The Benefits of Reverse Zombification

This is my first post of 2017. Yes, I know, it’s April. Yes, I know, I haven’t posted since December. It’s been a long, hard semester. I’ve had weeks where I felt like I had to drag myself from one unending fifty page assignment to the next. It’s been a struggle to write fiction, let alone blog. And let’s be honest: you really don’t want to hear about my contracts class anyway.

 

But things are looking up. Boston finally seems to be considering springtime (or it was yesterday), my appellate brief is complete and I have my moot oral argument tonight, I have my final negotiation for my negotiations workshop on Saturday, and then there’s only two weeks of classes left. Two weeks where things are a little less crazy before we hit reading period and have to study nonstop for finals. I intend to use those two weeks wisely. Actually, now that I have a better sense of what law school finals are like and how to prepare for them, I’m going to use reading period wisely too. (We’ll see how this actually goes but I’m going to try.)

 

So since I never posted my goals for 2017—whatever those actually were—here’s my goal for the rest of 1L year and the summer: I don’t want to be a law student zombie anymore. I want to become a human being again. And here’s how I’m going to do it.

 

First, I’m tired of being a desk potato, so I want to get back in shape. I like feeling strong, and I miss moving. Added bonus: exercise isn’t just healthy. Whenever I actually get up in the morning and go to the gym, I feel great for the rest of the day. Yay endorphins!

 

Second, and along similar lines, I’m going to try to get myself onto a reasonable eating schedule. This means I need to stop eating dinner at 10:30 at night, even if the kitchen is busier earlier. I don’t think I need to explain why eating at a sane hour of the night is just overall better.

 

Third, I’m going to write more. Like really write, the way I was writing in college or in Italy, or as close to that as possible. I’m tired of feeling like a few paragraphs is a victory.

 

Fourth, I’m going to get back in touch with my inner extrovert and do fun things with friends. I feel like I live in my dorm room, and that just has to stop. The sun is shining. The grass is not quite green yet. We’re almost finished 1L. I have every reason to do social things.

 

I’ve already started on all of these goals. I’ve been exercising regularly and mostly eating around 8:00 at night, which is earlier but still not prime kitchen time. I’m also doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month, the full 50,000 words of it, to hopefully stretch my writing muscles and actually make some progress on revisions to my memory wiping academy novel. I’m participating in another twitter pitch slam this week for my middle grade fantasy novel, and I’m planning to take an online writing course this summer to give me some more structure. Finally, this past week I went to trivia and participated in a scavenger hunt, and had a blast at both. I have felt infinitely better this week than I have in a while, so I’m planning to keep it up. It’s something we were told over and over again during orientation, but apparently I didn’t really get it until now: self-care is really important.

 

It’s a good start, and I’m looking forward to keeping it up throughout the spring and summer. I’ll be working  in Boston this summer at the U.S. Department of education Office for Civil Rights, so this will be the perfect opportunity for me to actually get to know Boston better, and since I shouldn’t have homework outside work, I’ll be able to able to exercise and write and do fun social things and set a good routine for myself for the start of my 2L year.

And of course, all of this includes blogging more. It’s been a really hard school year, but I’m finally starting to feel like I have the hang of this and I can take the time to have a bit more fun and take care of myself.

 

So happy almost maybe spring!

How I Conquered the World in 2016 and Other Stories

I’m still having trouble believing it, but 2016 is drawing to a close, which means it’s time for my annual round-up of the year. And what a year it has been.

 

Twelve months ago, I was working at the New Hampshire Disabilities Rights Center. I’d only been home from Italy for a few months, and Mopsy and I were still working through our nerves about other drivers while walking around town. I’d just submitted my final law school appplication—and I’d already been admitted to several fine schools. Now, I have just completed my first grueling semester at Harvard Law School, and when we aren’t studying, which isn’t that often, Mopsy and I are cruising around Boston like pros.

 

The only goal I set for myself this year was to not be afraid. I think I was mostly successful, though it was hard to keep that in perspective when I first realized I was going to have to do a lot more cooking than I originally anticipated, or when I was exhausted from studying for seven days straight and terrified I was going to fail my civil procedure exam, or when I woke up from my recurring hospital nightmare this morning feeling like I couldn’t breathe. Or when the election happened.

 

But with my signature optimism, when I look back at all the things I did this year—so many of them brand new—I have to give myself credit.

