Tweets of Silence

The events of this past week have been sad.  Sad for our country and the state that we currently accept as the status quo.  Our presidential candidates are both below par.  We constantly complain over water coolers or via social media about how lackluster they are; yet, come November, we say “okay” and pull the lever for one or the other without so much as blinking.  An entire race is flailing because of the obstacles placed in their way for the last 250 years.  And every time another is killed, we shout our outrage in all capitalized hashtags, but don’t take any action more than that.  Or another mass shooting occurs, and we all cry and hold up candles, but we do nothing to challenge the law makers we put in place to change the law.  Make a difference.  Save lives.

Why are we so complacent?

I’m just as much to blame as anyone.  Here I am, after the shooting in Dallas, typing away on my computer writing a blog post that no one will ever read.  But the events of this week have finally pushed me to tears.  News cycle after news cycle of violence and I never felt sad – until tonight.  Until this week of corruption and violence which I have never experienced in my entire life.  I finally have the feeling that these violent acts do impact my life and the lives of those I love.  Our elected officials will be on the television tomorrow playing another round of politics because they are happier doing that than sitting down and fixing the problem.  But what makes me really sad is the fact that we – the American People – will sit back and allow them to do it.  Our voices are stronger than the 535 people who vote in Congress, but we let them speak louder and then ring our hands over the fact that we cannot change the system.  Except our vote matters just as much, if not more than our voice.

In my head, I know all of this to be true.  But in the morning, I’ll turn on the news and see our reality – which is that nothing will ever change while we sit back and allow the nonsense to continue.

 

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The Great Procrastinator

So, when I’m not billing hours, I try to do something that makes me happy.  Eating good food and watching bad tv shows tend to top that list, but I also enjoy writing.  Making up characters and stories that will capture a reader and help them get lost in another world if only for a few moments.  I have been writing a book now for almost 4 years.  I have gone through many drafts and, right when I thought I knew where I was going with the story, I scrapped the entire thing and started all over again.  Some may call me indecisive, I prefer the term perfectionist.

The problem with writing and re-writing the same story on and off for so long is that I find I don’t want to write it anymore.  I want to be done with it.  I want the story to be finished and the characters to have found the resolution they have been seeking for the last 200 pages.  But the story isn’t done, so I have to keep going.  So I pick up my computer with every intention of typing until my fingers fall off, but inevitably, something else more entertaining crosses my path.  For instance, just now I found an old movie I haven’t seen since I was in middle school (Camp Nowhere from 1994) and I was sucked into something completely unproductive.  After that was done, I surfed the web for primary election results and now I’m writing this post.

While I am procrastinating, I feel great.  I don’t think of what I should be doing, I just focus on my current task.  But I always end up berating myself later for screwing around and wasting so much time.  Which I think begs the question – why procrastinate at all?  If I had started writing 2 hours ago, I would feel like I had accomplished something today (other than the daily grind at my job).  The problem is that there is simply too much distraction.  Of course, if I had nothing to distract me, I’m sure I would make up something to do other than what I am supposed to be doing.

So then maybe I should just give in to my procrastinating tendencies.  After all, Saved By The Bell is available on Netflix.

 

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The Negotiation Table

My least favorite thing as an attorney is going to mediation.  I know people who love it, the gamesmanship, how to send the right signals, and the strategy. But I hate it.  HATE it.  My husband doesn’t like that I use that word and he thinks (correctly) that I tend to make overgeneralized statements about my likes and dislikes.  But I think I can say with full authority that I am not over exaggerating my hatred for this process.

I don’t like talking about money in general, so dealing back and forth trying to find how high my client is willing to go verses the absolute bottom the other side is willing to take is just excruciating.  I’d rather just say, “here’s my authority, take it or leave it.”

When I was a prosecutor, I used to negotiate sentencing ranges, and that process didn’t bother me at all.  Jail time, probation, community service, registration as a sex offender – as long as the sentence was in the community’s best interest and supported by the facts of the case, then it wasn’t a problem.  Plus, I had all of the decision making power.  I didn’t have to rely on someone else to determine what was a reasonable resolution to each case.

Now, my job is all about money and risk.  “Mr. Jones, I’ll pay you $37,500 not to take this to trial and spend three days crying over how you sprained your ankle and cannot dance the tango like you used to.”  Something about that screams “who cares” to me.

I have nothing poignant to say on this matter, I’m just more venting.  There are many things about my job that I don’t like, and this happens to be close to the top of the list.  Billable hours – now that’s a whole separate post.

