12 August 2005

Goodbye Tribunal

Today was the last day of my summer externship. I did my 170 hours, copied all my work product (I thought the pile would be larger), gave people forms for evaluating me, asked for a couple letters of recommendation ("write one and I'll sign it"--not a fan of that), finished my last assignments, and said some goodbyes. Half the office was gone, including people I really wanted to say a proper goodbye to, like Cindy and Kathie and several of the judges, and even Jack (with whom I was supposed to do an exit interview, but he never was there at our scheduled times--oh well). But Micheal was there, and so were Tony and Amanda and Marijo.

I was determined that today would go well, because I have this history of ending jobs badly, and for unusual reasons. At my last job, I injured my foot pretty severely the day before my last day and filed a worker's compensation claim for x-rays. The associate director failed to realize that this was routine and in no way opened up him or the office to liability, and gave me a huge hassle about signing the papers. This shouldn't have surprised me, since he disliked me from almost day one. I'll never forget the time that we were the only ones in the office, and he came back to where I worked and , laughing, said he had this strange urge to stick a pencil in my ear. O-kkkkaaayy. [I, of course, quickly scanned the room for any number twos.] So when the worker's comp thing arose, he ended up--seriously--yelling at me. After about an hour of him griping at me off and on, I got ticked (it takes a lot to get me ticked), calmly went back to my office, deleted everything I'd ever worked on (a lot) from the office hard drive and shredding all hard copies of it and walked out without saying a word. Luckily everyone else there liked me, including the director, and I found out that Mr. Psycho got fired a month later. Another time my last article during my stint as a school reporter--an entertainment piece on the globalization conference going on regarding China that was hosted in part by the university--was responded to with a vicious three page letter to the editor about the dangers of globalization and how benign and idiotic my article was. Along with some choice phrases about me, too. Of course, it got published--the editors even reduced the font size to fit it all on one page. I won't even tell the story about how I was fired by a priest once. It seems that I manage to rub one person the wrong way everywhere I work. Maybe this is just normal...

At the Tribunal, things should have been different. There were only two people I didn't click with, but they were easy to avoid. All I had to do, I figured, was get everything done, stay around the right people, and it would be fine. This time, though, the problem was all my fault. First of all, I should preface all this by explaining that I have a seizure disorder. I'm on medication for it which controls everything pretty well, but some days I just feel awful. Today was one of those days; hence, the phoning-it-in attitude. I was basically watching the clock all morning, waiting for twelve o-clock when I'd do my best to drive home and then try to sleep off how weird I was feeling. So Micheal (that is the correct spelling, by the way), the judge I clerk for, comes by where I work and we start chatting, attempting to do the whole closure thing I guess. A couple other student workers were in the other cubicles--you can pretty much hear any conversations any of the students have if you want to. Out of the blue, Micheal asks if I'd like to grab lunch. Now, I've hinted around to this before but with no luck, so this totally caught me off guard. I couldn't say "no, I'm not feeling well because I have this seizure disorder that I never explained to you or anyone here and generally keep private, especially from students who I go to law school with that aren't close friends." No, I couldnt' say that, but I knew I couldn't say "yes." I simply was not up to it, and on days like today I try to coast through everything and avoid anything unexpected. Again, it's hard to explain, but hopefully it makes sense. I guess I could have taken my chances and just gone to lunch with him, but after nine years of dealing with this, the lesson I've learned is to be very risk-averse.So I said "no, I'm meeting someone for lunch already."

Oh God! Idiot! I mean, I might as well have spit on the guy. As soon as we were done talking, I went to his office and explained things to him. He was cool, so that's good. I would rather the whole thing have not happened, but at least I fixed things with him. The other students, though, were more problematic. I'm not close friends with any of them, but I know they're pretty socially well-connected at the law school (read: gossipy, at least I think Ben is), and that I don't want to explain anything to them I consider personal. Somehow, it would get all twisted up in subsequent retellings (which would be inevitable). I sound paranoid, but our law school has quite a healthy grapevine. The problem now is that they think I'm probably the most stuck-up, anti-social prick--not to mention a dumbass--to ever be a law student. So, yeah--great.

I know reputation isn't everything, but I don't like being thought of in a certain way for all the wrong reasons. If someone wants to think of me as an arrogant dumbass, then I want it to be for a valid reason. Like that I ran over an old lady or something and then sued her for emotional distress. And I'd also like it if they would just say it to my face, but I guess the chances of that are nil. It'd be easy if this was somehow me getting my comeuppance, but it isn't.

