Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Jell Bar

I find that I start a lot of my blog posts these days assuring my readers that I am not, in fact, dead. This time, I’ve been off the radar because my life since returning to San Francisco has been consumed by studying for the bar exam, such that the only activities I have energy for in my free time are eating and crying.

Okay, I’m being dramatic. I’ve also had time for exercise. Sometimes I multi-task by eating and crying at the same time, or by crying while exercising.

Yeah, it’s really not been the best experience, this whole bar thing. I won’t sugar coat it for you, or even Nutrasweet it for you (gross): I hate the bar, and I am pretty sure the bar hates me.

When I started my bar classes, I had this fuzzy idea that I’d just go into the lectures every day and Barbri (the bar exam prep company) would somehow program me into knowing everything that I needed to know, either through osmosis or else some sort of implanted computer chip process. It made sense in my head.

In any case, I thought that I’d walk in, sit down, watch the lecture, and walk out knowing everything I needed to know about torts, crimes, remedies, corporations, agency and partnership, contracts, real property, civil procedure, evidence, community property, and constitutional law, and it would be fine, and I’d still have time for reality TV and long, contemplative walks along the beach.

Things haven’t worked out that way. In fact, Barbri has told me, in no uncertain terms, that the first two essays I handed in for grading were of “fail” quality. That’s right, fail. Not to sound like a total type-A-hole here, but I have never in my life had a paper handed back to me with the actual word FAIL on it (in red pen, no less!). FAIL! I just graduated from Harvard, Barbri! What the hell?!

I get it, I get it, I need to get over myself and put my nose to the grindstone and the pedal to the metal and the rubber to the road and whatever other weird, car-oriented metaphor you prefer. I’m trying to do that, honestly. But I’m suddenly realizing that it’s hard to motivate when everything isn’t going your way, academically speaking. It’s scary.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to keep a tenuous grasp on what remains of my sanity by scheduling yoga twice a week, going to the gym, and still making time for reality TV. The other night, for example, I hosted a dinner party for my dear friends John and Helen, and we had the real treat of watching the MTV abomination “Is She Really Going Out With Him?,” a reality show dedicated entirely to the travails of semi-pretty girls who date d-bags with frosted tips. It’s the little things that keep me going.

Right now, I am taking the opportunity to have a glass of wine while waiting for dinner (pea soup lovingly cooked by my dad) because I finished a three-hour “performance test” that I have to turn into Barbri for grading. I am really hoping I don’t fail this one, because I’m not sure my self-esteem can take it. I hope someone from Barbri is reading this right now so they can take my fragile emotional state into consideration while grading my (brilliant) answer.

Pray for me.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stanford Revisited

Hi all. I'm back! After graduation, I spent a few days with my parents visiting my dad's family in Pennsylvania, and then I came back to San Francisco to resume my (fairly horrible) bar review classes.

I am living at my parents' place in San Francisco but commuting to Palo Alto every day to take my bar class at Stanford Law School. It's sort of a pain in the keester to have to drive for 45 minutes to get to class every day (and then spend another fifteen minutes parking on campus in one of the shiny new structures that definitely did not exist when I went to school there) but at least the drive along 280 is gorgeous, and I'm back at my alma mater, where it's always sunny, everyone is in shape, and there are red-tile roofs as far as the eye can see.

Being back at Stanford four years after I graduated is sort of weird, because now I feel like a bit of an outsider. I have to park in a visitor parking lot, I had to give myself guest access to Stanford wireless by creating a guest password for myself through my alumni account (what?), I can't get into buildings that require a student ID, and I'm surrounded by structures and plants and statues that weren't there back when I was a youth. For example, yesterday I was walking through White Plaza, the main plaza with all the fountains and old-style Spanish buildings and such, and I noticed that there are new, weird trees planted in front of the student union. This bothered me. Then, I walked into the little cafe in the union that I used to frequent, intending to get a cup of coffee, and I noticed that the coffee shop now sells frozen yogurt. The pure unfairness of this development cut me to the core: why wasn't there froyo available when I went there? All we had was stupid Jamba Juice. Waaaah, not fair!

But some things at Stanford never change: there are still Asian girls wearing white socks under black strappy heels, long-haired kids playing frisbee in any available open space, anorexic women running maniacally around Campus Drive at all hours, and a general sense of slightly forced, but nonetheless pleasant, sunny cheeriness. I miss it, to be honest. It's definitely a far cry from HLS, where women in pumps drag rolling suitcases to and from the library, people bust out bathing suits whenever the temperature rises about 45 degrees, and the closest thing to whimsy on campus is the skating rink/volleyball court outside of the Hark. But, strangely, I miss HLS, too, and I even feel a bit more connected to it than I do to Stanford right now.

I guess one's relationship with one's undergrad is always going to be a bit different that the relationship with one's grad school, especially when those two schools are as diametrically different as Stanford and Harvard. Stanford has its obvious charms: the wackiness, the palm trees, the sunshine, the laid-back attitude, the froyo. Harvard, too, has its appeal: the prestige, the white columns, the bagels on Monday mornings, the free tampons in the law school bathrooms.

When it comes down to it, I could never really pick a "favorite" between the two schools because they each played such different roles in my life and contributed to my growth as a person in different ways. I mean, when I started Stanford, I was 18 and I didn't know my a** from my elbow or s**t from shinola. By the time I graduated, I knew my a** from my elbow but was still a bit hazy on the s**t/shinola distinction. My intervening year in Brazil and three years at law school helped with that, although some of the legal s**t is still looking pretty shinola-y. I am hoping Barbri will help me with this.

