Pau Hana Time

I’m one of those charmed, enviable people whose mom’s family is from Hawaii, which meant that this year, I couldn’t fizzle out completely after exams until I had boarded an airplane headed for Honolulu. Poor me. While some people might be frustrated by the prospect of spending 11 hours on an airplane, I settled into a state of bliss: at the end of finals, there is almost no better feeling than sitting in a chair all day, watching movies and having someone bring you soda.

Sunset over the pacific.

Sunset over the pacific.

Even better: stepping off the plane to 80 degree air and the scent of plumeria wafting in with the tradewinds. In Hawaii, people embrace the idea of pau hana time – after your work is done, you must rest. I have spent the past week embracing pau hana: sleeping in until sunrise, spending lots of time with my family, watching the sun set from my grandma’s lanai, getting tumbled in the waves until I can’t wouldn’t recognize strict scrutiny if it hit me in the face. I’ve started reading the stack of fiction I’ve been saving up all semester, and am saving my e-mail for when I get back.

There may be no better place to enjoy pau hana than Makapu'u Point!

There may be no better place to enjoy pau hana than Makapu’u Point!

Later today, as we gear up with the rest of the island to ring in the new year, I’ll grill some island burgers hopefully light some firecrackers, and celebrate the wonderful year it has been. Til next semester, aloha!

Reflections

I’m a fairly nostalgic person to begin with, which may be why I enjoy New Year’s Eve as a holiday. Looking back on this semester is a particularly weird thought experiment because December 2014 marks the half-way point of my law school career. That is truly mind-boggling for so many reasons.

First of all, I feel like law school has flown by. People say that all the time, but I’ve never felt like an experience was going by so quickly. I vividly remember my first day of classes as a 1L, my first cold call, my first exam, and that weird feeling of uncertainty that always comes with doing something new. For me, that feeling persisted throughout my first semester. In my head, all of those things just happened. In reality, I’m heading into my fourth semester of law school. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I would trade a non-essential limb to have law school go by faster, like when I’m in the library for 12 consecutive hours or when my roommate finds me asleep on top of my casebook at 9 pm. But I also know that this experience is unique, and I do feel a little anxious when I think about it being over so soon.

Another surprising thing about the halfway point of law school, to me at least, is how close I am to my law school friends. I’ve been friends with the same general group of people since the very beginning of 1L, but this semester really tested the strength of our friendship. People say this all the time too, but 2L really is a whole different beast. We’re all balancing more obligations than any sane person really should – journals, classes, moot court, job interviews, etc. – and the stress definitely shows. But one of the great discoveries about this semester has been that we, as a group, are more prone to comforting each other than to having those useless “my-life-is-harder-than-yours” discussions that seem to crop up from time to time. Someone is always around to talk you off of a cliff, to reassure you that you will, in fact, get a job, or to listen to you complain about x class or assignment. Having a reliable set of law school friends who make you laugh is critical to life as a law student, because they’re really the only ones who understand what your life is like on a daily basis.

Finally, the first half of law school has helped me to understand some of the areas I need to do better on during the second half. Fitness and eating well are the two things I’ve kind of failed at. In college, I was a four-times-a-week gym person, and I have definitely slacked off since I got to Boston. I mean, I still go, of course. But it’s not nearly as often. I make too many excuses about my workload and the weather, and I reward myself for doing schoolwork by watching television or relaxing. I also don’t cook as much as I used to – again, I cite the lack of time and money I have as the primary reasons. I’m not saying that I’ll go the gym for an hour every single day and serve myself a gourmet meal each night, but I can definitely spend a little less time watching Netflix and a little more time on a treadmill.

It might be the most cliché New Year’s resolution of all time, but I am going to try to get back to eating and exercising like I did in college. Law school is a valid excuse for being too busy to do certain things, but it’s not a good excuse for leading a less healthy lifestyle.

Here’s to 2015!

Baby, it’s cold outside, but we’re warm and fuzzy here

We’ve had guests in our tiny apartment for the past 4 days. Honestly, even though they’re my absolute favorite possible guests (my mother and sister), I was worried about the sanity of housing any 4 people in a 1-bedroom Boston apartment for 4 days, but there’s an easy solution: Go out! Do as much as possible, and your guests will hardly know they’re being crammed in an impossibly small space.