You know, it seems that no matter how hard I try to do things right, life always bites me in the ass. At least, that's what it feels like sometimes. Maybe this should become part of my expectations. But that seems pessimistic and unacceptable, doesn't it?

I guess I'm just sick of the whole ordeal. I'm sick of bad stuff happening. I'm sick of it so often being beyond my control. I'm sick of having to constantly choose between being honest with people about things I'd rather not talk about, and having to lie to them to avoid the topic. I'm sick of the limitations my health has put on me for the last nine years. I'm sick of having to compete with myself along with everyone else to try to get ahead, if even a little bit. I'm sick of trying to explain this to people only to have them not get it or tell me "things could be worse," when in fact things could be a helluva lot better, too. I'm sick of never being able to completely "let go" even for one day lest I get reminded of what happens when I do that. I'm sick of always having to get enough sleep, and eat right, and avoid stress. I'm sick of living what feels like a half-life. I'm sick of not having a choice in this, and I'm sick of not being able to fix it. I'M SICK OF BEING SICK.

And when I said a few posts ago that I wouldn't change anything? I guess I'll still stick by that, because I think in a lot of ways I'm a better person on the whole than I would have been had everything been "easy." But I can't accept this anymore than I have already. There's a fine line between accepting something and giving up hope, and this seizure disorder was never something I felt like I should have to accept. Not completely. And I don't. I won't. I feel like I've learned whatever cosmic lesson I was supposed to learn, and that's all that should be expected of anyone.

08 August 2005

Peter Jennings, 1938-2005

I feel strange writing a post about someone I didn't even know, but I suppose in some way millions of people knew Peter Jennings, and felt comfortable enough to invite him into their homes for a few moments each week. Even though he hasn't been at the anchor desk for four months now, it seems that he never really left. But now he has, and the world of journalism seems emptier for it.

News anchors are often unusual creatures. Typically, they are little more than a pleasant face with a pleasant voice and a nice smile. Often, they seem self-absorbed, even heartless--preoccupied more with celebrity than with news. Maybe this is stereotypical, but sterotypes don't develop on their own. Peter Jennings was never like this. Perhaps this is just my opinion, but of all the news anchors--Brokaw, Rather, Williams, etc.--Jennings had the most integrity, the most real humanity. You felt that when he reported a story, especially when it dealt with international concerns, that he was invested in it and had an intellectual awareness of the topic. You could never imagine him getting tongue-tied or flustered in the midst of a conversation or the heat of debate, nor did you ever really sense that he needed a teleprompter.

Anyways, those are my thoughts. It's sad to lose someone who in a very unique way you grew up with, and it's sad to lose someone who was so professional in his occupation. But undoubtedly he'll inspire others to do equally good work, and for that example we can all be very thankful.

Only 3 Weeks Until Fall Semester!!!

Read the title of this post with heavy sarcasm added. I'm not actually that thrilled about starting my last year in law school. First, I'm taking a lot of classes, and I'm co-editor of the business journal, and I'm still an RA/TA, and I need to write at least two big papers that will have nothing to do with any classes. I'll be a busy little bee. Second, this is my last year in law school. That is scary. I can no longer think casually about things like employment and the bar, because they are very much on the horizon. Granted, I might be pursuing an MBA after law school if things go as planned (knock on wood), so I guess I should feel slightly less stressed. Not that an MBA is a walk in the park, but it is education, and as one of my friends said "more education is always good." And I seem to be reasonably skillful at and comfortable with academic pursuits.

Part of me, though, is thrilled about the new semester (using the term "thrilled" loosely). I didn't really have any downtime this summer, so I think the transition into classes will be fairly easy. And, my class schedule, although full, is not unbearable. I figured I'd share it here and now, even though it is subject to change. In fact, I'd be shocked if it didn't change slightly :) The main reason I'm putting it here is that I'm looking for any advice from those who have already had any of these classes, or had a class they loved that they see missing and might recommend.

Mondays--International Taxation [I've been to Canada and encountered all the GST/HST stuff, but apparently the class has a slightly different angle]; Corporate Income Tax [because nothing gets you through a case of the Mondays quite as well as a double dose of tax law]; Copyright Law [this will be my first intellectual property class, but even if I love it, that's the only class in the area that I'll be able to take before graduating--so I guess I'm better off hating it?]. Are Mondays ever fun?

