Thursday, January 28, 2016

Talks about money you should have before marriage

Let's talk about one of the three things you're never supposed to talk about: money.

Before we got married, we talked to both sets of parents about money and how they handle things. Thankfully, they have all made smart financial decisions in their lifetimes and so had some great advice for us. My parents, in addition to being financially savvy, have also long been involved in the marriage prep offered through their church. So they've counseled a lot of couples before marriage. And invariably, they said, the single biggest issue in a relationship is money.

We knew that money would be a tricky thing for us... I have never had a budget (!! I know. So bad.) and Lewis has almost always had a budget. I have a lot of student debt from both my undergraduate and graduate studies. Lewis has no debt (such a help). I like to spend money on getting my nails done, going out for drinks with friends, and shopping. Lewis likes to spend money on video games, going out for drinks with friends, and playing in the outdoors (ski passes, new gear, etc.) I had investments, but no IRA. He had fewer investments, but an IRA and 401k that he was contributing to. I spend a lot more on little things like Target and gifts. He spends more on big things like new skis and trips.

Needless to say, there was a lot to reconcile. We had to consider some long-term, big picture questions like:

How much money do we need to live? 
How much to sustain a quality of life we're happy with? 
How aggressively should we try and pay off our debts? 
How important is it to us to invest and/or contribute to IRA's? 
Should we max out our 401K? 
Do we want to own a house? 
Is it important to us that our kids have higher education? If so, do we want to help them? 
Should we have separate or joint bank accounts?
How many credit cards should we have? Which credit cards? 
Should we tithe monetarily? If so, how much and where?

But there were also more practical, day-to-day questions about our spending like:

How would we like to allocate our income?
How are we going to budget? Some software? Excel? A paper ledger?
Will one person be responsible for all of our financial reconciling and paying bills? 
If not, how do we allocate responsibilities? 
How much money can each of us spend without consulting the other? 
Should we use cash, debit, or credit cards? 
Is automatic bill-pay best? 

These were ALL important questions to us and we talked about every one of them. In fact, we still do. Every single month! I'm confident that even if we were to answer separately, Lewis and I would have almost identical answers. However, it has not been easy and it is definitely not fun.

To this day, despite being on the same page about our finances, money is still the #1 thing we fight about (and we don't fight often). But having those conversations before we got married ensured that we were generally on the same page with money, even if we didn't have an exact answer to all of the questions above. Just hearing about Lewis's expectations and habits (and vice versa) was, I think, crucial to some of our marital happiness! (And in the next little bit, I'll share exactly what we do and how we budget.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Our Wedding: Three Things I Loved

As of Saturday, we have been married a whopping 8 months! Woohoo! It's really been the best. Being married to Lewis, not just being married, has been the best. It's infinitely better than dating and 10000x better than being engaged! I highly recommend marriage.

Now that we're a little ways out, I feel like I have enough distance from the wedding to be able to comment on the things I loved about it, things I would have changed, things I was super annoyed by, and things I've already forgotten about & therefore could've done without.

So, here are three things that I loved about our wedding....

1. Having a short engagement

As I mentioned, trying to choose a wedding day was so stressful. In between graduation and studying for the bar exam and deciding to move across the country -- we felt so stuck! Thankfully, it worked out beautifully and the church & reception site were both available on May 23... my parent's anniversary! It was a wonderful coincidence.

However, May was only 6 months away from our December engagement! Could we do it? The wedding world would have you believe that getting married in anything short of a year is insane. But they are wrong and I LOVED having a short engagement! There were absolutely no downsides for us. To give our guests enough notice, we skipped save-the-dates and sent our invitations at the end of January. Instead of searching for months on the perfect [whatever], I just had to choose from whatever was available - fewer options = less stress. This included my dress (online!) and choosing vendors (I chose our florist literally a month before the wedding. It was fine.)  As well, even though this may come as a surprise, I think we spent less money than we could have spent had we had a longer engagement. With less time to plan, we had to choose fewer or simpler "add-ons" like favors, a photo booth, videographer, planned activities for guests, etc.

But the biggest reasons I loved our short engagement were spiritual and emotional ones. I didn't want to be engaged for longer than we had to be because I really just wanted to be married to Lewis (not engaged to Lewis!). Engagement is a transition time and a period of preparation. And, since we cared way more about preparing for marriage rather than planning a wedding, we tried to ramp our prayer life and sacramental life during that time. It was an intense few months of prayer, discernment, and preparation - is this really the person I want to spend my life with? (Resounding yes.) A shorter engagement helped to keep the end in sight.

(Also, we waited to have sex until we were married and were straight up tired of waiting. Ha! Less time to wait meant less temptation.)

2. The way we spent our budget

Before we started wedding planning at all, Lewis and I sat down and chose the "top 3 most important aspects of our wedding." For us, those three things were: food, drinks, photos. We prioritized those three things more than anything else, so when it came time to choose a caterer and photographer, we weren't shocked or nervous by the cost. We just hired who we really wanted! It took so much pressure off of us to know that even if we spent a lot of the budget on those things, it would be okay.

Conversely, some things were way less important to us, like my dress & his suit, getting my hair and makeup done, and decor. Although we didn't necessary go "cheap," we really wanted to keep these other costs to a minimum. My dress was from BHLDN (it's this one) and was less than $1000. With alterations, it ended up being around $1200. We bought Lewis's suit from J.Crew for just over $400, knowing he'd wear it again (and he has!). I did my own make-up, and Corey did my hair. Decor was so, so minimal - a few tablecloths and candles from this site - though it helped that our church and reception venue was already beautiful.

Of course, you can't control some costs. Our flowers (which were not a priority even though I LOVE flowers) were about $1000 :( They were so expensive! Every florist ended up quoting me about the same cost though - so I just chose the one I liked the best. I really considered making the bridesmaids' bouquets myself, but my mom convinced me not to. "Paige, you will be so stressed and done with planning the day before your wedding. You're paying for convenience as much as you are for the arrangements themselves," she told me, and she was totally right. It was such a smart move! When I arrived at the church, all the bouquets were there waiting for me. It was so, so nice to have someone else do them, and they were so much more beautiful than I ever could have done.