 

 

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Unmotivated

I am very unmotivated to go to work this morning.  Really, I have lacked this motivation for a few months now.  When I was in public service, I went into work feeling like I made a difference.  Now, I have to listen to people drone on about how much their life has changed since they slipped in that puddle of water in the parking lot.  I find that I just don’t care and am constantly questioning if I even want to be a lawyer anymore.

If you know any lawyer, this will sound very familiar to you.  Lawyers have a tendency to complain about being lawyers, but few actually ever leave the profession to try something totally different.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely ungrateful for my current career, but I do find myself thinking about the what if.  What if I didn’t go to law school?  Would I have regretted it?  Or would I be doing something every day that I found fulfilling?

A part of me is happy to at least have a job so that I can afford a nice home and make my student loan payments.  But is that sentiment right?  Should we be happy to settle for something other than what we want just so that we can collect a pay check?

I think a part of the reason we settle is because we’re afraid to go against everything we have been taught.  An idea I only recently came to terms with.  We have been promised the American Dream since we were old enough to understand what that meant.  Work hard, get an education, and you will be happy.  But that’s simply not true.  Happiness is something we constantly have to work for, not something that is the end of an equation.  And while we’re fighting for our happiness, time passes by and it becomes harder and harder to just up and quit to follow that foolish dream we all have.

With that being said, I’m going to get my shoes on, fight the traffic and go into the office.  Dreaming of the day where I get to quit and do what I really want – whatever that is.

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Coffee Free

Against my better judgment, I decided to stop drinking coffee today.  Despite working as a barista during my college years, I never drank the stuff until I started as an associate at my firm.  When I started at the firm, I still resisted.  I’d come into work, sit in front of my computer and, for the first couple of weeks, I could get my work done without fear of losing concentration or drive.  Now, 15 months into being an associate and my days are much different.  I usually arrive at work, sit in front of my computer and stare at the screen, willing it to turn on and for the cursor to start typing a brilliant legal argument without the aid of my hands or brain.  Thirty minutes of that and then I curse myself for wasting a .5 on feeble attempts at mental telepathy.

My energy, even when I was a twenty something law student, was much higher than it is now.  If I’m awake at 10:30 at night, I think about how late it is and how tired I’ll be the next day and then I start thinking about how to re-arrange my morning schedule so I can sleep in a little later.  It’s all become about prioritizing time.  Something I was really terrible at doing before I started as an associate.  Now, the six minute increments have opened up an entirely different meaning.  Because, not only do I have to worry about how I’m going to bill at least 8 hours every week day, but I find that I start worrying about how the hell I am possibly going to accomplish everything I want to, especially knowing where I am in my life.  Age and time become a real factor which was never a problem before.

How this relates back to coffee, I don’t know.  I’m sure I could try to turn this into something to be pasted onto an annoying mug that would somehow find its way onto my assistant’s desk.  In all honesty, if I had drank the damn stuff this morning, I probably wouldn’t be having an issue connecting my thoughts together right now.

F*** it.  I’m having a cup tomorrow.

 

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The Second Beginning

Yup, I gave up.  I’ll be the first to admit it.  I started on a writing journey that went absolutely nowhere because I allowed excuse after excuse to get in the way.  And here I am, almost 2 years after starting this writing experiment and I have nothing to show for it. Why?  Because I let the trials and tribulations of being a thirty something get in the way.  Be it my job, house or even vacation – I pushed something I love to do aside because I said didn’t have time to do it.  Although, upon deep reflection, binge watching old episodes of the West Wing could have been placed on hold for a few minutes while I jotted some thoughts down on paper.

So, here I am, starting all over again.  I can’t promise that I won’t slip again, but I can promise that I’ll try not to let it happen, or at least not let 2 friggin years go by without saying a word.  Sure, life gets in the way.  Bosses, unexpected hospital visits and too many emails to answer later and I looked back at the last 2 years wondering what I actually did with my time that was so important that I couldn’t do this.

So here it is.  I’m going to try this again, starting…now.

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The Gray Hair

I’m probably alone in this sentiment, but I’m not ready to start hiding my age yet.  And, up until a few days ago, I didn’t feel like I had to.  My entire life I have been mistaken for being younger than I am.  My first day of high school, I stepped onto my bus just to have the driver inform me that I had gotten on the wrong bus.  She turned in her seat, squatted down and put her hands in her lap, the way everyone does when they address a small child; except, I was fourteen.

“Oh, sweetie,” she said, patronizing me with her sing-song tone. “I’m sorry.  This is the route for the high school.  The elementary school bus will be by later.”