Tuesdays--Condominium Law [I can't imagine not dropping this class and replacing it with something else; I can conceive of it being interesting, but the professor is as dry as a q-tip in the desert, from what I hear]; Professional Responsibility [because it's required and I have to take some kind of state exam on this stuff--I bet it's not free, either].

Wednesdays are like Mondays, but with no International Tax; Thursdays are like Tuesdays, but with no Condom Law. I mean, Condo Law. No Friday classes, and I'm keeping it that way. So clearly I have room for something else. Perhaps a directed study, if I could think of a topic. Maybe "Feminism and the Law" or "Animal Law." Which don't overlap, I swear.

I'm realizing that I need an easy A in my schedule somewhere. This is my third year, things should be more laid back, right? As Ken would say: Riiiigggght.

Changed the Look

This is the blog equivalent of a dye-job, I guess. Not that any new visitors to my site would know this, but I'm using this new template. I previously had "Minima Ochre" (very chic name, no?), which was great. But a change was needed. This one isn't perfect, but it'll do. If I could become more adept at altering the template, then I could just design one myself. Any advice or comment on this is welcome, of course....

06 August 2005

My Sister is the Coolest...

Alright, big confession time here. I've never been to a real pop concert. I went to a Christian rock concert in high school (I think it was Jars of Clay), and it was loud and had flashing lights and smelled like a cat went everywhere (which my friends later explained was marijuana). I couldn't hear afterward, and I arrived home well after midnight, but still--it was a Christian rock concert, and there was this heavy conversion aspect, even though everyone there clearly was not in need of being converted. I've also been to a boat load of classical and various ethnic/world concerts, back during my music major years. The one was an old Native American woman and her accordion, and she was doing this thing, where she didn't play any music, but just interpreted what came to her in the ether. Uh, okay. In other words, random chords and squeaks and groans strung together. Mostly from the accordion. It was noise for high-minded people, and after four minutes you felt that insanity was not too far away. I lasted five minutes, and then my sister (who I'll refer to simply as E, since that seems very cool and covert) and I walked out, quite conspicuously. A few years later there was the rock-violinist Christina Fong who had a warning in the program that "this performance will employ strobe-lights and gun-shot sound effects." Yeah, more likely the patrons were putting themselves out of their misery. I lasted through one piece, and then I walked out. I still managed to write a review of it for the school paper the next day, though.

Obviously, my concert-going experiences have been atypical for someone my age. Thankfully, that all changed on Thursday, when E gave me the best day-after-birthday gift ever. She won two tickets to a concert in Grand Rapids through the local college station, the Impact, which plays a lot of indie stuff. It's actually an excellent student-run station; if you're ever in Lansing, be sure to tune to 88.9. Although she's better at telling the story (and probably has a nice version of it on her blog), the short of it is that you had to be the fifth caller, and she was the 2nd, 4th, and 5th caller. Two other people who would have been the fifth caller hung up for some unknown reason--I think my sister has some psychic powers :) As the deejay said to her "persistence pays off."

The tickets were for Blondfire, formerly known as Astaire (guess why the name had to be changed, hmmm), and I have to say that the group is awesome. I don't have some star or diamond rating system, but I'll simply say that I give them my most enthusiastic endorsement. Mark my word, this brother-sister duo (who are from near Grand Rapids, which also earns them points), will someday be huge. They're already getting a lot of play on iTunes, so clearly the mass appeal is present. As for how to describe them, their website does a good job. I guess I'd put them in the same category as the Cardigans, though I think Blondfire writes catchier hooks. They've toured with Ivy, and will be touring with Cake thiss Fall in Europe, if that helps to pinpoint their sound. Their most popular song ("L-L-Love") is a good example, but every song from the hour-long set they performed had this quality of being fresh but familiar. A little europop, a little 80's new wave--okay, a little everything from the last two decades of popular music, with the exception of country western and rap/hip hop. Although with their uncanny songwriting ability, I'm sure they could cross genres easily. They've written over 150 songs, and I cannot imagine that any of them are disappointing. Erica Driscoll does the vocals, and has a very pure, effortless sound. Again, Cardigan-ish but not so breathy, maybe a little like some of the Irish groups (Coors, Cranberries)--a nice change of pace, regardless. She and her brother Bruce both do guitar and keyboard, and he also does bass.