 

Everything I did at the DRC was totally new to me, from attending hearings to investigating voter accessibility. After I finished my internship, I went on a road trip to visit all the law schools I was still considering. When we were in New York visiting Columbia and NYU, my mom and I also went on two tours of Alexander Hamilton’s New York—one of the financial district and one of Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights, and Morningside Heights. They were fascinating. Then my Italian host parents, Stefania and Bruno, came to America for three weeks, and we visited Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, New York City, Boston, and of course New Hampshire with them. my older brother got married. I went to the National Convention of the National Federation of the Blind for the first time, where I tried ballroom dancing, swing, and 1Touch self-defense. Then I spent the summer learning my way around Harvard, Cambridge, and Boston.

 

And then I started at Harvard Law School, where every single thing I’ve done has been new. I’d never read a legal opinion before. Now I feel like I read nothing but legal opinions. I learned how to do legal research and how to write in legalese. I learned how to think in a completely new way that I’m still not used to and I can’t describe. For the first time, I took final exams with no indication of my grasp of the material—an experience I’d never like to have again but unfortunately I will have to repeat five more times. And right now I’m in the middle of my first ever job search, complete with cover letters. So many cover letters.

 

But I haven’t done only law stuff. I joined a book club with some of my amazing sectionmates. So far, we’ve read Kindred by Octavia Butler and Cinder by Marissa Meyer (the last one was my recommendation if you hadn’t guessed). Right now we’re reading The Dinner by Herman Koch (well, I haven’t started it yet). I also tried out for the law school a cappella group—I didn’t get in, but it was fun to try—and I also applied to write for the law school parody—didn’t make that either but it was both the first script and the first parody I’ve ever written.

 

I’ve also started becoming politically engaged this year. I’m not going to go into the election too much here, because it really isn’t what I want this blog to be about, but I have written about my feelings on the election,and of course you’ve seen my posts on Braille literacy and the Foundation Fighting Blindness’s #HowEyeSeeIt campaign. I was chosen as a section representative for HLS’s law and government program, and I’ve applied to volunteer for a 2017 gubernatorial campaign.

 

All along, I’ve kept writing. At the beginning of this year, I started queryingagents about my novel. I paused when law school hit, but I’m going to send out a new batch of queries in January.

 

My story “Dissonance” was published in Abyss and Apex in April. If you haven’t read it yet, you can read it right here. And over the summer, I wrote and revised three more stories in the Phoenix Song universe—what i’m calling the world where “Dissonance” is set. I also wrote a poem set in the same world, my first poem since tenth grade. With a lot of luck, you might see those some day ever.

 

Once law school started, while I did write less, I did keep writing. I made sure to find time to write at least a couple times a week, not only because I love it, but also because I’ve found if I don’t write, I become first cranky, then miserable, then practically nauseous. When I feel like I’m drowning in law, my stories keep me sane. I finally got back to revising my memory-wiping academy novel, and I succeeded at my summer writing goal of getting the number of projects I’m working on down to two. And in the last couple months, I’ve been trying new things with my writing too. I wrote my first ever 250-word flash fiction story. I usually have the problem that every short story I write turns into a novel, so I was convinced I wasn’t going to be able to do it, and I was pretty darn shocked when I actually did. And right now I’m almost finished with the first draft of my first ever science fiction story. This story was actually inspired by whatever happened with my left eye back in January when my vision went all dark and shimmery for a day. Funnily enough, that was the same incident that inspired my first blog post of the year, about my decision to be brave.

 

Finally, I added some new sections to the blog this year too. Now, in addition to links to my published short stories, you can also read the stories behind the stories to find out what I was thinking when I wrote the stories and why I made the choices I did, as well as other fun facts and even some of my own illustrations. I’ve also been having a ton of fun writing the posts from Mopsy’s point of view, and I hope you’ve had fun reading them, because there’s more to come.

 

And after I don’t know how many New Years resolutions, I finally learned to use Twitter. The secret was  linking my Twitter and Facebook accounts so I only had to worry about one. I also entered a couple Twitter pitch slams for my novel, which not only got me in touch with some agents but also got me into the habit of checking Twitter and tweeting—twelve hours of tweeting and constantly refreshing does that sometimes.

 

I didn’t really conquer the world in 2016. In fact, especially in the last few months, between the pressures of law school, the election results, and the feeling that I just wasn’t writing as much as I wanted to or moving forward with my writing career as fast as I thought I would, I’ve often felt like the world was doing a good job of trampling me into the dust. But looking back on all I’ve done and all the new things I’ve tried, I’d say all and all, 2016 was a reasonable success. Now that I have a handle on how law school works, I feel like I can balance things a little better second semester. We’ll see how well that actually goes, but after a few more good nights of sleep, I’m ready to hit the ground running in the new year.

 

So bring it on, 2017.