Overall, choosing our Top Three Things was so good for us and I was really happy about the things we splurged on (and the things we didn't!).
3. That we never left each other's side

Before our wedding, I heard so many stories of spouses who spent their wedding day or reception mostly apart - and that just made me sad! I wanted to spend the day most of all with Lewis! This motivated our wanting an early afternoon wedding - so we could spend almost the whole day together. And before the reception, we both made a promise to always be within arms' reach of each other. Even if we were talking to different friends, I could reach back and feel his sleeve and know he was close.

Because of our little agreement, we could really experience the whole day together - it was beautiful. Finally, it was important to us that we both got some face time with each guest (and this was much easier when we were already together!).

If you're married, I'd love to hear things you are so glad you did. And if you're not, do you already have some priorities for your wedding day? :)

Monday, January 25, 2016

What is law school really like? // part 3

Katie is an attorney & works for the State of Washington - she's in the Corrections division, which is the same division we worked in during law school and where we became so close (nothing like bonding over inmate law suits). Like Corey, she was a bridesmaid in our wedding and I couldn't have imagined law school without her help & support. (She single-handedly ensured I passed Evidence :))

Why did you decide to go to law school?
I am definitely the opposite of anyone who went to law school because they always wanted to be a lawyer when they grew up. I never thought that! But I always was interested in the idea of law school, even though looking back, I can say that I actually had no idea what law school was actually like. I think most of my ideas about law school came from movies and TV shows, which is embarrassing but true. Then, during the two years before I went to law school, I was unsure about actually going into the field that I majored in. I figured that if I went down the route I was on, I’d always wonder what would have happened if I went to law school—but if I went to law school, I didn’t think I’d have any regrets about leaving the other field behind. So law school it was.

Was there anything about law school that surprised you?
It was actually less competitive than I thought! I had heard the stories that one-third of students drop out, and that people hid books in the library so that their classmates can’t find them. Things like that didn’t really turn out to be true. Of course, I’m sure that depends a lot on the school. That’s also not to say things weren’t competitive. You can’t get away entirely from being competitive when you and your classmates are literally ranked based on your grades. Still, overall I was surprised by how not-cutthroat things turned out to be.

What were some of the greatest challenges of law school?
The learning curve is huge. The first week of school, I remember learning that state courts and federal courts were different (wait, what?!), and I had to stop and think each time I read about a “plaintiff” because I couldn’t remember which side that meant. We had to learn an entirely new way to write. Before we could write, we had to learn an entirely new way to do research. It was a lot to take in.

Were aspects of law school that were easier or harder than you had thought they'd be?
Easier: class. No, really! Once you get through 1L year and know how to read a case (as in, how to skim-read to get to the important parts), preparing for class becomes a lot easier.

Harder: Everything beyond class. I honestly think I spent 10% of my "school" time as a 2L and 3L on preparing for class, with the other 90% being all the extracurricular stuff. I wound up thinking at times, "wow, law school would be so easy if all I had to do was prepare for class." And then, strangely, 1L year, which was so overwhelming at the time, looked simple and appealing. Go figure!
3L year in a nutshell. Doing work for one extracurricular activity (law review) 

while on a plane for another (moot court). No actual homework in sight.

Which year of law school is the hardest?
They are all difficult for different reasons. 2L and 3L year were incredibly hard work, mostly because of all the extracurricular activities (journals, moot court teams, clubs, jobs) that get added to your workload. If I had to pick one, though, I’d say 1L year was the hardest. Everything was overwhelming. I didn’t know how to read a case and spent hours reading and highlighting and looking up words in the dictionary. I couldn’t remember what a plaintiff was. It was all pretty terrible. 1L year was basically about building a framework for legal knowledge from the ground up, and starting from the bottom was extremely difficult. 

What did you not learn in law school that you wish you had?
This is a horribly practical answer, but I wish I had taken more bar classes. Most subjects that are tested on the bar are also required classes in law school, but some of them are not required, and you can leave law school not having taken them. I would say most people have about 1 or 2 bar subject classes they don’t take, and the bar prep companies usually tell you it will be no big deal to learn those subjects for the first time while studying for the bar. 

For me, I never took Sales or Secured Transactions in law school. OH BOY, do I wish I had taken Sales. I spent so much time last summer learning it all for the first time. I was also very, very glad to have taken a couple other bar classes (Trusts & Wills and Family Law) during my last semester in school, because those were fresh in my mind while studying for the bar. Based on that, here is my completely unsolicited recommendation for planning a law school schedule:

1L: Take the required classes. You don’t get to pick your schedule this year.
2L: Take classes you are interested in, like IP law or tax law or something. If you take only bar prep classes, you’ll hate your life.
3L: Take all the bar subject classes. Make your life the tiniest bit easier during bar prep!

Do you have a typical response to people when they ask if they should go to law school?
No, because no one has ever asked me that yet! If they did, I think I would ask them why they were considering law school, and would probably tell them many of the same things I’ve said here.

What are some things that people should consider when they’re thinking about whether to go to law school or not?
The main thing I would ask would be, why are you going? Don’t go to make someone else happy. Don’t go for the money. Don’t go for “prestige” or any of that. Law school is a huge commitment, both because of the time and energy it will take from you for three years and because of the financial cost that will likely affect your life for a long time. There’s no reason to make a decision like that unless it’s a decision for you, and you alone. Go because you want to go.

Do you think law school was worth it?
For me, yes. I discovered in law school that I really wanted to be a lawyer, and now I’ve never looked back. However, I think the answer to that question will be slightly different for everyone who is asked. (How’s that for a “lawyer” answer?)

Friday, January 22, 2016

To be a Catholic feminist...

A little while ago, Facebook helpfully informed me that a few Catholic (male) friends had liked a page called "Those Catholic Men." The article highlighted in the sponsored post is entitled, "Women Don't Deserve Combat." In essence, the author argues that combat and war is beneath the dignity of women, and that out of a sense of chivalry, men must protect women from the "disgusting, abhorrent, crude, and destructive" front lines of combat. 

