II. perspective

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lately i’ve been revisiting some of my old entries on marathon training. a few years ago, i trained myself to run a 10k, although i never completed the training due to a back injury. i ended up taking barre and yoga classes regularly until i quit my job, traveled for a bit, and then started school again. since then, i’ve rarely found the time to exercise on a routine basis — there’ve always been events and assignments and readings to do that cut up the day into strange hours that have made it difficult to find a good block of time to escape to the gym, or even to a change of scenery in the city.

getting back on the exercise train has been a challenge. it’s something that i’ve made a priority this summer, recovering and working out everyday. i’ve already recruited workout buddies to do barre and yoga with me in the city, and i wanted to share this on my blog because i’ve received incredible encouragement on my fitness journey in the past. having lived in new york city for almost a year, i’ve prioritized my relationships with the city and my career over my relationship with myself, by investing in exploring a new museum or going to a networking happy hour and putting another hour in the library with a casebook, rather than taking the time to go on a run or pamper myself with a home-cooked meal and marathon of parks & rec.

one of my best friends recently told me this: when we are enveloped in uncertainty during this time of our lives, sometimes the greatest comfort arises in the little things: getting a fantastic 45-minute massage, finding delicious croissants at a neighborhood bakery, or stumbling upon a really great artist. sometimes, in the fast-paced hustle and bustle of figuring out how to be an adult, we forget how to take care of ourselves. we’re taught to chase after passions and to do what we love, but sometimes in the process of doing so, we overlook loving ourselves. a little self-care now and then means tending to our own garden and nurturing ourselves — even if that requires learning how to run and do crow pose again.

wish me luck!

I. fortune cookies

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Starting a new project as of today. Each week, I’m going to try to post a picture accompanied with short prose about an event, a passing encounter, or a mood.

Currently the last week of 1L. S and I took a practice exam, and fatigued by the intensive fact pattern, we decided to head over to this Chinese restaurant before returning to the library. It’s the kind of gimmicky establishment adorned with red lanterns at the entrance and ornate gold tablecloth overlaying circular tables spread throughout the spacious (but mostly empty) interior. A tourist trap for the Greenwich Village passerby, or perhaps a pit stop for the drunken crowds swelling in and out of the bars on West 3rd. It’s the kind of place you stumble upon without forethought, because you meandered too far into this area or you forgot to make a reservation at a Yelp-approved venue in the East Village.

It’s the kind of place that gives out golden-orange colored fortune cookies wrapped in plastic that read “Fortune Cookie” with a depiction of the fortune cookie on the front. And when you crack open that fortune cookie, there is a fleeting exhilaration of revealing the unknown contained in that small token of cultural idiosyncrasy — only in America. Then you share the profound wisdom printed onto that thin, white rectangular piece of paper with your friend, and after exchanging the wisdom you’ve gleaned from these valuable documents, you both ponder over the poignancy of its words.

I don’t know if my fortune will ring true. I’m two exams away from finishing this long, challenging year. Perhaps the profound wisdom that this fortune cookie has really taught me is that I can share the fortune with the best companions. After scoffing at our fortune cookies, S and I went back to the library, struggling together over our practice exam and sounding like two crazy girls postulating over criminal law. If I could rewrite that fortune, it’d probably read instead: “You are lucky because you have chosen great companions.”

 

the existential identity of america

the week i turned twenty-five, my life was rooted in the ordinary. even the existential questions concerning identity, the questions that are supposed to arise when one reaches that quarter-century-mark, didn’t quite faze me. i was mostly preoccupied with figuring out the nebulous rules of bluebooking for my upcoming legal research memo due the day after my birthday, with outlining for final exams, and with pre-empting any further coffee and tea stains on my leather-bound casebooks.

above all, i was assured in my moral values: of empathy, tolerance, respect, kindness, and inclusion. i was confident in this value system and in how i perceived and related to the world.

that was the first week of november. the air was becoming crisp, the leaves had taken on golden-orange and copper hues, and new york was settling into that season of wistful optimism meets nostalgia between autumn and winter.

on election day, november 8, i was barely able to focus in class because i was so excited about the election. i genuinely believed in the possibility of being able to call a woman the elected leader of my country — a woman who had dedicated herself to public service and fought tirelessly for this nation’s ideals. i had, however, become so desensitized to all of the negative and hateful remarks in the media portraying the campaigns over the past several weeks and months that much of my excitement and passion for the election had been diluted. these were personal and hurtful remarks by and against both sides, engulfed in a sea of negativity that i found discomforting. for me, the prospect of  america moving on from the election so that  “normal” life could continue largely overshadowed the prospect of a woman elected to preside over the world’s leading liberal democracy.