Doggy Law School

Our first semester of law school is drawing to a close. In a few hours, we will be taking our first ever law school exam. Well, when I say “we,” I really mean that my sidekick will be typing furiously, and I’ll be there to provide heroic cuddles when she inevitably realizes that she hasn’t talked about the Erie Doctrine so she must have missed something.

 

It’s been quite a semester, and not the most tail-wagging semester ever either. We know we haven’t posted a lot, but it was mostly studying studying studying, and I didn’t want to bore you because I’m bored.

 

We have had some exciting adventures in Boston and Cambridge though. My sidekick went kayaking on the Charles and to see fireworks, but she left me behind for both of those, which was probably a good idea because I don’t like water and it was a tippy kayak. We’ve explored Harvard Square some, and we went to see the tree lighting in Boston before Thanksgiving. Also, our section, which is the best section in the history of Harvard Law School sectiondom, won the 1L cup, which was like a bunch of contests like egg-toss and pie-eating contests (my sidekick would not let me participate in that one), and a three-legged race where my sidekick lost a fight with the ground and almost broke her leg. The ground has this sneaky sidekick called gravity.

 

And of course we’ve learned law. Lots and lots of law. I don’t pay attention to a lot of it, but I have picked up some useful doggy pointers.

 

For example, if I throw my bone at my person, with desire or purpose or knowledge with substantial certainty that the bone will hit her, then that is an intentional battery. And if I manage to hit the leg that almost broke in her fight with the ground, I am responsible for all the consequences, whatever they may be. On the other hand, if I throw my bone, even if I’m not trying to hit my sidekick, but it’s foreseeable that I hit her, and I do hit her, I was negligent. Good thing my sidekick loves me and would never ever sue me.

 

Also, finders keepers is an actual real thing. Sort of. Someone who finds something someone else lost can keep it. The finder has rights to possess the lost thing against everybody except the true owner. So if the true owner shows up and says “Hey that’s mine,” the finder does have to give it back, but otherwise it’s theirs. So if my person drops her cookie, and I get it, it’s mine. Unless she grabs me fast enough and tells me to spit it out. Then I have to listen. It’s the law.

 

Next, I learned that because I’m a super special service puppy, I get to ignore all the no-pets rules. I already knew that, but now I know how to interpret the laws that say I’m a super special service puppy. I can study the text, and Congress’s purpose, and I can even look at how the agency enacted specific regulation about the statute and whether they did that right.

 

And finally, when we learned about federal jurisdiction in civil procedure, I learned how to make a well-pleaded complaint.

Mopsy lying at Jameyanne's feet in civil procedure class. Mopsy looks sad, and text above her head reads "Please: No More Class!"
Photo by James Sasso

 

The problem, of course, is that once I received a judgment as a matter of law and class ended last week, my person became very stationary and very intense about all the studying. And now here we are, on the brink of exams, almost finished with our first semester. We’ve learned a lot and made some fabulous friends. We are very nervous about exams, but we’ve defeated worse villains. We are very much in need of sleep and a good wrestling match with my rope and some good walks that aren’t to classrooms or the library. And we will get them. For a bit anyway. But first, we need to go kick civil procedure’s butt. Wish us luck.

Fox-Hunting, Nose-Punching, and Turning Laundry Blue: Three Weeks a 1L

I should be taking advantage of finishing my reading before midnight and getting some sleep, but since my weekend has been swallowed by my first memo, I wanted to squeeze in a quick post about my first three-ish weeks of law school.

I say three-ish because the first week was orientation, and the last two weeks have not been full weeks of classes. Thank you Labor Day.

So, three weeks ago I arrived at Harvard. Orientation was crazy, particularly because on top of all the programming, we had lots of reading to do for our introductory classes. Gone are the days when we go over the syllabus in the first class, people. I’d say I read about a hundred pages, maybe more, during orientation. And it didn’t get easier once orientation ended, because now we had more classes.

I feel like I’ve been spending every spare minute I have reading cases as fast as I can. My fingers hurt. I want to read fiction. I want to write more than a paragraph. I want to draw. Also sleep. The only time I pause reading is to take notes, but as the week goes on, those have become more and more eratic. I started out the week briefing every case. Everything was so nice and organized and detailed. By Wednesday, my briefs turned into mushy summaries that didn’t distinguish between the facts and the legal reasoning or the issues and the holding (the court’s decision). By this point, all I’m writing is “This case is about timber, a fence, some blue paint, and adverse possession.”

Over the weekend, I was able to take one day completely off, which was a wonderful, wonderful decision. It helped me reset and recharge and I was able to attack this week’s readings with gusto. And a plan.

