended, I handed the exam to my prof, and told him I was sorry about how much I had tanked the exam.

The next thing, I was in my prof's office, and he was telling me that the answers I'd given were actually very good, and that he would give me extra time to fill in the questions I'd left blank. (In case it's unclear: this would never happen in real life!)

I was trying to figure out how to tell him that extra time wouldn't help, because I had no idea how to answer any of the things I'd left blank.

And then, somehow, NLLDH was there. And he took out a framed picture and slapped it on the desk in front of me.

It was a picture of (dearly departed) Youngest Cat. He was sitting with his front paw curled into his chest, the way cats do, with the biggest smuggest kitty smile on his face.

See, the thing is, in our marital mythology, Youngest Cat represents stubbornness, and perseverance, and the epitome of self-confidence. Let's just say that Youngest Cat didn't have any self-esteem issues. (In fact, Youngest Cat was basically a thug who did exactly what he wanted regardless of what anyone else thought.) And so I knew that NLLDH was telling me to be like Youngest Cat, to know that I could do this, and not let any doubt get in the way.

So it was actually kind of nice. But I could have lived without the anxiety dream-lead up to the pep talk. 

Wish me luck, people

Because I have to argue two motions in the next two days. One's tomorrow, and I got lucky enough to be assigned to argue the opposite side from what we were assigned to argue when we wrote the motion (because the other side was the argument our prof really wants us to be able to make, but if you're going to argue a motion, you really need to have both sides). It's probably just as well, though, because I wrote the motion in the aftermath of the Brief That Ate My Life (like, it was due the day after I filed the brief), so my motion is, quite literally, terrible. I spent about four hours throwing what words I could find onto the page, and turned it in without reading it over again. It is, honestly and seriously, crap. So, really, arguing against it is probably a good thing.

And then I have another motion to argue on Tuesday afternoon. That one requires examining witnesses. No idea yet what I'll ask them, really. 

The thing that's sad is that I'd really much rather work on (and argue) these motions than sit through the classes I have tomorrow. My clinic and practice class seem much more important, not to mention relevant, than the classes where I sit and listen to the professor talk to us. Don't get me wrong – I actually like my other classes, and reading, let alone sitting and listening, is so much EASIER than coming up with my own stuff. But when it's a choice between being prepared to maybe be called on (except probably not, because I only have one prof who cold calls this semester, and even he doesn't do it very often), and being prepared to get up and say something, getting up and saying something wins every time. (Kind of like the way teaching prep always trumped research prep, unless of course it was two days before a conference, when that kind of getting up and saying something usually trumped the teaching kind.)

I taught long enough that while I still had to prep, in most cases I really could waltz into the classroom and wing it if need be (the exception being if I was teaching something entirely new. Which didn't happen very much by the time I stopped teaching). Law school is reminding me of the joy of the steep learning curve, when you're doing everything for the first time. I'd forgotten, for instance, that at one point in my life I had no idea how long teaching a certain amount of material would take, because by the time I left academia, I had a sixth sense that allowed me never to run out of time, and never to run out of material. But a motion? I have NO idea how much material I need, or how long it's going to take me to argue it. (Sure, sure, it depends on what the judge asks – but teaching depended on what students said, too.) Putting students in small groups? At one point, I had no idea how to do that effectively, and watched helplessly as they talked about the previous night's football game. By the time I left, I had efficient use of small groups down. But direct examination? I'm still working on that one…


I have been feeling kind of sorry for myself all day. But that's kind of an overreaction. Really, it's just because this cold is still wearing me down – there's nothing wrong with my life, all is good, I'm just crazy busy and all.

Thing is, though, my head is all plugged up, so I sound wrong to myself when I talk, and for some reason, that was really disconcerting today. It just feels wrong, and I keep being amazed that people aren't commenting on my fundamental wrongness and differentness. 

(But I'm probably overreacting.)

And today was also one of those days when I feel like a human-sized labrador puppy. Hi! How are you! You're cool! Wanna play with me? Please please please please please?? I'll catch the ball! You can throw it, I'll bring it back! I promise!

Is it just me? Do any of the rest of you have days like this, when you feel like you keep blundering into people (figuratively, not literally), trying to be part of things yet always feeling peripheral? And if you do, do you think they have anything to do with actually being a big PITA blundering into things, or are they just paranoia in your head? 

(I may be overreacting.)

And then I was annoyed at a classmate for being anti-intellectual. Which isn't really fair – this is lawyer college, not a Ph.D. program, and people come here to learn how to be a lawyer, not to ponder weighty academic debates. But still, it was one of the very few times since starting law school that I've felt like someone was really disdaining…well, the kinds of things I spent sixteen years of my life doing. It's one thing for someone to say, "This just isn't my cup of tea." It's another to imply, "Who the hell would ever study this stuff, anyway??"

(But I'm probably overreacting.)

Lastly, there appears to be a weird dynamic developing with one of my friends wherein we only talk about jobs. The thing about jobs is, if you're a law student, you can carry on a conversation with pretty much any other law student, no matter who they are, if you're talking about jobs. But talking about jobs is also a minefield. And this feels like it's turning into a weird thing where this person is comparing their job success/opportunities against mine. I don't think I've been more successful, job-wise, but I sometimes feel like this person thinks I have been, and it's not that they think I don't deserve my success (to the extent I've had any), but that this person feels they should have had more success. I can't pinpoint what makes me feel this way (I'm very bad at identifying passive-aggressive behavior when directed toward me–I just kind of ignore stuff unless you talk to me directly–so I'm not much good at analyzing this), it's just a kind of vibe.

(But this, too, may be an overreaction.)

Really, though, this would have been a much better day if I could have just crawled back under the covers and gone back to bed, and skipped everything else.