I should caveat that anytime I see anything about how men must protect women from something that may offend their feminine sensitivities or that women must be placed on a pedestal way up out of the way of whatever offensive part of society they must not be allowed to engage in, my hackles go up. 

As the title of this blog declares, I consider myself a feminist and a Catholic. I know some (ugh. Matt Walsh. ugh.) argue that those words are mutually exclusive, but they aren't.

This is not the first time I have encountered such an argument ("protect women!" "pedestal!" "beneath her dignity!"), and it without fail strikes me as somehow wrong. See also: the many men throughout history who have thought women should not be allowed to participate in politics, be able to vote, or to be considered a legal person. Catholic teaching, as the author emphasizes, does uphold women's dignity. (And that's another thing. Why is it always "the dignity of women" as if the human women were an afterthought here and men are upholding "dignity" in the abstract which is loosely connected to said women? Let's instead say "women's dignity" and actually place women front and center.) My hope is that we can begin to knock down the wall between "Catholicism" and "feminism" which so naturally and beautifully go together.

Even though the article focuses on women in combat, I'm not going to address that topic much for several reasons. First, it raises many questions to which I don't have answers and which the original author ignored or was outside his scope but which I think are necessary (I mention some at the end of this post). Second, it provides a great jumping off point for many other related things that I'd like to talk about more.

First up: men's and women's dignity. Throughout the article, the author references an encyclical (aka official, published document by a pope on some topic) by St. John Paul II called Mulieris Dignitatem. The author quotes:

  • “For whenever man is responsible for offending a woman’s personal dignity and vocation, he acts contrary to his own personal dignity and his own vocation.” (Pope St. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem) 

I don't disagree with this. The purpose of a vocation (any vocation) is to learn how to love God and your fellow humans more deeply, fully, perfectly. Your vocation informs every decision you make, because it informs how you love and respond to others (and by extension, God).

For men, part of their vocation is to uphold women's dignity - and all that entails, but I argue does not include deciding for women what that dignity encompasses - since in doing so, they must learn to love more deeply and perfectly. The conclusion might be made that upholding women's dignity does not necessarily come naturally to men... hence this is part of how they love/suffer (ha!). However, let's think a little better of men! A better conclusion may be that many men respond well to a charge, a task, a challenge (to uphold women's dignity and protect them), and he loves more perfectly once a task has been given to him. 

On the other hand, many women do not need to be charged with a task in order to respond - they simply see what needs to be done and do it. Or, they are naturally more willing to sacrifice without any hope of reward (i.e. the reward of completing a task) because the good of doing the thing is enough reward. 

For example, the Law Review stopped offering scholarships for board members. Do you know how many men ran for a board position the first year this went into effect? One! (and God bless Jake.) The other seven positions were all filled by women! Our advisor commented, "I should have known it would be all women." Go, women!

That being said, it's definitely also not true that women > men. Here's another quote the author pulled:

  • "Contrary to what the progressive feminist ideology would like to have you believe, we know that masculinity and femininity are actually not in conflict. One is not superior and the other inferior."

I think we should be careful about blasting "progressive feminist ideology" as a whole. My experience is that most "progressive feminists" want to undo some of the historic injustices done to women and restore women to their rightful place as equal to men, aka "one is not superior and the other inferior." Their methods may different, but many of their aims are just the same as the Catholic Church (respect for women, upholding women's dignity, fighting against injustices against women such as sexual assault, trafficking, feeling forced into abortions, etc.) How much better would things go if we worked together instead of antagonistically? 

I agree that masculinity and femininity are not actually in conflict, and I do believe in gender complementarity, which I know many people do not. Of course, gender complementarity is at the heart of this whole discussion, and if you do not believe in this, this may all be moot for you anyways. My purpose is to see how/whether it is possible to be both a Catholic woman and a feminist, and if so, what that looks like. I hope and believe it is possible and want to show other Catholic women that they can and should be feminists and do not have to abandon Catholic teaching to do so.

However, it's super important that we define our terms. So, what is feminism? The author thinks that:

  • "Feminism should be about protecting and promoting the dignity of women. Instead, feminism is a code-word for removing distinctions between men and women."

I agree with that one aspect of feminism is about protecting and promoting women's dignity. But feminism is much more than that (and it's not just a "code-word for removing distinctions between men and women".) It's about promoting women in the workplace, advocating for equal pay, demanding protections for pregnant women (like maternity leave and the right to breastfeed where they'd like), providing assistance to single mothers, and encouraging young women to go into STEM fields and in politics or government work.

As St. John Paul II wrote in another important document, "Letter to Women", "Unfortunately, we are heirs to a history which has conditioned us to a remarkable extent. In every time and place, this conditioning has been an obstacle to the progress of women. Women's dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity."

He goes on: "As far as personal rights are concerned, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State."

What else is he talking about than feminism? Feminism is not a concept reserved to the "liberal left," but should be a concern for every person - including Catholics and Catholic women.

As mentioned, the actual premise of this article, women in combat, is a tricky one because it raises so many questions. The author makes the point that if women are "life-givers," then being in combat goes directly against their nature since "the purpose of [combat]... is the intentional destruction of life."

But this begs the question: "what is combat?" If combat does not always mean the destruction of life, then perhaps a different conclusion must be reached. If combat includes intelligence operations, medical assistance, or searching for IED's, should women be excluded? What exactly constitutes combat that is specifically "life-destroying?" Is there any military involvement that is not life-destroying in some way? If not, would the author argue that women should not be in the military at all? 

I'm not sure there are any easy answers, which one reason among many why the Catholic Church has not taken a stance on this (also because the Catholic Church is not a political party). But for my purposes - as a Catholic feminist - articles this like one frustrate me, not because everything in them is wrong, but because they take such a moral high ground, with much wringing of hands and condemning any progress for women. Even if women in combat ends up not being in women's best interests, is it morally wrong? I doubt it. And every article like this one makes it harder for Catholic men and women to accept feminism as important and necessary.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Networking burnout

Update on the old job situation: na-da. Nothing!