 

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After a pleasant Christmas spent largely in said intimate quarters, we ventured out on the Green Line to Arlington Station and walked to the Boston Public Library for a quick tour led by a couple of library nerds (that’d be my husband and I). Then, we went through the Boston Public Gardens, visited the Ducklings, and traversed the Boston Common to the start of the Freedom Trail at the Massachusetts State House.

I’ve lived in Boston for about a year and a half at this point, so I’ve been on the Freedom Trail approximately 40 times by now, but it’s the classic beginner’s tour of Boston for a reason. The budget version of the trail involves walking through graveyards, poking your head into churches and talking about the snippets of history you’ve snatched up from eavesdropping on paid tours led by people in colonial garb. Of course, you can spend a few dollars at any or all of the historic locales to get a look inside (I recommend the Paul Revere House (less than $4) and Old North Church (donation), both in the North End).

 

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It’s an important part of what makes America great, so we were sure grab … a cannoli (at Mike’s Pastry, the quintessential push-and-shove cannoli experience, but I strongly recommend Maria’s for a more relaxed environment and an even tastier tube of pastry). We also avoided the droves at Quincy Market’s giant food court and ate at the oldest “continuously operating pub” in Boston (a disputed distinction), the Bell in Hand Tavern, though again I can equally recommend the olde-timey experience at the Green Dragon, or the sandwiches and rightfully honored Belgian-style fries at Saus for a more modern experience. We wrapped up the downtown day with a jaunt down the strip of shops on Washington Street; while they’re the same or similar to stores found all around the country, they’re a bit glitzier and more bustling than those “back home,” in my opinion.

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Saturday, we ventured farther afield, first to the beach in Lynn, where we collected a passel of pretty spiral seashells and met a few cute dogs, and then to Salem. Out of season, many of the witchy and wild attractions are closed, but a bit of history is hard to miss on nearly every street in the small town. We visited the House of Seven Gables Museum, which has a few wonderful colonial-era houses on the property; our tour guide was excellent, and there are a few terrific surprises to be found. Ye Olde Pepper Company, across the street, features new and old (very old — the absolute oldest in the country) candy. We had to skip the Peabody Essex Museum this time, but we’ll be sure to come back ASAP. Even in the offseason, dozens of kitschy and clever retailers are peddling their wares. We were all happy with the food and beer at the funky but warm Gulu-Gulu Cafe, just behind the Bewitched statute. A walk through the Witch Trials Memorial and the historic graveyard completed our tour.

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After a few days of energetic tours and lots of walking, a relaxed afternoon in Cambridge hit the spot. We shopped till we dropped (with a special shout-out to Zinnia for beautiful jewelry for having something sparkly for any budget) into the Shake Shack for a supremely unhealthy “lunch” of custard and fries. And then we shopped some more (at the Boston University Bookstore — where a certain proud mother resisted the temptation to grab a BU Mom T-shirt). My generous grandparents treated us to dinner at Shan-A-Punjab in Brookline, where we sampled every fried vegetable dish known to man, with a couple of curries on top.

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Today, we made the final day of tourism really count, starting at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, an absolute must-see if any of your Boston guests gives a hoot about art (sweet tip: BU students get in free; other students are $5). I love the mix of old and new and even older art and artifact that it does so well. Then, we rode out to Jamaica Plain for a Samuel Adams Brewery tour; it’s an easy, free way to get a bitty buzz from a tiny, free souvenir cup; their tour guides do their best to make their subject accessible and interesting. Finally, we browsed the wares on Newbury Street, and finished the whole shebang with a relaxed meal at a pub near our house.

 

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They’re heading back home tomorrow, so I’m signing off to make one last round of root beer floats, play one last round of Bananagrams, and say goodnight. I hope your winter break was at least half as good as mine!

Running the Marathon: The 24-Hour Take-Home Exam

In the world of law school, there is an almost mythical creature called the 24-hour take-home exam. As far as I have heard, nobody has quite mastered the art of preparing for or taking such a behemoth of a test. I learned this semester that one of my courses would have a 24-hour take-home exam. Initially excited about the prospect of having 24 hours to craft my answers, I quickly became unnerved. What sorts of problems might our professor present, knowing we had 24 hours to think through and solve them?