I was going to stay two days ahead of the readings on the theory that I could be a bit more relaxed about it all. It was a good theory, but that was about it. I was so tired, and I fell behind my plan, and then I was stressed about not being on top of things. Also, because I did the reading two days before the class, and because I didn’t have time to review my notes because I was reading for the class two days ahead, I found myself struggling to remember what the cases for each class were about, even when I looked at my notes. Everything was just blurring together. So obviously I need to rethink my strategy.

Since I’ve been doing all this reading, have I learned anything?

I think yes. I feel like my understanding of what I’m reading is definitely improving in week 2, but it’s also a function of my note taking. So as my notes become less detailed, my understanding goes down the tubes a bit. I totally get what’s going on in torts and legislation and regulation. I thought I had a decent grasp on civil procedure (and then today’s class happened and I’m totally lost). I’m just sort of stumbling along in my property professor’s wake. And I haven’t been too concerned with first year legal research and writing, except to be alarmed by the Bluebook, until we were assigned our first memo today. Also, because there’s so much reading, if I don’t get something, I can’t go back to reread and try to figure it out. There just isn’t time. It’s gotten to the point when I don’t even recognize if I don’t understand something anymore, which is probably bad.

My notes also become snarkier the later it gets at night, and looking back I see they are riddled with random Princess Bride and Winny the Pooh references.

But I can definitely tell you that whoever said “A rose is a rose is a rose” is totally wrong (my latent English major is attempting to poke her head out and being beaten back). When applied to torts, a punch on the nose is not a punch on the nose is not a punch on the nose.

And that’s not to say that there’s no art in the stuff I’m reading. In Pierson v. Post, a seminal property case, the dissenting judge called the fox-thief Post a “saucy intruder.” Make of that what you will.

Okay, seriously, I’ve learned a lot. I’m not going to try to list everything I’ve learned because (1) I don’t think I can and (2) I don’t want to bore the pants off you. I’m living and breathing this stuff; I’m not about to regurgitate it onto my blog. But speaking of pants, I finally learned how to work the laundry machines, but not without mishap. In my defense, it was totally not intuitive.

I knew 1L year was going to be hard. I just don’t think I appreciated what hard meant. These last three weeks have been busy, stressfull, and exhausting. On top of the schoolwork, I’m doing a lot more cooking than I anticipated, because the law school dining hall has weird hours, and I’ve also had to stay on top of my budget in a way I didn’t even really have to do in Italy. I feel like I was not only flung into grad school but also into adulthood with a lot less warning than I would have liked. It’s been quite a transition, and I’m not out of the woods yet.

The good news is I’m not alone. Everyone I’ve talked to in my section is feeling the exact same way I am, and since 80 of us can’t be doing everything wrong, I’m guessing we’re probably doing at least something right. And everyone says it will get better. We’ll figure things out, make friends, start extracurriculars, and though it seems impossible to believe now, we’ll have fun.

That’s Jameyanne for you, ever the optimist. It is also quite possible that I drown in legal opinions and you never hear from me again. But I think I’ll go with option 1.

Summer Writing Roundup

I’ve been at Harvard for a week and a half, and by this point summer feels like a distant, golden memory. So maybe I’m a little late with this post, but I still wanted to quickly talk about the goals I set for myself this summer and whether I actually achieved them. (Cue awkward laughter.)

 

back in June, I set out a bunch of writing goals for the summer. I wanted to outline the hypothetical sequels for my small child magician novel. I wanted to have complete first drafts of all the short stories in the story cycle in my Phoenix Song universe I’m working on. I wanted to finish the fanfiction I was writing. And finally I wanted to get back to revising my memory wiping academy novel.

 

And… I accomplished none of that.

 

Okay, that’s not fair. I finished the outline for the second small child magician novel and started work on outlining the third. I revised three of the Phoenix Song Stories I’d already written and finished a rough draft of the fourth—which I’d been struggling with since December. I made a lot of progress on the fanfiction. And I got back to the memory wiping academy novel.

 

I also did a lot of other things this summer. I attended the NFB’s national convention, which was huge for me. I learned Unified English Braille (the updated Braille code which I hope to talk about in more detail in the future). ]. I got a new BrailleNote, which is more like a Braille tablet (also hope to post about that later). Then the new BrailleNote broke—apparently it had a defective motherboard—and had to go back in for repairs right before I started here at Harvard (luckily I got it back on the first day of classes). I learned the Harvard Law School campus and the T system, which was also huge, and there’s still more to learn. Finally, I had fun. I learned to play cribbage. I biked and kayaked and swam and went to the beach. I went to the midnight release party for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, my first HP midnight release party, and the party was the best part about that book (but the less said about that the better). I read a lot, and I wrote a lot.