However, that's usually not an acceptable answer to parents, in-laws, or even Lewis. They are all trying to help me out and genuinely care a lot about my employment status (perhaps more than I do at this point...) SO when the question arises, (as it inevitably does quite often) "How's the job search?" I really do have to give an better answer about my glacial progress from Netflix-binging to employment.

Enter the magical land of networking.

(1) From Webster's Dictionary: "the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically: the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business."
or alternatively
(2) From urbandictionary: "A yuppie euphemism for kissing ass in order to get a job or obtain a raise or promotion."

I have found both definitions to be extremely accurate. You could say I'm experiencing a little networking burnout at this moment... We arrived in Colorado right about Thanksgiving 2015, so just about 3 months ago. Lewis didn't start until after Thanksgiving so we spent some time together (and my brother came to visit). The week he started, the moving van arrived so my time was spent unpacking-cleaning-unpacking-cleaning-breaking down boxes forever. Once our lives were semi-organized, I felt a lot of pressure to start looking for a job better known as networking.

Gonzaga Law's career counselor sent me some names of lawyers here in Denver. I contacted all of them and heard back from two. Of the two, I've met one. (For fun, let's keep a tally, shall we?)

Contacted       Met
 5                 1

After Christmas, I broadened my search to include Aggie grads as well. Found one, reached out, we had lunch. 

Contacted       Met
 6                2

After New Year's Eve, one of my best college friends sent my resume to a family friend who's well-connected in Denver. He introduced me to a two of his contacts. 

Contacted       Met
 8               2

Of the two, I met with one right away, who later got me in touch with three of his contacts. 

Contacted       Met
 11              3

Meanwhile, my in-laws (from Colorado) are also offering contacts, one of which I contacted early in the year. 

Contacted       Met
 12              3

Finally, I found another Aggie yesterday and reached out. 

Contacted       Met
 13              3

And, if we project a little into the future, we can update these numbers still. I am meeting someone for lunch today, going to a Colorado Bar Association Meeting tomorrow, and having a coffee on Friday with two people. 

To summarize, in almost 3 months, I have contacted 13 people and by the end of this week, will have met 7. Basically, this is a slow, slow process, with frustratingly slow results. And I don't even mind networking either! Growing up, my dad taught my brother and me how to properly shake someone's hand (I remember rehearsing in the car sitting in our host's driveway), how to start and carry a conversation, and basically, how to "work the room." On top of my early indoctrination into networking, law school was bursting with opportunities to hone your skills with lawyers/judges/people who may employ you. For me, meeting new people is engaging and interesting. As an extrovert, I feel the most energized by being around other people. In general, networking is not necessarily nerve-wracking or hard - ALL THE MORE REASON that I'm feeling burned out (why is it so hard now??). 

Don't get me wrong with the networking-burnout-frustration. I am extremely grateful for everyone has been helping me out - my parents & in-laws, friends of friends, contacts who graciously connect me with even more contacts. I know not everyone has this many people pulling for them and that is very encouraging. (Thank you!) And I am very grateful for the contacts who have met with me or replied to my emails. I have no doubt they are all very busy, are helping me out because they've been here too, and get exactly nothing in return from doing so. (And even bigger thank you to them!) I think that they, more than anyone else probably, know what it's like to hoe this row and be blasting zillions of emails into the networking vortex hoping one of them will result in a job.

On the one hand, I am not at all surprised that I have made virtually no progress finding a job. As I keep recounting to loved ones, I didn't go to law school here, didn't do any internships here - no one knows me! So, half the battle is just a little name recognition (that name being "Gonzaga," not "Paige Cutter.") Additionally, it's a weird time to be looking for a job - end of one year and the beginning of another. I'm trying not to be too hard on myself. 

On the plus side, I've been afforded a great opportunity to consider what I really want to do, what sort of career I'm looking for (trying to take advantage of the time off and all that!). And if you read about "what I really thought of law school," you'll know that I'm not sure I want to be an attorney at all? This break is really prompting some introspection that I think is long overdue and incredibly important. After all, if I'm going to make a career change, isn't this the best time to do it? 

Monday, January 18, 2016

What is law school really like? // part 2

Corey is a Montanan, married to Matt, and 3L student at Gonzaga (we met there!). She is super smart and driven, in addition to being a loyal and true friend. We became friends during my 2L year, and she ended up being a bridesmaid in our wedding. We talk almost every day, even though we're no longer next door neighbours, and I am grateful for her thoughtful responses (and surprised by how similar some of our answers are!)

first day of law school

Why did you decide to go to law school?
I wanted to be a lawyer from a very young age. I always loved being an advocate for my friends in disputes on the playground– my fight or flight response is heavily weighted towards fight. So when my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told him I wanted to help people, but I didn’t want to have to rely on other people to do so. From my point of view, teachers couldn’t (or didn’t) help kids in bad situations without referring the problem out to someone else; and I felt the same was true with social workers. So I settled on this: those closest to the law itself could probably do the most good for others. Thus, law school and being a lawyer was the only way for me to go.

Was there anything about law school that surprised you?
Honestly, what surprised me the most about law school was the number of extracurricular activities we are expected to be involved in. These are seemingly required if we want to be successful both in school and in looking for post-graduate employment. I anticipated the classes would be hard (no one can ever truly anticipate how hard, but still) and that it would be a lot of work (again, no one can anticipate the amount really). But what was most overwhelming to me was the pressure to participate in clubs, networking events, meetings, internships and the like. I remember thinking over and over again, “We have to do this, on top of everything else?!” Plenty of my friends and I relish the day when we only have one thing to do (i.e. to just study for the bar).

a mock trial (Phil Spector night)

What were some of the greatest challenges of law school? 
Unfortunately for me this question should read “what are” some of the greatest challenges, because I’m not done yet! Nevertheless, I think the biggest challenge of law school is the endurance it requires. Many people who aren’t naturally talented at something can learn how to do that something (even if it’s extremely hard) once or for a short period of time. Fewer people can keep learning and working at it, over and over again. For example, even if you are not the smartest student, you can learn how to study that particular subject and be successful on one law school exam. The real challenge comes when you are asked to study that hard, constantly, for three solid years. And the phrase “study hard” does not do it justice either. 