The setting at the Urban Institute was intimate--just about 50 people in attendance, in a small venue in downtown GR, and a stripped-down acoustic set. I tend to like these smaller, pared-down concerts, becauses it becomes more about the music and less about the extraneous aspects of performance. Every song they chose was a gem, and their on-stage banter is comfortable and unforced (Erica at one point commenting that Bruce "was sweating like Whitney Houston"; Bruce, referring to their L-L-Love song being used in the movie Monster-in-Law, saying tongue-in-cheek "I highly recommend the movie. In fact, it's now become my favorite movie..."). My personal favorites that evening were Right Where I Want You, Baby Blue, Paper Doll,...okay, so it's impossible to really choose favorites, because the ones that aren't my favorites are still so darned infectious.

What sets Erica and Bruce even more apart, however, is that they're genuinely nice and unaffected by their impending fame. E and I each got our CDs signed, and I got a t-shirt signed (which I never, ever do, but I think it was a worthwhile investment), and then we chatted with the sister and then the brother for a while. They were just so normal and down-to-earth; I was almost regretful that I didn't have a chance to talk more with them, and I'm not exactly an extrovert. I hope to see them perform again in the near future, though I'll always remember this first time as something very, very unique.

Blondfire is coming to New York in the coming weeks (check their website for dates and locations) and then are off to Spain in September. And in case this wasn't obvious from the past several paragraphs, let me reiterate: SEE THIS BAND.

05 August 2005

25 Years--what a ride

I've only posted once in over a month, and I feel terrible about this. In the past month, a lot has happened. I'm in much better shape now than ever in my entire life, and can actaully wear size 34 pants, although I don't look much different on the outside. Half of my lineage is Polish and Russian, a race apparently destined for big everything from the waist down (get your mind out of the gutter), so I feel that dropping a pant size symbolizes overcoming some massive genetic hurdle. In less superficial matters, I've decided to continue my academic pursuits and try my hand at an MBA after law school. On August 22nd, I will be taking the GMAT and, hopefully, proving once again that my verbal skills are vastly superior to any quantitative abilities I have. This will be the case no matter how much I study, so I might as well resign myself to that fact. The last thirty days have also seen me have and get over a major crush. I'm not really sure how to describe why that mattered, but the experience is probably universal enough that I need not explain just how important these things seem in the moment. Despite seeming totally retarded in hindsight...

And, I'm now 25. I've more or less felt that I was 25 for a couple months now--I'm not sure why--so reaching the actual milestone didn't have the usual zing. But it still means something, doesn't it? Every year, I resolve not to become introspective about the whole birthday weirdness. That's impossible, though. The professor for whom I do research (and basically whatever else is necessary and reasonable for seven bucks an hour) told me that she was in Italy with her husband, at some lovely outdoor cafe, when suddenly he said "It's your birthday!" She actually had forgot her own birthday, but as it turns out could not have asked for a more perfect one. This sort of thing will never happen to me. August 3rd is so completely ingrained into my psyche that the only way I'd forget it's significance is if I suffered some blunt head trauma. Repeatedly.

As birthdays go, this is one of the best ones I've had. My early 20s, which I now can conveniently group into a single period, were always marked by a filling of unattainment. I'm not sure if that's even a word, but it should be. I always had certain ideas of where I would be at certain ages, and was never anywhere close to my goals. Well, I won't lie, I had a ton of goals for my 25th birthday. Ask any of my friends or family, and they'll tell you that I always say "if you're going to be anything great, you have to do it by the time you're 25." A perhaps insane standard to live up to, but to me it seems very reasonable. So the last five years, I've had this big 2 5 looming in the distance, weighing me down with a lot of self-doubt and internal pressure.

But now it's finally arrived, and you know what? This year, for the first time since I started to think in depth about what I wanted to do with my life, I didn't wish that I could go back and change anything. Maybe it was a simple cases of the anticipation being the worst part, but actually knowing that I'm 25 has somehow made me feel freer than I have in years. Yes, some things have happened that made my life a lot harder, and other things that I desperately wanted never materialized. But the place I'm at today, for better or worse, is a place I basically like. I won't lie and say I love it, nor will I pretend I hate it.

I think the big problem before was that I imagined this ultimate version of me, the me that would have been if everything had worked out perfectly. I just assumed that if I put in enough effort, I could get closer to all those things I imagined for myself--as if I had taken a detour and was trying desperately to get back on the main road. But it just isn't like that. Whatever those first 25 years could have been....well, they're over now. The next 25, though, are just beginning. All I can simply hope is that I learned well from my mistakes and learned even better from what I did right.