To those who fear:

I make dinner. There is a zucchini in the refrigerator from Monday’s farmers market and some rice in the cabinet. I cut the green vegetable into thick half-moons and listen to them sizzle in the oil, sliding over each other in the pan. The rice is boiling. Sporadic bubbles appear and are instantly gone beneath churning currents. I cover the rice and season the zucchini. It’s a warm and sticky Sunday evening, hours before another week. Tomorrow is another day.

There is little in the daily news that inspires hope. Recent personal events make me question the ifs and the whys in life; these two words have burrowed deep within my stomach. I feel the words beginning to rot, yet answers never come. Great trepidation for the future of which I have no control. 

What is this fear that seems to surround me? 

Zika. Terrorism. Death. The future. Family. Security. Money. Cancer. The “other”. Hillary. Muslims. Trump. Western thought. Death. Sickness. Guns. No guns. Climate change. The wrong choice. Betrayal. Loss of sanity. Loneliness. Inadequacy. Loss of love. No love at all. 

The zucchini is done. Using my wooden spoon, I gently flip each slice and check both sides have browned. The rice needs water. I use the electric kettle and add more steaming liquid before replacing the lid. My lunch for the week is nearing completion.

I wish we the inhabitants of the world could hold one another and ask forgiveness for all the things we’ve ever done or said and have yet to do and say. The longer I live in this world, the more I realize how the Many suffer.The Many have been abandoned by their parents, rejected by society or left to function with less than a whole self. The Many go to sleep wrapped in fury at those who have made them feel, in some way, less than. Less than loved. Less than smart. Less than respected. Less than human. 

The zucchini, rice and chickpeas are finished. I split the ingredients into two plastic containers: lunch for Monday and Tuesday. Snap goes the red lid. A mundane task completed for another day. Snap. A sound so complete. Snap. A moment without meaning. 

Snap and death, a thick black period at the end of a thought, a final punctuation on all that has come before. We lament the future that never will be. Now, we cry, when there is so much left unwritten? But the pen has come and accentuated the dot in permanent black ink. We watch it dry on the page and still we tear at the paper trying to erase what is already done. We think we need the story to continue. We weren’t prepared, didn’t have time to close to the book and place it on the shelf. We don’t know how we will go on.

Tonight before bed, I will imagine a bright star in the night sky, high above the street lamps and traffic lights. On this star, I will wish for the next president of the United States to have compassion, grit and superb listening skills. I will wish for all family members who have witnessed profound tragedy and grief to experience temporary freedom and peace. I will wish for a moment of clarity among the Many who feel life is cheap and tainted and unclean. I wish for you, dear reader, and all your precious beautiful moments that lay ahead. They will come again.

Tomorrow is another day.  

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When your life feels small

[Blogging while watching the Rangers vs. Caps in an attempt to bond with my male co-workers tomorrow morning. Overtime.]

Sometimes the world just feels so big. Last week, I left my office building at lunchtime and walked to the East River to watch the helicopters take off the pier. Traffic whizzed behind me. Couples and tourists alike walked along the boardwalk in the beautiful afternoon sun. But suddenly, my entire life felt so small. 

What was I doing in New York? Did I like my job? Was I with the right guy? Should I leave everything and book a one-way ticket anywhere but here? Did any of it matter?

While on my European adventure, I distinctly remember moments when I felt the strong desire to stop moving. Stay in one place. Breathe. I didn’t want to see anything, talk to anyone or navigate one more new city. At those moments, I would pick a town with a single bedroom and a washer machine where I could clean my clothes and sleep in peace. 

The first time I gave over to my weary feet and found a respite from the road was in Lake Garda, a large beautiful lake in northern Italy. I washed my clothes and hung them in the sunshine before walking to the beach. I proceeded to rent a beach chair and lay on the beach for the vast majority of the day. No churches to see. No strangers to meet. Just me and the sand. 

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I find myself in the same position again, aching and sore from my personal journey to find a new “normal” in New York City. I came home from work yesterday and slept 11 hours, as if I’ve never slept before. My body still feels fatigued, possibly fighting a cold, but I can’t help wondering if it’s just a sign my body has been through too much. On the road, it was so easy to take a day off and relax in the Italian sun. I’m still learning how to take a Lake Garda day while the daily chores of life threaten to pull me back into the grind. 

