Friday, May 31, 2013

My Crash Course on Dealing with Impossible People

Happy, happy Friday folks. Boy do I ever need it, and I'm just going to vent for a bit. I usually try not to use this blog for that purpose, but sometimes you just need to!

With my new job, I am in a work environment that vacillates from being okay to being really bad, and at this point, I am grateful that this job is just for the summer. I work with four attorneys, a couple paralegals, and several other clerks. Most of the people are really nice, but the senior attorney (who is my boss and the main person I report to) is definitely not. He is one of those super-aggressive, angry, yelling types. And he's the king of unreasonable expectations--he wants us to complete more work, move more cases, and contact more clients in a day than is humanly possible, and then we get yelled at when, surprise surprise, we can't do it. I am working my butt off for 9 hours a day, or more, and barely even take a lunch break, and am going pedal to the metal from the second I walk in in the morning till the moment I leave at night. Anytime anyone makes even the slightest mistake, like putting something in a file the "wrong way," pretty much everybody gets yelled at for it. It's bad. We all walk on eggshells around this guy. And I often leave the office feeling exhausted, beat up, and incompetent. I'm afraid this is going to be a demoralizing work experience, making me feel like a failure who's not cut out to be an attorney. In my boss's eyes, I am failing because I'll readily admit that I'm failing to meet his expectations (never mind that his expectations are insane). It's not so very fun being told to do something impossible, and then being made to feel like it's your fault that you can't do it, even though no one could.

Overall, today was a decent day at the office, and I got a lot done and left feeling good, but in general, I think this summer is going to be an uphill battle and a lesson in dealing with difficult people. I can't just quit my job, even though I won't say I haven't been tempted to yell right back at my boss and just walk out. But even though I can't do that, I do have to protect my heart and my mind from the effects of that toxic situation, because I can't allow someone to convince me that I am a failure or a loser, and I can't work with constant anxiety about when my boss is going to get mad next.

So I am going on the offensive. I am going to write Biblical affirmations--what God says about me--on notecards this weekend and put them up all over my apartment. Such as: I am a beloved child of God. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. The Lord is FOR me, so I will not be afraid. The Lord rejoices over me with singing. God delights in me. He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion.

I also need to make sure I'm getting up early enough to start the morning with some time with God and prayer and listening to worship music, because if my heart isn't overflowing with Jesus when I walk in that office, I am never going to make it. And I am going to make time to take care of me--to exercise, and eat right, and do the things I enjoy, and treat myself when I need it. To that end, tomorrow I'm going to two of my favorite places in the world: 1) IKEA and 2) the library. It may not sound like much, but I'm pretty excited about it.

People can try to break me, but I will not be broken. People can try to convince me that I'm a failure, but I won't believe them. Because in Christ, I am worthy.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When My Heart Is Overwhelmed

My heart is a little overwhelmed tonight, not gonna lie--or actually, it's very overwhelmed. I have to make decisions now--as in, tonight, before I go to bed, so I can send out the necessary emails in a timely manner--about whether I'm going to apply for federal judicial clerkships for after graduation, and I simply don't know what to do. Asking for a recommendation means committing to apply, and I looked through the listings and can't really find any available in a) the state I plan to take the bar and b) a city I'm actually willing to live in long-term. I don't really want to apply for these anymore, for that reason, and also because family law is my main legal interest, and for the most part, you'll never see a family law case in federal court (so, the federal judicial clerkship isn't necessarily the best plan if I want to get exposure to family law). And I would be so so happy just getting a job in career services or admissions or development at a law school, and teaching legal writing classes on the side, but I don't know how to go about doing that.

So I don't think it makes sense anymore to apply for these, but then the panic begins to tug at the corners of my mind because unlike the situation for lots of my classmates, my summer job right now will not turn into a permanent offer for after graduation. So then I will have to start from the ground up during my third year, trying to figure out what it is that I really want to do. And I just can't really process facing the nine months or so of post-grad unemployment that are par for the course for most new grads these days.

And then I start wondering if the state I've picked to take the bar exam is the right state at all for me, and getting annoyed with the fact that there's still so very little geographic mobility in the legal profession--because what if I just want to up and move to Seattle, or Santa Fe, or Denver? I can't just do that unless I study for, take, and pass the bar exam in the given state. And since you have to choose the state you take the bar in before you get a post-grad job, in most cases, it definitely makes it complicated.