This issue has followed me for years.  When I turned twenty-one, I had an ongoing feud with the bouncers at the local bars thinking that my driver’s license was a fake ID.

“No, sir,” I’d say.  “I promise you this is a real driver’s license.  Now let me into the frigging bar.”

Then there was the time my third year in law school that I got carded to see an R rated movie by a pimply faced teenager whose voice had yet to change.  I was twenty-four.

When I was younger, times like this really used to really piss me off.  They don’t irk me as much anymore.  In fact, I have decided to embrace these moments, realizing that, at my age, people telling me that I look younger than I am is definitely a compliment.

Because of these experiences, I have always searched for ways to look older, reasoning that, if I looked or sounded older, people would take me seriously. When I first started as an attorney, I used to wear a fake engagement ring so that jurors would think I was older than I appeared.  I hardly ever wear make-up, but I would wear it to court because I thought it made me look older.  I continued this practice until a victim’s family member asked me who the actual attorney prosecuting their case was, explaining that I didn’t look old enough to try a case.  After that, I stopped trying to look older, accepting the fact that I was always going to look and sound like a teenager.

That is, until my recent visit to the World of Coke.

I went to the World of Coke a couple of weekends ago with my best friend from law school and my husband.  Neither one of them had been before, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to be advertised to for an afternoon while drinking as much Coke as we could stand.  As we waited in line, a lady tapped my friend on the shoulder and pointed at me.

“How old is she?” the woman asked, as if I wasn’t standing right there.  My friend arched her eyebrow and pointed at me as well.

“You mean my friend,” she responded, making sure to put extra emphasis on the word friend.  We were both expecting the woman to say that I looked like I could be my friend’s daughter, even though I’m only two years younger than her.  Instead, the woman launched into a story about her son that didn’t quite make sense, then she rudely pointed to the random strands of gray hair on my head and compared them to the patches of gray hair on her son’s head.

At first I thought I didn’t hear her right, so I just said, “oh that’s such a sad story,” and kept walking.  But when my friend confirmed the woman’s statements, I was dumbstruck.  Apparently I had fooled myself into thinking that my age would never be noticeable.  That I would continue to be the girl who was carded for R rated movies for years to come.  While I am well aware that some of my hair had started to turn gray, I never thought it was that big of a deal, especially since it was only a few random white strands floating in a sea of black.  Moreover, I never thought they would be pointed out to me in such a public manner.

When we’re younger, we feel invincible, like we can do anything, try anything, eat anything and never get hurt, never gain weight…never feel the consequences of our age.  That is because, at that time, there were none.  We could bounce back from anything.  I still feel invincible most of the time.  Then there are the times when my left knee tweaks with pain when I reach the end of my five flight trek up the stairs to my office, or my jeans are just a little harder to button after a night of pizza and beer, and I am quickly brought back to reality.

Where is this going?  I don’t know.  I do know that I still don’t feel old enough to have gray hairs, or to have to hide them for that matter.  Yet, apparently I need to add a little color to my next haircut appointment.

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Something’s Gotta Give

I’ve had a song stuck in my head all day.  We all experience this issue every once in a while where a song that we kind of know the words to runs through our mind non-stop.  You sing the words that you know and make up others along the way, humming the tune until you want to stick your hand into your ear and attempt to manually extract the song from your head.  Today, for me, that song is Something’s Gotta Give by Christian Kane.  However, I’m okay with the tune in my head.  In fact, I think it should take off its shoes, put up its feet and stick around for awhile.

Let me first start off with a confession/disclaimer.  Anyone who knows me is aware of the fact that when I find something I really like, I will obsess over it for a bit.  Now, I’m not a stalker, I don’t do anything illegal (I’m too neurotic for that), and I don’t bother anyone.  But when I find something that I enjoy, I will immerse myself in it.  My husband says that I have an addictive personality.  I respectfully disagree with his assessment.  I  like to categorize my obsessive spurts as me showing my appreciation for something that may, or may not, be worth appreciating.

For example, when I was a kid, we’re talking elementary school age, I loved the movie The Three Amigos.  I watched it over and over again, which was hard to do back in the era before DVRs and DVDs.  I watched the movie so many times in such a short period that my mother decided to hide the video tape from me so I couldn’t watch it anymore.  I can’t explain why I loved that movie so much, but I know that something about it made me happy, and I wanted to experience that feeling as many times as I could.