I think every law student experiences a burn out moment (or moments). Some of us experience it later than others, but it gets to all of us. I think the truly successful law student is someone who picks themselves up after the meltdown and attends class regardless. The best way to be successful in law school is to just keep showing up.

Were aspects of law school that were easier or harder than you had thought they'd be?
Easier: Participating in class discussions. My strategy with the cold call is to volunteer rather than be “voluntold,” so I end up talking in class a lot more than most students. But I thought it would be so much harder than it actually is to speak in front of a group of 50 of my peers and my professor.

Harder: Being told I am wrong. I honestly thought I was somebody who could accept criticism when I first started law school. But after a few solid, public shutdowns I started to accept that the world may not be as black and white as I thought.

Which year of law school is the hardest?
All of them.

If I had to pick I would say 2L year is the worst. A lot of people think the first year is the hardest, but that’s just because it’s new and unfamiliar. There’s a bit of grace afforded to a 1L because of their ignorance – they really have no idea what does and does not matter in school. However, when you’re a 2L you have a sense of what is and isn’t important, and you also have ten times more obligations and work to do than you did the year before. Add on the fact that as you are already exhausted and overwhelmed as a 2L, you still have to stomach the idea of another year of this AND the bar after that.

I am currently in my 3L year, so I cannot completely look back and tell you which year is the hardest. But I can tell you that the challenges of 3L year are not absent. As a 3L, I expected I would not have to work as hard or that school would somehow become “easier.” So far this has not been true (but I have a problem saying “no” to work too).

corey, katie, & me 

What did you not learn in law school that you wished you had?
I strongly believe the curriculum should teach law students how to prepare opening and closing statements and how to examine a witness. I learned these skills through participating in moot court and my current internship, but most students do not avail themselves of these extracurriculars (because they have what I like to call a life).

Do you have a typical response to people when they ask if they should go to law school?
No, not really. I do think you shouldn’t go if you don’t actually want to be a lawyer (unless you really love strenuous academic exercise). On the other hand, I almost always want everyone to go to law school, because it trains you to think clearly and analytically and I think our world could desperately use better thinkers.

What are some things people should consider when they're thinking about whether to go to law school or not?
Who? – Who are you doing this for? If the answer is anyone other than yourself, reconsider your choice to go. Only you will attend your classes, take your tests, and go through the mental spin cycle that is law school. The worst part? Unless the person you are doing this for is a lawyer themselves, they will never be able to fully appreciate the effort and challenge of law school. 

What? – What is your expected outcome from law school? Money? Prestige? Purpose? Your hopes for your future are the metaphorical comfort blanket that will keep you warm on those late night study sessions. Make sure it is a good one to wrap up in. 

Why? – Do you even want to be a lawyer? If you want to be a businessman, then don’t go to law school. If you want to be an author, then don’t go to law school. I cannot impress upon you how much of a toll these three years will be on your life. Make sure the cost, financially and mentally, is worth it.

If you decide to go to law school because you don’t know what else to do, then don’t go to law school. It is not a place where purposeless people thrive. We are all Type A, perfectionist, competitive, and driven people. You will get eaten alive.

When? – As a K through JD student, I strongly recommend taking some time off between undergrad and law school. In my observation, the students with more life experience are more successful and well rounded than those of us who have started school every fall since they were 5 years old.

Where? -- It is easy to get caught up in the thought of attending a “top tier” school, but I honestly do not think this matters as much as people think it does. Pick a school where you will get a good education. You’ll spend a lot of time there, so make sure the campus is pretty and the classrooms are nice. And maybe consider proximity to family and friends. You’ll need shoulders to lean on if you do decide to go.

corey & me

Do you think law school was worth it? 

Yes. I have no doubts about this. But I do not think it was worth it for everyone who has become a lawyer, especially those who had other dreams they did not follow because they chose the “security” of law.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Long weekend, here we come!

How was your week? My accomplishments included not publishing a blog post I wanted to (Catholic feminism - I promise it is coming...), watching both Meet the Parents and Meet the Fockers, working out exactly once, and successfully making "swedish gravy!" :) Lewis has a long weekend so we're off to the mountains this weekend - skiing FINALLY!! + some family time. Have a good weekend! My favorite internet things this week...

If you eventually decide to be a stay-at-home mom, should you feel guilty about not using your education?

Curious to go see this, especially as a Catholic.

Favorite thing that happened this past week.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A crowded room is the loneliest place to be

On Monday night, Lewis and I went to Theology on Tap. For those who don't know, this is a monthly talk at a bar or pub that often focuses on spiritual or religious topics and usually is aimed at 18-35 year olds. For example, Monday's topic was on "mercy" since this is a Jubilee Year of Mercy, and next month's talk is about Islam. We went into the evening with high hopes - Lewis and I met at one such event after all. But, I left feeling more sad and lonely than I had before we left. I want to try and describe what it was like...

We decided to take a Lyft downtown to the local pub that hosts Theology on Tap. It's a popular place and we were worried about parking and being late. Along one whole side of the pub is a row of floor to ceiling windows surrounded by wooden panes, so anyone walking outside can look in and see people chatting or eating. Inside is all dark wood and comfy booths, Irish memorabilia and posters on the wall, and a huge, wide bar. Behind the bar, bottles of Irish whiskey line the glass selves, and the tap selection in front are almost all Irish or British beers. When you walk in the front doors, you can't even see the back or the whole pub - tables and low walls are all crammed together so you have to snake through them to get by. I could tell the place was packed all the way to back though. The sounds of TVs playing sports, people talking, glasses clanking, and chairs scraping reverberated through the restaurant.