And there's so many other things competing for my attention right now, contributing to that overwhelmed feeling: the law review write-on competition papers I have to grade, the national Moot Court competition my law school is hosting in the fall that I'm, you know, coordinating, and work. I have settlement proposals to negotiate and demand letters and pretrial orders that have got to get done ASAP, and I'm still not 100% clear on what a pretrial order is. And the office is so busy and so crazy all the time, and I know I'm not going to get rest this summer unless I deliberately make seeking it out a priority--I mean, real rest and rejuvenation and refreshment. So my heart--or at least my brain--is overwhelmed.

But God put this verse in my mind tonight, and it was exactly what I needed, and I trust that maybe it's what someone reading this might need right now too: "From the end of the earth I will cry to you, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I." (Psalm 61:2). There is a rock that is higher than I, a refuge that is greater than any fear or chaos life could throw at me, a security that is stronger than any storm.

I know, and I will rest secure in, the truth that God leads and guides me all the time. He is not confused about what my future holds, no matter how much I may be. He is not vacillating about it. No, He KNOWS the plans He has for my future. It is not a surprise for Him--He doesn't just plan and know my future, He's already in it. God goes before me, and before you, into the future, into a thousand tomorrows, making the way straight before us and shedding light on our path. I know who goes before me. I know who holds my tomorrows. When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Let the Craziest Summer Ever Begin

Y'all, I don't even really know how to process the last few days. I think I have quite honestly gained more life experience in the past week than I had in my entire previous life (well, almost). I started my new job. I prepared depositions and drafted motions and complaints and discovery responses and petitions. Yesterday, I went to court to file the petition I wrote and sat in on a deposition that I prepared for my supervising attorney, so that was a good feeling.

The week was pretty chaotic at the front end, because I wasn't actually able to move into my summer apartment until Tuesday night, even though I had to start work on Monday, so I had a 2-hour commute Monday morning, stayed at a hotel Monday night, and finally moved in after work Tuesday. A friend had graciously invited me to stay at her place Monday night, but it would have taken at least an hour to fight my way through traffic back to her apartment on Monday night, and I was so tired after getting up at 5am that that was just not happening. In fact, Monday night I believe I actually stated at one point that I was so tired that I would give someone, anyone, my debit card in exchange for a place to sleep. It has been a pretty exhausting week and I'm already really looking forward to the Florida beach vacation I am planning for the end of summer.

The past few days, I've realized that there's no need for a speed limit in this city because you'll never be able to go faster than 20 mph, about had a claustrophobic panic attack when I couldn't figure out how to get out of my parking deck on Wednesday morning, drunk cheap wine out of plastic cups because I don't have my real dishes here yet, eaten grapes for dinner and Chick-Fil-A at 4:30am, been hit on by some of the sketchiest guys, had awkward conversations in elevators, and had the scariest conversation EVER with my new boss ("I want you guys to be aggressive and productive and work on 40 cases a day"). I've become the case manager for 46 clients, been more tired than I thought was humanly possible, finally made it back to the gym because I desperately missed exercise after my post-finals workout hiatus, ran into alums who interviewed me for my law school scholarship at Publix (awkward), and driven by myself to courthouses in other counties even though I don't really know my way around THIS county yet and only really know how to get to and from work. I've gotten chocolate on my good suit and blisters on my heels from my new shoes.

But there have been highlights. This city is amazing in its own way. I don't really think I would pursue living here long-term necessarily, but this week has convinced me that I could live here for real, and be happy doing it. I live within walking distance of pretty much anything I could want to do, eat, read, visit . . . libraries, art museums, Thai food, coffee shops, etc. And what's not to like about this view?! This picture was taken from my apartment window:


This weekend I have to finish officially moving in to my new apartment--and yes, even though I'm only living here for 2 months, I'm hanging posters and decorating because life's too short to not decorate. Or at least, that is my philosophy.

I feel like this summer is going to be a season for me to learn how to work as a real attorney and to work harder than I ever have in my life, learning how to do long hours and deal with high stress on the job and fuel it with a lot of coffee. I'm already definitely feeling like I'm going to have time and energy for work but maybe not too much else, except on weekends. The firm I work at is known for being one of the most fast-paced, aggressive litigation practices in the state. I'm not sure I would want to keep up this pace forever and have this sort of high-stress position for a permanent job, but I do know that I will pretty much be ready for anything Future Boss throws my way after this.