Why am I telling you this extremely embarrassing story?  Because old habits die hard.  I’m almost 31 years old, and here I am, slightly obsessing over this song.  I play it on repeat, listening to it over and over again, finding comfort in the lyrics.  It’s as if the words describe everything I feel right now.  Not the part about working blue-collar jobs in Texas, it is a country song after all.  No, it’s the overall message that we shouldn’t sit idly by and watch our lives and dreams go by that strikes a sharp chord with me.  Right now, I feel as if I am nailed to my office walls, looking out my window at all of the possibilities that await me, yet I remain immobile.  I could be a lawyer, a baker…a candlestick maker.  I could be anything.  That thought in and of itself is overwhelming.  But mix that it with indecision and fear of change, and I’m sitting on that fence right next to Christian Kane, mourning the hole in my favorite boots.

After reading my first entry, one of my girlfriends brought up a very interesting point.  She said that we spend so much time working toward things when we’re young that we think once we achieve certain goals: a career, a marriage, kids etc., we’ll be happy.  Then she said that it’s not necessarily about achieving the goals we set, it’s about being happy on the journey.  A good point, one that I definitely need to be reminded of from time to time; however, it is a point that is easier said than done.  It can be hard to enjoy the journey when we face so much uncertainty in who we are, where we are going and what we want in life.

We’ve been told our whole lives we can do anything we put our minds to.  That’s one of the hardest things about being this age.  When we were younger it was so easy to dream about who we wanted to be and what kind of impact we would have as an adult.  But then we grow up and realize that not everyone can be Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court or win an Academy Award.  The time comes to decide between going for your dreams or accepting your fate and settling for stability and a two car garage.  So what do we do?  Do we stay on course and hope our dreams will happen, or do we make a change and try something completely different to see if that will make us happier?  Is it better to be unsatisfied sticking to what we know?  Or should we enter unfamiliar territory and completely change our original life plan?

Unfortunately, these are not easy questions to answer.   They only become harder when we realize that we are too old to be young and too young to be old.  So we struggle with our uncertain status in society, trying to wade our way through the deep end of the kiddie pool and figure out what and who we are supposed to be in this world.  We also have to get over ourselves, changing attitudes and habits we have developed during our journeys over the last thirty-something years.  A very hard obstacle to overcome.  As the song in my head says, “it’s hard to turn a wrench on a rusty bolt.”  And I totally agree with that, clearly as I am a creature of very weird and old habits.  Then again, maybe it’s time we spray some WD-40 on the damn thing and give it a good hard twist.

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A Letter to Future Me

A few months ago, my mother brought over all of my old papers, school work and art projects she had kept over the years.  Six boxes of old book reports, science projects and math quizzes sat in my bedroom for months until I finally had nothing better to do than sift through the endless mound of papers.  After hours of sneezing and constantly putting lotion on my dry hands, I found a letter I wrote to myself when I was a child.  I couldn’t tell you how old I was when I wrote it, but I had to be really young because the spelling and penmanship were both pretty terrible.  It wasn’t so much a letter as it was a list of 100 things I hoped to achieve when I got older.  Now, I say 100, but it was probably closer to 70 because I had listed a few things more than once.  Of course, meeting Dylan McKay was clearly not realistic, but at the time I thought it was, so I wrote it down as goal numbers 27, 53 and 89.

It was not easy to read that list.  Some of the goals were very attainable.  Visit New York City and perfect my cursive so that I could write with a pen – I had achieved both of those very early on in my life.  Learn French and travel outside of the country were also listed.  I have been lucky enough to travel a little, once I figured out how to deal with my hatred of flying.  My French is not so good, but I do know how to order a good glass of red wine, and once I fooled a real Frenchman into thinking I spoke fluent French just by pronouncing “bonjour” with a proper accent.  So I’m going to count that goal as met.

The hard part was reading the goals I so badly wanted to achieve but didn’t or haven’t yet.  Drive a Mustang.  I’m working on that one, but to my chagrin, it’s very slow going.  Own my own horse and stable.  Still a dream I hope to attain one day, but is really feasible?  Only time will tell.  Become a famous ballet dancer – that one hurt the most.  I have danced my entire life.  I really believed when I was younger that I could be like one of the famous Bolshoi Ballerinas.  It was a beautiful dream.  One I was sad to know that I had not only given up on, but that I never actually pursued after I got to high school.  Too many other things got into my way – school, friends, boys, moving – I just gave it up.  I remember right before my parents and I left the Midwest to move South, my mother offered to enroll me in dance classes at Ruth Page, a legendary dance school in Chicago.  But I brushed off the offer, more worried about my social life than my dream.  I’m pretty sure that if 8 year old me were a part of that conversation, she would’ve smacked me and said I was being a stupid head.