As soon as we walked in, a little table and sign that said, "Theology on Tap! Welcome!" was right up front. A young man and young woman with name tags greeted us at the table. "It's our first time," we said. "We're new to Denver." "Welcome! We're glad you're here," they answered. "Take a seat anywhere you like. We're in this room." They waved toward the left side of the restaurant. I looked where they were waving, and it seemed like their wave encompassed the entirety of the restaurant, or at least, the entire part that was visible from the entrance."All these people are here for Theology on Tap?" I asked. "Yep!" they responded. So happy and on fire that these young people were here to grow in their faith! Lewis and I looked at each other and shuffled toward the crowd, taking a few steps into the main room. We started to take our coats off, trying to avoid swinging our elbows too widely for fear of hitting someone.

I looked at Lewis. "Should we find a table? Or get a drink first?" I asked him. It was 6:55pm. The talk was supposed to start at 7:00pm. I watched him skim the room just as I had, taking it all in. "I don't know," he said. We stood between the bar and a huge, high table filled with young adults. They all looked to be about our age and were laughing and talking to each other. Behind them and along the wall of windows, the other tables were all full or coats were draped over chairs. I started to weave my way towards the back and closer to the restrooms. Young priests with scruffy shoes, sisters in their blue and white habits, and seminarians with shaved heads and neat black jackets mixed with everyone else. You wouldn't even really have noticed them if you hadn't been looking too hard at the crowd - they looked just like everyone else.

The further back we went in the pub, the more chairs were available. At one table, two men sat by themselves at a four person table. "Are you here for Theology on Tap?" I asked. "Yeah," one of them answered. "Could we sit with you?" I asked with a smile. "There's actually three more people coming," he said. "Oh, okay, that's fine," I said.

Behind me, Lewis had his coat draped over his arms and was scanning the nearby tables. Nothing in sight. There must have been 300 people in this room. While we looked around, we moved a little to the side to let people walk past us. Along a wall, next to the portable speaker set up for the talk, was a padded bench. "Do you want to just sit here?" I asked him. "Um, well, I guess we could. Let's get a drink and see if we can find a table," he said. I know he had been expecting what I had: a smaller crowd and the chance to share a table with someone and get to know them. Earlier that night, we had agreed to arrive a little early to "get to know the people at our table." It seemed like we wouldn't be at a table at all.

We shouldered our way to the bar and Lewis caught the bartender's eye. "Do you have any cider on tap?" he asked. The bartender pointed to a tab right in front of us and I nodded my head. We handed over our new driver's licenses and got our drinks - cider for me, Guinness for Lewis. Looking around the room, I noticed two seats had opened up at the big, high table right next to the bar. No draped coats. "Hi, are these seats taken?" I leaned across the table to ask one girl. "Yes, sorry," she said turning back toward her friend next to her.

Slowly with beers and coats in hand, we made our way back to the bench along the wall. It was still free and we sat down. It was past 7:00pm and we expected the talk to start any minute. We slowly sipped our drinks and talked about how different it all was from the young adult's group in Spokane. Finally, a young women stepped up the microphone and said, "Hello and welcome to Theology on Tap! I know we have a lot of new people here tonight so everyone please introduce yourself to someone you don't know!"

Beside us, two men had grabbed seats that had just been vacated, so we turned to them and introduced ourselves. "I'm Eric," one said. "Jonathan," said the other. The first one asked Lewis, "Have you guys been to one of these before?" Lewis explained we were new to town and this was our first one; we moved for his job, but I recently passed the bar exam here. "Congratulations," he said and shook my hand. "So what do you do for work?" he asked Lewis. "Well let's get started with tonight's talk!" the young woman boomed over the microphone. We all sheepishly sat down with "it's nice to meet you" whispers.

"Are these seats taken?" a middle-aged looking woman with short blonde hair waved her beer toward the seat beside me on the bench. "No, not at all," I responded quietly. She grabbed her friend's arm, spilling her own beer down her arm and my shoes in the process. "Oh, sorry! Sorry!" she whispered loudly as she squeezed in beside me, her thigh pressed against my hip. I scooted over towards Lewis and she scooted closer and closer until Lewis was up against the portable speaker. "Sorry! Thanks!" she said, and then turned towards her friend, blocking my view.

The talk was all right. A young sister spoke about mercy and how we cannot live without it, using lives of the saints and some of her own stories. I had a hard time listening though - it was loud - and spent most of the hour drinking my warm cider and crowd-watching. A big group of seminarians all stood together near the bar. A young couple sat across from us, holding hands and listening intently. To my right, a big table of businessmen were clearly not there for the talk and had got caught in the flood of young Catholics. People were in suits, skirts, work-out clothes and jeans. Mostly young but some middle-aged. Probably more women than men but not by much. Everyone looked very normal and average and we probably did too.

Around 7:50pm, the talk wrapped up and a few people made announcements about upcoming events - it was hard to hear. Lewis had left our tab open and asked, "Do you want another?" but I said I didn't. I was tired and we were crammed along a side wall - you had to pass us to go to the washroom. "Do you just want to go?" I raised my voice over the swell of voices that was growing louder in the wake of the talk. "Sure," he said. We gathered our coats from under the bench and stood, moving towards the bar. It didn't seem like anyone else was in too much of a rush to leave - it was easy to get the bartender's attention to close out - and more groups of people talking had cropped up between us and the entrance. We excused ourselves past all of them and towards the entrance. The little welcome table was no longer manned and so we left unnoticed. In the car on the way home, I texted some friends, "There must have 350 people there tonight!!" and even if it wasn't true, it sure felt that way.

Lying in bed that night, I felt a mixture of disappointment and frustration. Disappointment over meeting no one - these were supposed to be people like me, Catholic, young professionals or students and yet there was no room for us among them. Frustrated because of the effort we had made that yielded no results. And most of all, tired of feeling all of these things.

I know it's going to take time. And that eventually our efforts will yield fruit.... In the meantime, I'm grateful for this little place to write and connect. And grateful most of all, for Lewis, and that he's trying too. (I am so glad we're in this together.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Should finding friends take "planning?"