But here's what's most important to me about all this. I am facing my fears. I have always been terrified to live here and terrified to work in a firm like the one I'm working in now. But I'm doing it anyway to prove to myself that I can, and to get experience that I can't get just anywhere. When I accepted this position way back in November, I strongly felt led to do so and that it was exactly what God wanted me to do, even though it made no sense at the time (Why would I go THERE and do that?) But I'm learning that all things are possible with God. ALL things. Even this. Even me living in a huge city and having a stressful job with a heavy case load. ALL things. I can't say enough about how God has abundantly met every single need I have had this week, including, yeah, getting out of that parking deck! He has helped me with everything from the little things, like finding a place to eat or get groceries, to the big things, like finding favor with my bosses. He has provided, He has been there, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mission Statement

Yesterday I read this inspirational book that discussed, among other things, the importance of coming up with a mission or purpose statement for your life. The book suggested that this process can be completed in about 20 minutes and that you'll know when you've hit on the right mission statement. I was skeptical, but I decided to try it. Sure enough, with a lot of cross-outs and additions, it took me about 20 minutes. (And I can't believe I've never tried this before!)

This is what I wrote.

My mission and purpose in life is to:
  1. Bring deep joy, heartfelt laughter, and genuine smiles to as many people as I can as often as I can;
  2. Serve and bless the poor, the hurting, the hungry, the orphan, the sick, and all the less fortunate with extravagant compassion in the beautiful name of Jesus, and in so doing to turn my own brokenness into another’s healing as I minister to others as Christ has ministered to me;
  3. Radically and continually point people to Christ and the abundant life He offers them through my actions, attitudes, spoken words, and writing;
  4. Use my spiritual and personal gifts to the maximum and strive for exemplary excellence in everything I find to do;
  5. Experience ALL of the life I am blessed to live with joy and passion, taking risks, pursuing new opportunities, and ultimately valuing and enjoying each moment as if it were made of solid gold.
If I do say so myself, I'm a pretty big fan of this mission statement and am pretty excited about it. I know it's actually quite vague, and I may need to get more specific later. Now, the book said I needed to condense it to one sentence, but I just couldn't do that. So each number represents something I care about deeply: bringing others joy and laughter, ministering to others, evangelism, pursuing excellence, and finally, passion, fun, and enjoying life. I'd really recommend doing this exercise, since I think it helps you quickly identify what you are so excited about that it keeps you up at night; what issues in the world make your heart ache that maybe you can help remedy; how to make goals for the future; and most of all, what really brings you joy and makes you feel fulfilled and like you're doing what you were created to do.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Summer Reading List

One of these times, I need to have a "drop everything and read" day. Now, some of these books just may have been on last year's summer reading list, but you can't always get to all of them in one summer! Which is why I keep an ongoing reading list so I always have a book to read. Here's my list for this summer:
  • The Storyteller, Mercy, and Songs of the Humpback Whale by Jodi Picoult
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  • The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  • Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks
  • Summerland and Nantucket Nights by Elin Hilderbrand
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  • A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans
  • So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport
  • Musicophilia by Oliver Sacks
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel
  • Draw the Circle by Mark Batterson
Are there any books you all are hoping to have a chance to read this summer?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Adventures in the Windy City

I had such a great time in Chicago with Lauren! It was so good to see her for the first time in a really long time. We were finally able to talk and talk and catch up on everything, and I was able to see where she lives (technically Evanston, IL, but she's a short train ride away from Chicago).
Here are some pictures and highlights from the trip:
The obligatory "my view from the airplane" photo.
We went to the Chicago Symphony on Thursday night! Which, of course, was outstanding.
We spent awhile exploring the Art Institute of Chicago . . . they have a great Picasso exhibit right now.

Some iconic landmarks . . . skyscrapers and the Bean!

Some of the city's famous deep-dish pizza: with all the cheese, it's probably a heart attack on a crust, but it sure was delicious!

Walking on the beach by Lake Michigan.

And touring Northwestern University.
We had a really good time going to a lot of fun shops, including one of the American Girl retail outlets, and we warmed up from the chilly weather in this little coffee shop:
The weekend also included lots of great conversations, touring the lab where Lauren works, going to a free wine tasting in Evanston, Monopoly games, Redbox movies, and lots of great food. I hope I get to go back sometime!