Our professor reassured us that the exam would not be unreasonable, and should not take 24 hours to complete. He told us we should sleep, eat, and go about our days as normal. This was not reassuring, considering that this professor has the brain power of about ten Google servers, while I’m just your average law student. . . .

Unsure of how to prepare, I ended up studying just as I would have studied for a normal exam. I made an outline of the topics we studied in the course, and spent my study time applying concepts, re-reading cases, mapping out relationships between ideas. I studied the outlines of others who’d done well in the class in years’ past, covered my bedroom in post-it-notes, took released exams from previous years, and tried to let the subject matter seep into my brain.

On exam day, we were allowed to pick up the exam any time between 8:30 and 4:30; we had 24 hours from the time we picked up the test to return the completed exam to the registrar’s office. Without the usual exam proctor to pull the trigger for me, I stalled. There were just so many things I had to do before I could possibly pick up the test. Eventually, I had a spotless apartment and a suitcase packed for Christmas vacation. There was nothing left to do but hop on my bicycle and ride ever-so-slowly to school.

I presented myself to the registrar, picked up the exam, and walked into the library, holding the packet of fact patterns as if it was a bomb about to explode. I stared at it, unopened, for ten minutes, clutching it with sweaty hands. My fear was justified. While the exam was completely fair, it focused on the most conceptually difficult topics we had covered in the semester. I tackled it like a cartoon child tackling a giant football dummy, writing part of an answer here, part of an answer there, darting between prompts like a fiend. I should have known better. The 24-hour take-home is like the marathon of exams. Runners know better than to sprint the first five miles of a marathon. (I say this as if I have run a marathon, which I decidedly have not.) By hour five, I hit a brick wall.

The author at the point she lost most of her sanity...

The author at the point she lost most of her sanity…

I decided the best thing to do at that point was go home. The chilly winter air jolted me into a calmer state of mind. I pulled some stale spaghetti out of the fridge, paced a while around my apartment, and was ready to settle back into work. Things were finally flowing through my brain, but I had wasted so much time in my five-hour panic that I was concerned I might not actually finish the exam in 24 hours.

At 2 AM, I threw in the towel, collapsing in an exhausted heap for three hours before dragging myself back to my computer. At that point, I had figured out what I hoped were good arguments in response to each problem, and simply had to write my answers. I spent the next six hours pounding furiously at my keyboard, contributing to an almost certain case of carpel tunnel syndrome for a future version of myself.

Finally, I was finished with all but one question. With no time to shower, I ran my fingers through my hair, brushed my teeth, and jumped back onto my bicycle, wondering if I was breaking any law prohibiting sleep-deprived biking. I pedaled furiously to school. Back in the library, many of my classmates classmates were in the exact same spots I had seen them when I left the library the day before, looking haggard and desperate. I furiously typed my last answer, pressed print, and triumphantly walked up the registrar’s office to hand my answers in, with just a few minutes to spare.

Back at home, I surveyed the damage: two large Dunkin Donuts coffees, a box of Trader Joe’s candy-cane Jo-Jos, scraps of paper, and piles of notes were strewn about the once-clean floor. I had written more pages than I care to write in an average week. But I had crossed the finish line.

Where everyone knows my name…

One of the most difficult things about moving away from home is friendship. It can be difficult to maintain intimacy with your friends when you do not see them regularly or even talk as often as you would if you lived in the same city. I worried about my best friends and I drifting apart, but much to my surprise and happiness, my friends and I are still just as close.

It’s been over a year since I visited Atlanta, but when I returned home this month, my friends and I talked and laughed as if they only saw me yesterday. My best friends and I may not talk everyday but we definitely keep in touch 2-3 times a week. While I may not get to see all of my friends weekly or even monthly, I can tell you great friends get together as if no time has passed and no distance between them.

The hardest part of being in school is feeling immensely homesick and missing your family and friends. They understand you are quite busy and buried under loads of reading, but do not forget to take the few minutes to say hello or even reach out to them (even if it is during the strangest hours). I often find myself texting my best friends late at night to simply tell them good night and that I miss them. Great friendships simply need the smallest kindling of the fire to continue to burn the brightest in our lives. Don’t let this law school behemoth overshadow the brightest spots in your life.