 

Maybe I didn’t accomplish my writing goals as entirely as I’d intended, but the important thing I’m remembering is the goal behind the goals. I wanted to get myself to a place where I felt like I was at a different stage with each project so I could make progress on all of them without feeling like I was detracting from the others. I’ve now started my 1L year, and my writing time has been significantly cut down. In fact, my time for everything but reading and class has been significantly cut down. I’m hoping this will get better as I get used to what I’m reading for class, but in the meantime, it’s really nice to have projects at different stages so that, if I have a few minutes to squeeze in some writing (which has only happened once so far), I have choices about what kind of writing I’m doing and where in the process of the story I am. Right now, I have one project I’m outlining (the third small child magician novel), one project I’m in the first draft stage (the Phoenix Song stories), and one project I’m revising (the memory wiping academy novel). I feel like, with my crazy schedule and complete lack of free time, having the ability to choose what to write will actually work better for me, because it means I’ll be more productive rather than forcing it.

 

As I’ve already said, this summer was probably the last summer I will have entirely free. My goal, at its heart, was to make the most of it, and I definitely did that. So here’s to the summer, and here’s to a productive first year of law school to come.

Summer Writing Goals

Since I’ve finished my internship at the Disabilities Rights Center as well as my grand road trip of visiting law schools and the grand tour of the northeast with Stefania and Bruno, I’m taking summer off before law school. With the exception of a trip to Florida for the National Federation of the Blind’s annual national convention this week and the changes to the Braille code I need to learn (more on both those things later), I’m staying home, playing, and writing. After this year, I won’t have another full summer off again for who knows how long. So why not?

 

On the other hand, I don’t do well with no goals or deadlines. I just sort of flop around. In fact, writing-wise at least, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been flopping around a bit for a while. In college, I was part of a writing group that met every week and shared pages from continuing stories. There was pressure—not a ton of pressure because we were pretty laid back about it—but there was pressure to keep writing on the same project and to make progress on that project, because everyone wanted to know how things turned out. It was lots of fun, but it was also great for keeping me focused. And since college, I’ve been finding that I’m missing that focus. I’ve been having a hard time staying focused long enough to actually accomplish anything—or even to feel like I’m accomplishing anything. I feel so scattered, working on so many projects.

 

Here’s the thing. I probably have been making progress on all these projects. It just doesn’t feel like it. And it’s too easy, with so many projects, to avoid any problems I’m having with any of them, because the minute I get stuck, I can switch to something else and not actually address the reason I’m stuck.

 

I think it’s probably okay to be working on multiple projects at once, but I think I would be more productive if I was at different stages in each story—the planning stage in one and the writing stage in another, for example, or writing one and revising another. But when I have three or four things going, and I’m in the beginning of writing all of them, it’s hard to feel like I’m moving forward on any of them, even if I am.

 

Complicating all of this, I’m starting law school in the fall. Everything I’ve heard about the first year of law school is that you have no time to do anything ever. I don’t know how true this is, or how true it will be for me, because I’ve always found time for writing no matter what else I’m doing. But if I’m going to get any writing done in law school, I need to be organized about it. More than that, I need to feel like I’m moving forward, or I won’t be motivated to do anything.

 

So this summer, my goal is to clean up my writing desk—figuratively speaking. Right now, I’m in the middle of four pretty major projects. By the end of the summer, I want to be done with or at a different stage in three of them.

 

The first is a set of seven linked short stories set in my Phoenix Song universe—what I’m calling the world where “Dissonance” is set. I’ve written and revised three of these stories, and I’m partway through a draft of the fourth. By the end of the summer, I want to have a rough draft of all seven.

 

Second is a fan fiction novel I’ve been working on for fun. I’ve never written fan fiction before this. I don’t have anything against fan fiction, I just have so many story ideas of my own that I never had time for it. But I had this great idea and my friends really wanted to read it, and I was sort of blocked on everything I was writing last year, so I thought I’d give it a spin. It’s been a lot of fun, but I still have a ton of my own stories that have been taking a backseat to this, and if I have limited writing time in law school, I want to use it to work on my own original stuff. So by the end of the summer, I want to have completely finished that and gotten it off my plate.

 

Next, I came up with an idea for a sequel to my upper middle grade fantasy novel—the one I’m querying agents about. Actually, if I go ahead with the sequel idea I have, it will be a trilogy. Friends who have been published have advised me that it’s not always a good idea to write a sequel for a book that hasn’t been published, because there’s no guaranteeing that a publisher will want to publish a sequel, and you will have put a whole bunch of work into something that will go nowhere when you could have been working on something else. And again, upcoming limited writing time. My novel could definitely stand on its own, but I have an idea for a sequel that I love. So I started an outline to clarify my idea and make sure it is in fact a viable story—and assuming I get that far, I’ll need to pitch the idea to people with a reasonable amount of coherency. I don’t have any intention of writing the sequel yet, but I want to finish the outline and then outline the third book by the end of the summer.