Thursday, May 9, 2013


I am DONE with my second year of law school. 2/3 of the way there! Everyone says that 2L is the year they "work you to death," and I don't know whether that's true or not, but I can honestly say that I've worked harder this last semester than I ever have in my life, with the possible exception of my last couple months of college when I was finishing my thesis. So I feel good about being done and good about what I've accomplished, and I am promising myself not to stress out about grades. At least not yet. I won't get them for at least a month anyway, so I might as well enjoy being blissfully unaware. Besides, I feel good about my performance on all my exams, and that's what matters at the moment.

Yesterday was my chores and errands day, and suffice it to say that I got my to-do list down from three pages to one by this morning: pay credit card bills, do laundry, turn in various forms to various people, return rented textbooks at UPS, clean, donate stuff to Goodwill, return library books, catch up on emails, etc.

And now I have 11 days of a hard-earned vacation before I start work. First stop: Chicago to see Lauren! Lauren and I were roommates for two years at W&L (I know, same name. It got confusing for people). But I have not seen her since a couple months after graduation--almost two years--and I absolutely cannot wait.

You know you're a real adult when you're flying into O'Hare airport by yourself and your mother isn't entirely freaking out. (Or maybe she is and just hasn't said so). I'll be sure to post pictures when I come back!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Study Break Musings

I never want to take three law school exams in four days again in my entire life! It's pretty exhausting/ miserable. And I still have one left on Tuesday and a paper to finish.

But there's been some silver linings during this crazy week, like:
  • amazing conversations about gender equality, race relations, religion, and other stuff that matters the day before one of my exams.
  • fitting 5,014 words on my one-page, front-side-only cheat sheet allowed for my domestic relations exam . . . winning
  • nude flats from Target for only $12 . . . shoes for the office this summer.
  • skinny vanilla lattes and study sessions at Starbucks that turn into laugh sessions.
  • going to the new Goodwill that I've never been to before, the one that looks like people went on shopping sprees at Target and then donated their stuff
  • having a few free moments to finally do some serious, much-needed journaling (those moments where you finally put into words something you've needed to write about for years . . . that's what I'm talking about).
  • telling a friend, who I've never talked about matters of faith with before, that I'm a Christian, and having her say, "Oh, that's what I thought."
  • Having a friend who comes by my apartment to drop off a double chocolate cupcake to brighten my intellectual property study marathon (by the way, random fact for you: The craziest thing I've learned in intellectual property so far is that someone actually tried to patent a system where people would use color-coded bracelets to indicate to the world whether they were single or not so as to "limit the embarrassment of rejection"! Yes. This is a thing--look it up!)
Counting down the days till 2L is done and I have a little vacation time before work! Ok my blog break is over . . . back to the books.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Halfway There

2 exams down, 2 to go! I finished my take-home exam for statutory law yesterday and it was HARD. It was probably the most comprehensive, integrative written work I've done so far in law school, incorporating statutory provisions, administrative regulations, contract law, constitutional law, procedural rules, and a whole lot of other stuff in one 12-page motion for my hypothetical client. Then this morning I had my final for wills, trusts, and intestate succession. The questions themselves weren't hard exactly, but it was literally impossible to finish in 3 hours. I don't think anyone finished. We had 9 short essays and three long essays, and those just aren't all getting done in a 3-hour period. This one didn't really seem to be about how much you knew so much as how well you could strategize to earn the most points in the least amount of time--so a couple of the harder questions or issues I pretty much skipped over entirely. I figured if I wasn't going to have time to finish anyway, I'd rather spend my time answering the questions that I was sure I had the right answer to.

So anyway, after my 4:14am bed time last night (and 6am wake-up call today), I am pretty pooped. I tried to take a nap this afternoon but it was one of those "too tired to sleep" occasions and it didn't really work out. I should be studying right now for domestic relations but I just can't look at another book right now. So, I'm aiming for a good night's rest tonight and starting fresh tomorrow. Maybe if I study really hard in the morning I'll take myself out to a movie tomorrow afternoon. A girl's got to have a break once in awhile, right?

And blog readers, this is a really random addendum to this rambling post but I just want to take this chance to tell you all how much I really appreciate you all. I know who some of you are, and others I don't know. But I'm so grateful that you let me share this crazy law school life with you and that you keep coming back to read my posts. It is my hope--and in fact my prayer--that my musings on life and what God is teaching me during this season in my life will reach you when and how you may need them, and will be a blessing to your life. Thank you for reading!

I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will NOT be shaken.
 --Psalm 16:8