I suppose, my life is small. Maybe none of what I do matters very much in the grand scheme of things. But if this is true–if we are all just little people running around in our own little lives– then there is all the more reason to find the best, kindest people and most beautiful views. Our lives should include many Lake Garda days where we stretch our legs and bask in the light of our small successes and closest loved ones. This life is all we have after all. Shouldn’t we be enjoying it? 

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P.S. My birthday was a HUGE success. Terrified I wouldn’t be able to fill a room, almost 50 people came to celebrate with me on my golden birthday. People from Massachusetts, Vermont and my hometown in New York. People I first met in Denmark and a coworker who I’d just met three months before. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I wish I could bottle up and send each of you the joy you gave me by just showing up and saying hi. It meant the world. You keep my little life feeling BIG every day.

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Boyfriend Billy presents a cake. (Credit to Zach for sneaky cake purchase)
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Some lovely DG sisters

Laws of Life

A long table sits in the center of a room. Chairs are set up on either side, separated by small name tags that make a white dotted line down the center. On one side, 16 distinguished lawyers are seated with relaxed expressions, each with a small Dasani bottle sweating beads on condensation onto the table top. They are volunteers, men and women who have traveled from their respective hometowns to give advice regarding a career in law. We, anxious undergraduate students, sit across the table and contemplate the years of schooling and experience that span the carpet separating our chair legs and theirs. These professionals see reflections of their former youth in confident juniors and seniors biting at the bit for the chance to prove they have what it takes to be an “Attorney at Law.”

Speed Mentoring, 3-minute conversations with lawyers in a variety of fields, was a great idea. My university thought it would be helpful for pre-law students to have personal interactions with people who might be hiring in the next 4 years, people who had gone to law school and lived to tell the tale. I got a variety of advice:

1. Study for the LSATs. Get into the best law school you can.

2. It is an extremely competitive job market now, compared to when I graduated. Know what kind of law you want to practice.

3. “Well I was between graduate school and law school. Then Harvard Law called me and told me I had been accepted. You don’t turn down Harvard Law.”

I left the event feeling a little shaken. My reasons for wanting to attend law school, I found, were vastly different from a number of lawyers and students I had spoken to. Environmental law doesn’t make a lot of money, isn’t about large corporate firms or Tier 1 networking. There is no glamor, no high-profile grove of trees or celebrity Superfund site. But then again, I realized I didn’t know what environmental law really was or if it would be something I could do. I need a stable job, sufficient income, and comfortable bed just like anyone else. Reconciling the needs of daily life with a young person’s desire to “make a difference” is difficult to do.

And the LSAT, my Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s golden ticket to law school, is a dull bronze at best. What is it about standardized tests that makes a person question everything he or she previously believed about intelligence and future success?

I tell myself I’m improving. I say I am capable of anything. And yet the practice tests and bubble sheets layered deep within my brain convolutions have begun to seep black tendrils of doubt deep into my logical core. The  forecast of failure is hard to erase. Comparing my brain capacity, summed up in a three digit score, to thousands of other students in the country ripping their hair out over that third logic game or last logical reasoning section isn’t particularly appealing either. Should I stop looking toward the 90% percentile as a hopeful future and string a hammock between the lower half of the percentile curve instead? That I cannot answer. All I know is that I want to do well because  I expect that for myself. Because I’m terrified a bad grade somehow translates to bad person. Irrational but honest.

My godmother sent me an e-mail this week, detailing her similar studying experience regarding an online update for her family practice boards. I can say with absolute certainty that she is one of the most intelligent people I know, with a memory perfectly designed for medicine and standardized tests. She wrote, “the questions are ambiguous, the references don’t provide the answers to the questions, the site doesn’t work well and last but not least, IT MAKES ME FEEL STUPID.” She asked if this was similar to my LSAT preparation and voiced her sympathy.

And that’s the fear: realizing you aren’t as intelligent as you thought after all. The feeling of smallness.

And so I’ve realized that I do not fear the LSAT on October 1st, nor do I fear the work associated with law school or bar certification. I fear that rejection somehow reflects who I am as a person, measuring how much or how little I will accomplish in my life. But rejection, any rejection, does not define me. My self-worth is nothing a test, a law school or a job offer, can take from me. And who doesn’t struggle now and then with the feeling your contribution is just a raindrop in the universal ocean of human kind?