 

This leaves my memory-wiping academy novel, which I decided earlier this year that I want to expand and split into four books. The first draft, which I finished just before I graduated college, was designed as a test to see if I could write the plot of a young adult trilogy into one book. The answer is yes, I could, but the book was one hundred sixty thousand words—which is way too long if you didn’t know that—and that’s when I glossed over a lot that I wanted to explore deeper. Plus I had a lot of extra plot I left out because I started panicking about the length. And also there were a bunch of plot holes that come from being one of my first drafts. So I started on that around Christmas but didn’t get very far (because of all the other stuff I’ve been working on). This revision will be my project in law school.

 

It’s a lot to get done this summer, but I write fast, and I’m pretty sure I can accomplish most of it. But I better stop talking about it and get writing.

Decisions, Decisions

Jameyanne and Mopsy standing in front of the Harvard law school library. Jameyanne is wearing a Harvard Law School T-shirt and has her hands in the air.For most of my life, I’ve had people telling me that I should go to law school because I would make an excellent lawyer. My response was always an unequivocal no. Absolutely not. I will never go to law school. It’s the last thing I wanted to do. Ever.

 

But almost a year and a half ago, I attended a dinner held by the Umbria chapter of the International Lions Club, which turned out to be several hours of listening to people complain about how hopeless and impossible it was to get money for their guide dog school and, when dinner was finally served, attempting not to shout at these same people who applauded when I poured myself a glass of water or cut up my chicken independently. By the time I got home, it was past two in the morning, and I had school the next day. But I was so tired and angry and frustrated—not just with what had happened at the dinner but with my whole first month in Italy. And as I tried to fall asleep that night, my thoughts shifted from an angry tirade to a new idea: I could do something about this. And I started considering the unthinkable: law school.

 

As untinkable as it was, I couldn’t let the idea go, and soon it wasn’t unthinkable at all. It was something I wanted to do.

 

And so began a journey whose ending I am just now reaching. First I made everyone swear not to say “I told you so.” Then I started studying for the LSAT with my mother, first on the trains to and from Ancona and Venice in June, then on the plane back to America, then all summer. We read the Princeton Review LSAT book cover to cover twice. Then I practiced with each individual section type, and then I did entire practice tests—using real old tests I bought from the Law School Admission Council. My score steadily improved over the month of September. Finally, in October, I took the LSAT. While I waited for my scores, I created a list of nine schools I wanted to apply to.

 

At the end of October, I received my LSAT scores. They weren’t as high as I wanted—I’d been consistently scoring six to eight points higher on my practice tests. but they were still really good, and I decided, since my LSAT scores were far from the complete picture, that I would apply to all nine of the schools on my list.

 

From November through March, I received acceptance after acceptance. In the end, I was accepted to eight of the nine schools, and many of them offered me significant merit scholarships. In the end, my decision came down to Harvard and Columbia. I’d visited a couple other schools, but they didn’t have the right feel, and I’d eliminated the others because they were either too far from home—I knew I wanted to stay in the northeast—or because they just weren’t in the same league as my top choice schools, and since I’m interested in going into the federal government, I need to go to the best school I can. It’s actually common advice, to just go to the best law school you get into. I knew that both Columbia and Harvard would get me where I wanted to go, so I decided to visit both schools and leave it up to my gut.

 

This month, I attended the admitted students weekends at both schools. There were a lot of things I really liked about Columbia. I liked the neighborhood and the feel of New York City. Everyone was really nice, and it seemed like it had all the opportunities I was looking for. Then I learned that Columbia Law School doesn’t have a dining hall, and in learning that this wasn’t available, I realized how important that was to me. It’s not that I don’t want to have to cook for myself during my first year of law school—though I don’t—it’s that the lack of a dining hall—the lack of any common space—coupled with the fact that all the law students live in apartments off campus, really made the school feel like there was no sense of community. It felt like people went to school and then left and went home to their regular lives. While I was sure I could handle this and still make friends and not starve, it wasn’t the situation I was looking for.