at around 4 pm, i met my friend in washington square park to head over to javits center, where hillary’s official election viewing party was held. as law students with pages of reading we had yet to finish, we (or at least i) had contemplated whether we should go to the convention center at all. he persuaded me rather convincingly that we had to see the historic glass ceiling for ourselves, and en route to this architectural and metaphorical feat, i couldn’t help but take in the sights of new york city that night and create an abstraction of my experience at a symbolic level. here i was, i thought, walking past the stone arch at washington square, to riding the subway, to passing the beautifully lit empire state building adjacent to the new yorker sign in the sky, where these symbols represented a progressive world of opportunity and change, and it was in this world, this amazingly beautiful and fast-paced and entrancing world that i was going to witness history.

the security surrounding the periphery of javits center was incredible. i had never seen a political spectacle of that scale, and the number of people, the sheer energy, the helicopters overhead and news trucks at ground, and the NYPD officers and sand trucks in the area astounded me. my excitement and passion for the election were returning and growing by the minute.

after returning home early, with the intention of getting some work done, i proceeded to check the new york times and five thirty eight forecasts while playing CNN’s coverage of the exit votes. that excitement soon turned into anxiety. as the meter showing trump’s chances on the new york times forecast continued to increase, my sense of apprehension rose. the rest of the night is history. somehow, in the middle of the night, the veil of the world i thought i knew had shattered.

i woke up the next day in another world. new york was grey and its clouds were distressed with tears that rained down onto eeringly quiet streets. in a city where the hustle and bustle is accentuated by the purposeful and aggressive rhythm of new yorkers, it almost seemed as if these tears were shed for a broken and divided america.

in hindsight, the question of how the world had appeared to have undergone an utterly cataclsymic  metamorphosis was clear. this year had been a precipice for transformation, one so profound that a revolution was bound to take place. in my own life, i moved to a new city and started a new chapter, while in the rest of america and the world, small events had been taking place all along that solidified the birth of what felt like a deeply traumatic scar. i guess the changes for me and for the world came before we could even rationally perceive them, as we fervently tried to hold onto the vestiges of the past that still remained.

home, for me, is california. in the aftermath of the election, the california i called home had isolated itself in polarizing anti-trump rhetoric. people were furious, upset, and despondent, and some protested by taking over highways to forcibly demonstrate. their fundamental disagreement with the election outcome made evident the intensity and rawness of their fear for their livelihoods under the president-elect. i hurt for those people at home, many of whom i call friends. immigrants, racial minorities, LGBT, and women felt a fear so raw that it shook the very  core of their beings. they denounced the bigotry and hatred exhibited by the president-elect and his campaign as a danger that threatened their existence and safety.

yet as much as i hurt for those back home, i soon realized the day after the election that the isolationist dialogue in california had blinded me from the discussion in the rest of the nation. it took something as simple and profound as talking to my classmates who shared heartfelt personal anecdotes of their family and friends from places they called home, where there were others who were celebrating the outcome because they sincerely believed that the president-elect they voted for through the elaborate democratic process of america’s political system could represent them and address their concerns. whether that entailed his promises on abortion or on jobs, there was something fundamental about the opportunity he represented to these relatives and friends of my classmates.

for a girl from the liberal heart of california, this was a powerful lesson. i saw my newfound friends in law school struggle with the dichotomy between their personal convictions and the political leanings of their loved ones. friends who came to law school out of the dream to reform civil rights and become government prosecutors suddenly found themselves in an alien world where it didn’t seem as feasible to pursue these passions. when we graduate in a trump administration, would we still choose to work in government in the pursuit of justice — whatever that means a few years from now? meanwhile, i saw how the calls for california’s secession and refusal to accept the outcome of the election only further secluded my home from the rest of the world. it was, and still is, a stark and disturbing dichotomy in which the battle lines have been drawn in ways where fellow human beings have become the heroes and villains by a mere measure of political belief.

new york city  — and law school — have taught me that the world is a far bigger place than i had ever envisioned. voicing our opinions and standing up for what we believe in are rights we can and must practice affirmatively.  turning twenty-five, in turn, has handed me a sobering yet empowering realization of the world i live in. with these sacred rights we have, we don’t turn to flee and cower from a confrontation. we fight. we use our rights as tools to work tirelessly for what we believe is the greater good. i know all this sounds incredibly sappy, but it is in times like this year, in which there have been such profound moments of breaking and falling apart, then reflection and healing, that we understand the depths of our passion, vulnerability, and finally — strength.

to another year of learning, growing, and loving.