This old letter to future me became more apropos recently when I started receiving e-mails from friends with a link to a website where you can write a letter to your future self, just like I did when I was younger.  But everyone who has sent me this like has expressed hesitation and fear in writing themselves such a letter.  I started to wonder why. One of the things that really creeps into our lives at this age is regret.  It’s so easy to look back and think of what we would change and how things would be better or different because of that.  I think this is why we are so scared to write these letters to our future selves.  We are frightened of letting ourselves down.  We have goals for our future selves, and we’re afraid if we don’t meet them that we’ve somehow failed at life.  More so, it’s easy to set a goal and say it out loud, but when we write it down, it becomes more real, like a looming deadline.

But we shouldn’t be afraid to set goals for ourselves, both hard to reach ones, and ones that are a little more attainable.  More importantly, we have to be able to cut ourselves some slack if we don’t reach all of them.  So, in spirit of facing our fears and hoping for things to be better in the future, I’m going to write future me a letter in this post and come back to read it in one year.

Dear Future Me:

Congratulations on keeping up this blog for a year.  You may not have posted as much as you wanted to, but you’ve kept it up and that’s the most important part.  Hopefully you’ve at least gotten some of your shit together and that you’re in a new job where you’re happier, respected and appreciated.  Keep saving up money for that Mustang, you’ll get it one day.  Also, I hope by now that you’ve taken a nice vacation with your husband somewhere that required you to be on a plane for at least four hours.  Finally, I hope you are taking good care of yourself and have gotten your lazy butt off of the couch and started training for that 10K you keep saying you’re going to run.  You aren’t getting any younger.

If you haven’t achieved any of these goals in the last year year, and you’re still stuck in the same place, struggling to figure out the meaning and purpose of your life, I can at least say this.  Your boobs look great in that top.

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The Beginning

About six years ago, when my older sister turned 30, she warned me about this milestone of an age.

“I don’t understand it,” she said to me.  “I have friends getting divorced, getting married and re-married.  I have friends who never wanted kids getting pregnant.  And I know people who have quit their jobs, packed up their belongings and moved halfway across the country.  I don’t know what it is about 30, but it makes people do weird things.”

I laughed at the time.  I was a lowly 24 year old entering into her third year of law school with a job in hand and the world at my fingertips.  Of course I laughed.  The idea of people doing anything because of their age made no sense to me.  Even when I turned 30 almost one year ago, the number didn’t want to make me do anything crazy.  But I noticed that what my sister had said was coming true.  I had friends getting divorced or having babies, I had other friends quit their jobs and move from the place they had lived their entire lives to places where they had never been and knew no one.  I thought they were crazy.

And then it hit me…I don’t want to say like a ton of bricks, because that is so very cliche, but it did.  I didn’t see my quarter life crisis coming, but it smacked me in the face right before my 31st birthday.  This urge to leave the law altogether and do something different, like starting up a grilled cheese and tomato soup food truck, or becoming a full-time fiction writer, creeps into my mind on a daily basis.  I feel as if I need to keep myself bolted to my desk so I don’t march into my boss’s office, tell her to shove it and storm out in some dramatic fashion best fit for a movie.  The desire to pack up my clown shoe of a car, with my husband in tow, and drive around the country, working as a waitress or a dog walker, just so I can say that I did it – that I lived my life before I couldn’t anymore.  Before responsibility, mortgages, and babies made it impossible for me to do anything but work, eat and sleep.  I find myself fighting that desire regularly, usually by having a few drinks and then looking at my bank account.

I know I’m not alone in this thought process, but it feels like it sometimes.  Like I’m living in my head on this fantasy of a journey all by myself.  Nothing angers me more than when someone older than me says something like, “well, you’re still young, you can pick up and go if you want.”  But while 30 years old isn’t anywhere near retirement age, it’s still NOT young.  Plus, no one tells you what happens when you come back from this fantastic once-in-a-lifetime journey all us thirty-somethings are supposed to be taking.  What happens to your career, your friends, your belongings, your money when you come back to the real world?  It’s not like everything you leave behind gets placed on pause and is there waiting for you upon your return.  We can’t all “Eat, Pray, Love” our way through a year of our lives.

So what are we, the lost generation, to do?  Me?  I decided to start this blog, thinking that somehow posting self-indulgent ramblings will, in some way, impact the world. And, while I may not be able to safely drive a food truck around a huge metropolitan Southern city serving hot soup in 100 degree temperatures, I can do the other thing I love to do, which is write.  But, most importantly, I want to try to figure out what is it about this age, this number that makes us feel so old when we are, in fact, so young…

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