 

So when I went to Harvard, it was with the knowledge that I wasn’t completely in love with Columbia. I felt like I would have to absolutely hate Harvard for me not to choose it, but I didn’t hate Harvard. From the moment I stepped onto the campus, I had that gut feeling that this was it, and that feeling only grew. Everyone I met was incredibly smart and friendly. Harvard has law school only dormitories and apartments, as well as its own dining hall and gym—and the food is fantastic. Everything is so close together. The mock class I attended, the real class I sat in on, and all my interactions with the professors told me I would have every opportunity I want now and some more that I don’t yet know I want. Also, I really liked Cambridge. Like really liked it. And so did Mopsy. The law school is on its own little campus inside the larger university campus, but right outside the gates is Harvard Square, and right around the block is a Mike’s Pastries (I’ve always wanted to live in the North End of Boston because of Mike’s Pastries, so this is just an added bonus).

 

And so I made my choice. I thought it would be a really difficult decision, but in fact, when it came down to it, it was pretty easy. I firmly believe that things work out the way they’re supposed to, and that your gut feeling is really important when making these kinds of decisions.

 

And so a journey I started a year and a half ago has come to its conclusion, or really, I should say it has come to another beginning. I have made my decision, and I have made it official: in the fall, Mopsy and I will be attending Harvard Law School.

My Life as a Legal Intern

After I took the LSAT in October, I started work at the New Hampshire Disability Rights Center. I am having a blast. I am learning so much about disability rights, and I am having fun doing it.

 

In the two months I have been volunteering here, I have mostly been researching and writing. My first week, I researched and wrote a memo concerning problems and best practice policies surrounding mental health in higher education. I then got to watch the attorneys use my research to give testimony in front of the National Council on Disability. It was a crazy feeling. I also got to draft a Right to Know letter (the state equivalent of a Freedom of Information Act request), requesting information for a possible class action suit. I have been observing the intake meetings, where the attorneys go over the cases that have come into the office each week and decide how to handle them. I was astounded by how many different types of cases there are. Finally, I learned how to do basic legal research (really, really basic). I read the Air Carrier Access Act, and then I wrote this brochureon the rights of individuals with service animals when traveling by air. I have also written an article for the Brain Injury Association of New Hampshire’s newsletter about the rights of students with brain injuries to reasonable accommodations in higher education, and I helped verify information and make edits to a pamphlet on how to create an accessible campaign which will be mailed to all the presidential campaigns.

 

I have been working four days a week, and when I haven’t been working, I have finished all my law school applications and visited four law schools. And I have already been accepted to three schools!

 

I have also been writing a lot, and writing about writing on this blog. One thing I’ve discovered that makes me very happy is legal writing is not having an effect on my other writing. At least not yet. In the spring, I read all the archives of Query Sharkin preparation for writing a query letter for my novel (which I never actually did), and every time someone said they were an attorney, the Shark went “Oh no!” and then proceeded to explain how law school beats intuition out of your writing. In legal writing, everything is explained, and I mean everything, but in fiction, you want the reader to be able to skate smoothly from one idea to another. The idea that becoming an attorney could hurt my writing has been really disturbing to me, but so far it’s been more like two different modes of working. I can flip a switch and change from legal writing to fiction and then back again. At least, I can right now. I’m not doing a ton of legal writing at this internship, and when I really get into it in law school, things might change. So if I ever use the words “pursuant,” “furtherance,” or “hereinafter” in a story, you have permission to whack me upside the head.

 

I love being back on the student side of things. There is something both humbling and exhilarating in not knowing very much about what I’m doing: there is still much left to learn. I am learning it now, and I will continue to learn it over the next three and a half years.

 

The best thing about this internship, for me, is that it has really affirmed my plan to go to law school. My decision to go to law school was based on my experiences in Italy and my desire to make a difference for people with disabilities, but it was also driven by my feelings that nothing else I wanted to do (or thought I wanted to do) was working out. I really didn’t have any idea what I was getting into by applying to law school, and I was terrified that I would put all this work into it and then try it and hate it. Then I started this internship. I am having so much fun. I am fascinated by everything I’m learning. Now I have a better idea of the career I’m pursuing. I am confident it is the right one. And knowing I have made the right decision is the best feeling.

The Next Adventure

One year ago today, I graduated from Kenyon College. My time at Kenyon was spectacular—four years of fascinating classes and amazing friends—and when it was all over, I went out into the real world, totally confident that I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

 

Or so I thought.

 

My plan: I was going to go to Italy and teach for a year, and I was going to love it, and then I was going to go to graduate school for a Masters in Fine Arts in creative writing, and then I was going to teach creative writing—hopefully as a college professor—and of course, write. I might, if I decided I wanted to, get a Ph.D in comparative literature. Sounds perfect, right?