I've been thinking a lot lately about whether making friends and building friendships should need "a plan."

definitely didn't "plan" these elementary friendships :)

For the record, "plans" are the story of my life. In junior high, I planned my ideal class schedule for high school. After college, I planned a three-month trip with an old friend. Before law school, I planned out an entire relationship with a guy (it didn't work out; definitely for the best). And my emotional happiness often depends on these plans. Plans that fall through make me unhappy or frustrated. Even plans that work out don't always make me as happy as I thought (and I discover making the plans is more fun than the actual event...) If you've ever spent months planning a trip and relishing every second but then ending up disappointed when it doesn't go quite as well as planned, I'm sure you know the feeling.

"Having a plan" is perhaps the most familiar phrase in my family besides our constant usage of the word "yay." Growing up, we were expected to have a plan for our summers, with our allowances, for college, in order to get birthday thank-you's out on time, etc. I distinctly remember creating PowerPoint presentations to help pitch my plan to my father (not sure I ever actually gave the presentation, but I definitely drafted them).

the friends you don't get to choose....your family! ha!

Both of my parents are intense planners. My father, a petroleum engineer, used to plan quarterly meetings with each of his children to discuss their life and its plan. Once we had a coffee (or later, beer) in our hands, he would slide a piece of paper across the table: the meeting minutes and plan for our hour together. I'm not exaggerating here.

I know I also get this from my mother (Hi, Momma!). She is a serial and meticulous planner. Here are some examples of things she plans: vacations down to the hour, meals when we're home for Christmas, her outfits, her own blog posts and writings, their house renovation. These are definitely all things deserving of and benefitting from her planning. And my father's planning has likewise always been deliberate and helpful, especially in avoiding aimless wanderings of adolescence. I've definitely been privvy to the virtues of planning and am grateful for their guidance (and plans!).

But is planning always helpful or good? Two weekends ago, my sister-in-law and I were talking about planning our lives (she's back home now and is planning her next few months). We both know people who plan things so much that it seems like there's no room for creativity, no room for, as she put it beautifully, "the movements of God." When I do make room for God to work in my life, He does! Or, when I don't always have "a plan," one eventually appears and often, it's more perfect than what I could have envisioned myself.

In December of 2014, Lewis and I (mostly me) were having a mini-crisis of planning. This was all precipitated by the fact that I needed to decide in which state to take the bar exam. I wanted to plan this with Lewis - I was in love with him, I wanted to be with him - but! we were not engaged. And even if/once we were engaged, there was the question of "when to get married" and "where to study for the bar exam" and "when to move." I was graduating in May and taking the bar exam in July - so we had to plan around those two, immoveable dates and it seemed like nothing was possible !! oh the drama!!

It came to a head one Friday night when I had a major meltdown. So unhappy with our plan-less and doomed future, I said to Lewis (and this is verbatim) amidst tears and snot, "Even if you were to propose tomorrow, I would say yes but I wouldn't be happy about it!"Guess when Lewis proposed. Of course, I did say yes and WAS happy about it after all. Here's evidence:

Once we were engaged, the ball just started rolling and doors opening. Our church was available on the date we wanted. The reception was available. I registered for the bar in Colorado. We found an apartment with a lease until August. It just...worked! I couldn't really have planned it better. And while the lack of a plan was initially terrifying, it was also refreshing to not have to control every.single.thing. When it comes to friendships, who wants to plan out every coffee and game night and phone call? No thank you.

So the other day when my mom asked, "What's your plan for meeting people?" my gut reaction was "Ugh, I don't want to plan this! I just want organic friendships to spring up! I want the spark!" For most of my life, this has been exactly how it's happened. You meet someone in a class, in a group project, at church, wherever - and BOOM instantaneous spark. Alternatively, you're in the same class from grades 2-10, have known these people your whole life, or are family friends - so, friendships just sort of happen. Fast forward to now, though, and there are no friendships just "happening." I'm no longer in school - thankgodneveragain - and actually/sadly rarely even leave the apartment. When I do, I go to Target, the gym in our complex, the grocery store, or some other random errands.

best high school friends

I think what this all boils down to is despite my love/hate relationship with "plans," if I want to make friends, it's definitely going to take a lot of effort. We don't have kids whose parents we can hang out with. I don't have coworkers. (Lewis's coworkers are lovely but there are only like 6 of them and they're all male...) Everyone in our massive apartment complex keeps mostly to themselves. We (thankfully!!) know a handful of people from Lewis's college days and friends of friends who have graciously invited us out with them. They are all wonderful and I hope we keep it up.

But that's JUST IT. We're gonna have to keep it up. Reaching out and making plans and basically dating these people to create that nice foundation of friendship. Should friendships require planning? I have no idea. But do they? Yes, I think so.

THE *as of now untested* FRIENDSHIP PLAN by me
1. Realize you have no/few friends in town. Check!
2. Be sad and write sad posts that make people sad. Check!
3. Get over yourself and put your brain to work. Check!
4. Call/text/reach out to whatever lifelines are available aka old friends and tenuous ones.
5. Accept every invite that comes your way.
6. Actually talk to people in the elevator of your apartment complex...
7. Buy more chairs and invite people over.
8. Go to ANY event that encourages conversation (exception: speed-dating), such as Theology on Tap.
9. Stay behind at the end of Mass for 10 minutes and say hi to the priest who will hopefully introduce you to every young adult in the parish.
10. Pray! :)

Monday, January 11, 2016

What is law school really like? // part 1

Now that I've graduated and passed the bar, I thought it would be interesting to reflect back on "what is law school really like?" and the first one is up today! I decided to post mine first, so below are some insights from someone who has graduated but (as I've been bemoaning) unemployed. I've also asked two of my best friends to weigh in - one is graduated & employed and the other is finishing up her last year. I hope you find these as interesting as I do!

last first day of school

Why did you decide to go to law school?
The short answer: I wanted to go back to school, and law school seemed like a safe bet.