It’s June

“IN EARLY JUNE THE WORLD OF LEAF AND BLADE AND FLOWERS EXPLODES, AND EVERY SUNSET IS DIFFERENT.”

— John Steinbeck

I’m not feeling particularly poetic today. My prose will render itself exhausted of all lyrical possibility, as my mind is utterly ravaged from the ceaseless beating of That-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named. It was a beautiful and glorious day, and the physical embodiment of such promise and warmth is a stark contrast to the brutal mental exercise that has occupied my world for months.

June. A year later and still I wander adrift, but perhaps with more purpose and direction. I’m thankful, so thankful, for the path I’ve traveled and the encounters I’ve been fortunate to experience along the way. I feel so incredibly lucky to have such bright and passionate friends who support me — and especially, for expressing the voice of reason when I become overloaded with irrational sensibilities, which is almost always the case. I feel lucky to embark on adventures of leisure, and to carelessly indulge my fantasies of a twenty-something.

June, June, June. So full of opportunity, of promise, and brimming with passion.

Learn to Love

It is peculiar indeed that the enabling condition for freedom is a force that compels: a compulsion, a necessity. Unconditional freedom appears to be conditioned by what contradicts it.

— Simon Critchley, “When Socrates Met Phraedrus: Eros in Philosophy” (The New York Times)

One of the best decisions I made in college was a compulsory requirement I dreaded. It was a great decision because I learned that I was wrong about my dread, and I learned to love what I thought I dreaded.

I suppose, then, that this decision wasn’t a decision at all. Because it was a requirement, I didn’t freely choose to make this decision. Of course the decision itself was an act of my own volition, but the decision-making process was by no means voluntary. I was coerced, and I learned to love the unexpected merits of that coercion.

Isn’t it the best when we are pleasantly surprised by the unexpected?

I was required to take a course on political philosophy for my major, and yet I avoided this requirement until my very last year of college. By then, the pickings were slim: there was only one such course available. Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy. Ancient texts. Ancient guys engaged in fancy talk that probably was no longer relevant.

Probably.

I’m not saying I thought that ancient philosophy is irrelevant to today, or that it is unimportant. I knew it was relevant, and that it was important…but I just didn’t know. I saw the word “ancient,” and immediately assumed I would be averse to the course material. It’s not that I have a stigma against anything ancient (and I mean that strictly in terms of chronology). I really thought that I would not be able to relate to the ancient philosophers’ texts.

Because I didn’t know.

I hadn’t read, I hadn’t understood, I hadn’t learned. Even if I had read before, I hadn’t read. I perused one of the texts before (The Republic), but I never dissected the text piece by piece. Line by line. Word by word.

And when I began to disentangle the intricate assembly of ideas in the ancient texts, I began to read. And then I began to understand. And that’s when I learned.

Without a doubt, I wasn’t innovative enough on my own to disentangle these pieces by myself. I had an amazing professor, and to be honest I’m not sure if I would have had the same interaction with the ancient philosophers had I taken the course with another professor.

So…I learned. I learned about what the philosophers were saying, in ordinary talk.  I learned about how fascinating and fun — yes, fun — it is to analyze and decode the dialogues that masterfully discuss real people values. I learned a lot about these values, concepts, and ideas. Perhaps most importantly, I learned to love what I thought I would fear and dread.

I learned to love philosophy, and particularly the ancient kind.

From Me; To Me

I wrote a letter to myself seven years ago. Seven years ago. I typed it up on this website, recorded the date of submission…and forgot about it.

Today, that letter was emailed to me.

What?!!

I was creeped out. Mainly, because that website actually kept my letter on file and sent me the email seven years later. But also because I was surprised by my own insightful and introspective writing in my early teens. It was almost like reading a letter from another person, except that person was me.

But as I read about my aspirations and my dreams, I thought to myself: wow, not much has changed. And yet, so much has changed.

So, Past Me…thanks for writing me a letter. It reminded me of what kind of person I want to be, and how I want to live my life. What others mean to me, and how I should respect myself.

Maybe I’ll write a letter to Future Me. Maybe.

I want to be remembered as someone sweet, someone who would talk to anyone with compassion. I want to be remembered as someone bold, someone who stood out among the mellow crowds and possessed her own voice. I want to be remembered as someone unique, so original and completely her own that she would always be remembered.

– From Me