 

So I graduated, submitted all of my applications to MFA programs, and went off to Italy. And it didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t enjoy teaching. Sure, there were times when the lessons went great and everything was perfect, times when it felt like it clicked, but more often than not, I was battling exuberantly inattentive students or just plain bored . I have had some truly excellent teachers, and I have the utmost respect for them, and I really wanted to be like them. I tried to convince myself that things would get better. I’d just started teaching, after all. I was in a foreign country with students who didn’t speak English as their first language. I was working with high school students, and I’d always thought I would want to be a college professor. I was living far away from home, I wasn’t teaching the subject I thought I wanted to teach, and I was a teaching assistant, working with another teacher, instead of in my own classroom. But things didn’t improve, and by Christmas, I was positive that the problem wasn’t any of these things. The problem was I just didn’t want to be a teacher.

 

By this time, I’d also realized I didn’t want to be a full-time writer either. I’d always thought having the ability to write full-time would be the dream. I was only teaching in the mornings (school in Italy finishes at about 1:00 every day), and in the afternoons I was still too terrified of the crazy drivers to venture far from my apartment, so I spent all the time I wasn’t in school writing. It was as close to full-time writing as I’ve ever come. At first, it was great. I was so productive. But then it started to get a bit lonely, even for my inner introvert. And then, after I submitted all my revised short stories to the Dell Award, I was totally burnt out and didn’t know what to do with myself. I realized that, if all I’m doing is writing, I tend to write in giant bursts and then stop and not know what to do next and not have the energy to do anything even if I know what I want to do. But if I’m writing while doing something else, as I’ve been writing all my life while in school, I could write regularly and complete projects without burning out.

 

So, I didn’t want to teach. I didn’t want to write full-time (I still wanted to write, of course, just not full-time). Add to that the fact that being in Italy, which was my dream for years, was not what I’d expected, and I felt pretty awful. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and even if I figured that out, how could I trust myself that it was what I really wanted to do? Everything I had thought I wanted was a lie, after all.

 

I felt like this year was taking me apart, piece by piece, and putting me back together again all wrong. I felt like I would reach for something—an idea, a dream, a goal, my self-confidence or sense of humor—and it was not where I had left it.

 

I’m not one to wallow in confusion and misery—though it was very tempting this time. I would find something else I wanted to do, and I would try it, and if it didn’t work out, then I would try something else. Eventually I would figure it out. And I was starting to have another idea.

 

In November, I was invited to a dinner at the International Lions Club in Assisi. The Lions Club is an association promoting independence for the blind around the world. In Italy, they run a guide dog school, and they had heard that I was living independently in Assisi with a guide dog. At the dinner, I was very disturbed to learn that, due to financial constraints, their guide dog school could only match twenty to thirty blind people with dogs each year. The Seeing Eye, where I got Mopsy, matches at least two hundred guide dogs with blind handlers each year, and I know of at least five other guide dog schools in America. It is very expensive to train guide dogs, certainly. The Seeing Eye is funded by grants and donations, but as far as I could tell, the people at the dinner for this guide dog school were most interested in complaining about how hopeless the situation was. I understand I didn’t have a full picture of the situation, but to have a guide dog requires a certain level of independence on the part of the blind handler, so this was the first association I’d seen in Italy that was really promoting independence for the blind. And yet, when I cut up my own potatoes, my hosts broke into applause.

 

It was almost 2:00 in the morning when I got home that night, furious with the world, and while I was trying to calm down so I could get to sleep, I had the sudden thought, “You know, I could do something about this. I could work to make this sort of thing better.”

 

Since I stand by the fact that no idea at 2:00 in the morning is a good idea unless it still seems like a good idea in the light of day, I put that thought, and my frustration, to rest. But in the light of day, it did still seem like a good idea, and it kept growing. And after I was denied access to the Leaning Tower of Pisa with Mopsy—even though I called ahead to say I had a service dog and then presented my letter from the Fulbright Commission citing the Italian laws that allow service dogs access to all places open to the public without paying extra fees—I knew my idea was a good one.

 

It’s been a year since I left Kenyon, and it’s been a crazy year, filled with a whole lot of uncertainty and confusion and fear, but I know what I want to do, at least for now. It’s been a bumpy road, but I’m certain that every bump was important for getting me onto this path.

 

I have three more weeks of school here in Italy. Then I plan to visit Venice, Ancona, and other small towns around Umbria and Tuscany before I return to America. And I’ve decided that when I return to America, I will get a job and apply to law school so I can become a disabilities rights attorney. I have always had someone advocating for me—that’s how I got to where I am—and now that I’ve really had to advocate for myself, I’ve realized just how important it is. Plus, I like arguing. And I will always continue to write. I have some other projects planned as well. And I’ll see what happens. This feels right now, but you never know, and I’m okay with that. So I’m going to enjoy my last weeks in Italy, and then, let the next adventure begin.