I'll wrap this up by saying that in the end, despite all the great things about Harvard, it's pretty hard to beat that special Stanford smell of eucalyptus and flowers. And, of course, the froyo.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

All growns up

I graduated law school on Thursday, which I guess means I'm a real person now. Or maybe I am still just a kid, but now I have a JD. Either way, I suppose I won't really be a fully-formed, grown-up lawyer until I pass the bar in July (pray for me). Until then, I'm cool with just being a girl who went to law school.

Graduating from law school was pretty anticlimactic, after all of the speeches and toasts and mingling that went on on Wednesday, Class Day. By the time Thursday rolled around, I was ready to just grab my degree and peace out. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed all the commencement exercises and words of wisdom and self-congratulatory Harvard talk (complete with MANY references to a certain U.S. President who was HLS Class of '91), but after I finally walked across the stage and got my degree, I was pretty done. I was changed out of my robes and mortarboard and ready to leave campus before they even got through the rest of my graduating class. It's not that I don't care, but I wanted to get out of graduation while I still had a good taste in my mouth.

The thing is, I don't like graduation ceremonies. Never have, probably never will. If my future kids are reading this, sorry, kids. I (probably) love you and all, but I'm going to be bored at your graduation. Nothing personal. I hated my high school graduation (boring), loathed my Stanford graduation (hot, sweaty, sad) and was fully expecting to actively dislike my HLS graduation. But it turns out that the law school ceremonies were pretty fun, my parents got to meet and greet a bunch of my friends and their parents, we got free wine, and it wasn't oppressively hot. What more could you ask for in a graduation ceremony? It was good.

Unfortunately, since the bar exam is looming, I can't really kick back and relax after graduating. That won't happen until August 1, when I go to Thailand for three weeks (yay!). Until then, I'll just have to comfort myself by staring at my degree, in all its pretentious, Latin-lettered glory.

Anyway, cheers to being an almost-real person: we kinda did it!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Graduation Song

Yesterday I went and picked up my cap, gown and hood for my law school graduation on Thursday. I wish I could say it was a surreal experience, and that every memory I've ever had from my last three years here at Harvard Law came rushing back in a montage set to a Coldplay song, but actually, it was pretty anti-climactic. I walked in, got my regalia, walked out, and went to go get my dry cleaning.

But then, as I was walking down Mass Ave to retrieve said dry cleaning, I started thinking about all of the things that have changed at HLS since I arrived here oh-so-long-ago, in September of 2006. A lot of this stuff may seem boring/irrelevant to those of you who aren't familiar with HLS, but you know what? I'm graduating and I'm allowed a self-indulgent, Harvard-focused blog post or two. So deal.

First of all, my class at Harvard was the last class to have actual letter grades for all three years of law school. You know, the A, the B, the mythical C, the non-existent D, etc. Every class below us, though, has received the benefit of Harvard's new, wimpy, pass/fail system. I mean, to be fair, it's not just pass/fail: there's also "high pass" and "low pass." But come on. My boyfriend, bless him, just finished his first year at HLS and never got to experience the Paper Chase-like Harvard Law that I attended back in the day. Back in Aught Six, people would steal your notes and shred them, or hide your ascot before class so you'd look like a fool in front of the professor, or dump all of the ink out your inkwell so you'd be forced to take notes on a slate with a rusty nail. These kids nowadays don't know what the real HLS was like, dagnammit.

Another big change since I arrived on campus three years ago is the closure of some of my favorite restaurants and businesses. For example, it seems like every good breakfast place in Harvard Square fell on hard times and closed, suggesting some sort of bizarre conspiracy to keep me from finding a good omelet in Cambridge.

Perhaps the saddest loss of all was the closure of Three Aces, one of my favorite greasy food establishments of all time. Please see below for a picture of it in all its glory:

Three Aces had it all: curly fries and straight fries. Pizza. Grinders. Mini bottles of wine that I'd always see construction workers drinking on their lunch break. Awesome. Almost as sad as the Three Aces' demise is the closure of the little nail place next door to it, Fancy Fingers. I used to go in there to watch Vietnamese TV, read gossip magazines, and get a darn good pedicure, but it closed down, too. Sad times.

Another thing that has changed since '06 is that our beloved former dean, Elena Kagan, was appointed Solicitor General of the U.S. When Obama made his nomination for the Supreme Court last week, I was really gunning for Kagan to get it, because: a) she is our Commencement speaker and it would have been cool, and b) I wanted to be able to tell people that a Supreme Court Justice called me. You see, when I first got into Harvard, then-Dean Kagan called me to congratulate me and ask me if I had any questions, etc. It was pretty cool. But it would be even cooler if I could manipulate that story in such a way that people believed that I was buds with a Supreme Court Justice. Oh well, I guess it's not meant to be. I'm just going to have to work with that one story I have about when Sandra Day O'Connor came into the Stanford Alumni Center when I was working there and I sort of said hi to her. I'm almost famous!

So, tomorrow's the big day: graduation. I am still keeping my fingers crossed for some sort of memory montage set to music to happen as I am walking across the stage to get my diploma. I'll probably just audibly hum a song by "The Fray" and hope for the best. I'll let you know how it goes.

(Oh, and congratulations to everyone else graduating tomorrow!)