The long answer: I never really wanted to be a lawyer growing up - it just never occurred to me. I wanted to be a lot of other things (famous, an EMT, a teacher...) but "lawyer" never crossed my mind. Part of this is likely because I'm the first attorney in my entire extended family. After my undergraduate degree (a BA in English rhetoric from Texas A&M), I was interviewing for jobs back in my hometown and many people I spoke with said something along the lines of, "Your degree sounds like it sets you up well to be a lawyer. Have you ever thought about law school?" And then I got a job in the legal department for a commercial real estate company. Thus the idea of law school was born. My parents also played a fairly significant contributing factor, since they knew I wanted to go back to school (I truly love school), and to them, law school was a nice career path for worldly success. I applied, was accepted a few different places, and offered a very nice scholarship to Gonzaga I went! I told myself if I ever lost my scholarship, I'd leave. I never did and stayed and here we are.

Was there anything about law school that surprised you?
Yes, a few things. One was how smart everyone was. Everyone in law school did very, very well in undergraduate or graduate school, and everyone had been at the top of their class. At A&M, I had been used to sort of skating by and still doing well - not so much in law school. Also, I think the sheer amount of work required was shocking. You are expected to read and be able to explain everything assigned in the reading. It's a massive amount of work - you have to study literally all the time. And there are very few shortcuts. Finally, I think just how boring it was by the end. Of course, some classes are filled with excellent and thought-provoking discussions. But, most are not and law school requires a high toleration of drudgery. 

learning an entire semester's worth of evidence with katie in 9 hours

What were some of the greatest challenges of law school? 
It can be a fairly toxic environment. People are overwhelmed, overworked, and exhausted most of the time, and that does not breed a lovely environment. We always described it as "high school, but with way more sex, drugs, and alcoholism" and I think that's unfortunately accurate. On the other hand, I met some of my best friends in law school and if you can find your people, they will be with you for life. No one really understands what law school is like unless you've done it, so when you find those friends who do understand, it's such a huge relief. 

Were aspects of law school that were easier or harder than you had thought they'd be?
Things that were easier: class discussions! I don't mean "easier" as in, less work required. But they were easier in the sense that most people were civil and everyone was smart. When you really got a discussion going, it was great because everyone was on the same page, knew the same facts - you could argue that the same level (versus in "real life" in which arguments can quickly degenerate into nastiness). Also, schmoozing is easy...haha. Lawyers love to (a) talk about themselves and (b) give advice.

Things that were harder: the actual work. The assignments, the reading, the concepts, "how to law school" were SO HARD. The first year, you don't even know what you don't know and are blindly flailing about, trying to even figure out how to do something (anything - read a case, take an exam, ask a legitimate question). The second year, you know exactly what you don't know - and it's terrifying. It's so much worse. The last year is a combination of anxiously trying to raise your GPA as much as possible while doing as little work as possible.

Which year of law school is the hardest?
2L year, or the second year.* Things start to get real, most people are going to school and working at a firm or an internship somewhere, and you are just drowning in work. During your first year, you think it can't possibly get worse - and then it does. My 2L year, I was taking classes, clerking for the Attorney General, had just made the Law Review, and Lewis and I had just started dating. I had absolutely no down time and was stressed out all the time. It's amazing to me that Lewis stuck it out!

going to Heidelberg (law school prom) 1L year with a dear friend!

What did you not learn in law school that you wished you had?
How to market yourself. This is different than "how to schmooze/network," which you get plenty of experience doing. What I mean is how to find a job (or alternatively, how to start your own firm). Of course, I can (and do) just try and figure this out on my own. But it's hard to know where to start when you've graduated and and then move to a different state. Once there, no firms really recognize your school or internships - they don't mean as much. So you really have to hustle and put yourself out there. Most people stayed in Washington and may have had a different experience than those who moved away (me). But it's been tough being in a different state and trying to market yourself. Law schools would do well to create a "Business of Being a Lawyer" class.

Heidelberg 3L year with a fiancé :)

Do you have a typical response to people when they ask if they should go to law school?
Haha, no. But I usually advise against it. It's amazing how many people ask me about law school or whether they should go. Almost all of the time, I am very cautious about encouraging going to law school, simply because it's such a huge investment. If you really aren't totally passionate about being a lawyer, then law school probably isn't for you. This is coming from someone who didn't (and still doesn't) really want to be an attorney, but who stuck it out anyways. Of course you can stick it out like I did, but do you really want to? There are so many other career paths and if there's one out there that you're really passionate about, do that. I know how tempting the future salary can be (lawyers can make a lot of money, for sure). But when you're unemployed and saddled with huge student loans, that reason falls a little flat. 

What are some things people should consider when they're thinking about whether to go to law school or not?
1. Do you want to be a lawyer? Do not be mistaken in thinking "I can do so many things with a JD!" The purpose of law school is to become an attorney, which you will become. Law school changes the way you see the world, the way you address problems, the way you are in relationship with others - and if you don't want to be a lawyer, you shouldn't go to law school.
2. Are you ready to invest the amount of time, energy, stress, and sacrifice required of a law student? Be prepared to sacrifice many things in your life for this to happen, including relationships.
3. Are you prepared (most likely) to have a lot (six figures) of student loan debt and to have that debt for 10-20 years? The financial cost is significant and something that I didn't take seriously enough.

Do you think law school was worth it? 
Yes. In the end, it was totally worth it. I feel like I became more myself, smarter, and it taught me to love myself a lot more. Law school was the hardest thing I'd ever done and graduating (and passing the bar exam) has been my greatest accomplishment. The way it taught me to think, read, and analyze problems is something I really love (that part I did love about law school). Being an attorney is very compatible with my personality and likes/dislikes. Law school gave me an incredible set of skills and introduced me to some amazing, admirable people, including by extension, Lewis.

I will be forever grateful for my time in law school and for who I've become thanks to my time at Gonzaga. However, it was a very steep price to pay (see: toxic environment) and I'm not sure everyone would say it was worth it. A lot of people start law school and don't finish (or can't) and there is absolutely no shame in that. It is not for everyone.

Ultimately, it was worth it for me for the relationships I made - a better one with myself, some amazing friends (two close friends were bridesmaids!), and of course, Lewis, who I never would have met had I not been in Spokane. 

* In law school speak, 1L year is your first year, 2L is the second, and 3L the third.