Championships

It’s late July. The sun lingers in the sky well past dinnertime. My favorite summer fruits are in season. My mom is cooking sweet yellow corn on the barbeque, almost every night. Kids everywhere are starting to fear the onset of the school year, and savoring the freedom of summer nights.

I am sitting alone in a hotel room in Ontario, CA.

It’s the night before the final day of the California Bar Exam. It’s the night before the first day of the rest of my life.

Every year when I was a kid, I spent the last weekend of July at Swim Championships. Two grueling days of sunscreen, screaming parents and the smell of chlorine. We’d go to bed early and get up at 5a.m. We’d swim five events in the morning and then pace around until mid afternoon when the eight fastest times would be posted and “finals” would begin.

In the meantime, the older girls would braid my hair and make friendship bracelets. Erin Mckeown and I would make a trip to the snack bar every half hour. We’d eat skittles and try to evade my mom, who was in constant hot pursuit of me with a chocolate power bar and a tube of bull frog sunblock.

A year ago an adult friend of mine texted me when she saw a mom on a San Francisco city bus pleading with her skinny daughter to eat a chocolate power bar: “It reminded me of every summer of our childhood”

Swim Championships were part social extravaganza, part 48 hour torture session.

My feelings year to year were split between euphoric triumph and crushing devastation.

My experience of the California Bar Exam reminds me of those July weekends of my childhood. The same anxious, upset stomach feeling every morning. The same reflection on my performance every night.

Each time the proctor says “begin,” I hear the low beep of the starting signal and can feel myself dive off the block.

Every night when I talk to my mom she asks, “What are you eating?” and “Are you getting enough protein?” If she thought she could get away with it, she’d show up in Ontario with a chocolate power bar.

The similarities of the two events, so different in nature and objective, so distant in time, is both bizarre and comforting. It reminds me that life is changing but my essence is the same. It reminds me that everything is connected.

It reminds me that I will get through this. That some day, the California bar exam will be nothing but a vivid memory of my past.

Corporations

My friend Parker and I are the same age. We graduated the same year from high school. And college. We are both UCLA J.D.s, Class of 2012.

Sometimes when I hang out with him I feel like I’m 8 years old. Like my mom is paying him 15 dollars an hour to make sure I don’t electrocute myself in the microwave before she gets home from work.

Parker owns property and a BMW. One of his favorite pastimes is “watching his net-worth increase” on mint.com.

My net worth is the sum total of my measly student checking account and the retail value of the 2012 Ford Focus my dad bought me.

Today, reclined on wicker chaise lounges on the rooftop patio of my apartment building, Parker taught me about Corporations.

There’s that feeling again, “I wonder what time my mom gets home?”

Cresting towards thirty, with a professional degree, I’m having my first encounter with the basic, grown-up fundamentals of how the world works. “Man. My twenties have sure been a waste of an upper-middle class upbringing and an elite college education.”

Later, slightly sun-burnt and significantly dejected, I sank into the worn-out corner of my big, red couch. I mentally added the Ikea list price to my personal net-worth and settled in for an indulgent session of self-shaming and personal regret.

In periods of peak self-doubt and anxiety about the future, I cringe at the thought of how I spent my twenties.

Where I come from, people graduate college and immediately pursue the most lucrative career they can think of. The smartest and most distinguished become doctors. The best looking women and former fraternity presidents go into finance.  Everyone else spends a year or so bewildered by the work force, panics, and starts studying for the LSAT.

After college, I ran a summer camp with my best friend.

For five years.

In the midst of several public education jobs and learning to be a yoga teacher, I applied to law school.

I spent three years dreaming about how to run a summer camp with my best friend.

And a J.D.

I didn’t care to learn about shareholding or preferred stock.

Today felt like I was paying the emotional… and financial… price.

I got out my computer to write about my should-haves and wish-I’ds. I had just snuggled back into the pity spot when the phone rang.

It was my best friend.

“Maybe she’s calling with an update on that summer camp I’ve been dreaming about.”

In 20 minutes, 5 years of memories washed over me.

My 120 pound body squished in the center of a teary-eyed group hug.

Weeping over a note from a teenager telling me I’d “changed their life.”

Laughing so hard, for so long, I worried I might die because I couldn’t catch my breath.

Beaming with the joy and pride of an eager parent at countless high school graduations.

Watching gawky middle-schoolers become confident college kids, and later, my intimate adult friends.

Sharing in personal growth, moments of greatness and experiencing the rare sensation when everyone, and every thing, around me is shining.

Being Immersed in energy and intimacy of a group of people, the uniqueness of which, makes it indescribable.

Feeling the fullest, most unconditional, most powerful expressions of love.

A year from now, I’ll likely be unemployed. I’ll be a year closer to retirement but not a dollar closer to my first, real purchase of stock. Property and BMWs will be things “I’m saving for my forties.”

Maybe I’ll be having my third mid-life crisis. Maybe I’ll be sitting on my couch wondering, what might have been.

Maybe I’ll sit in gratitude for the unforgettable moments that have shaped my twenties.

Gratitude for each and every member of my summer camp family. The unforgettable, loves of my life.  Each of whom taught me how important it is to: be myself, love myself and keep growing.

Shareholder or not.

Speak My Truth

I’ve been in hiding.

Hiding from my friends and family.

Hiding from my blog.

“I’m too busy to write.” “I don’t have the energy.” “At the end of a brutal day, I just need to zone out.”

All true.

All a load of B.S.

I have plenty of time to write.

Three days ago, I spent thirty minutes lying face down in the carpet on my living room floor.

I could have been writing.

Last night, I watched back to back episodes of “Duck Dynasty” on A&E.

I could have been writing.

I’m not writing because I don’t like what I have to say.

I feel sad, lonely and depressed. I feel lost, confused and hopeless. If I were to fill out one of those depression surveys you sometimes encounter at the doctor’s office, they’d likely keep me overnight for observation.

I can’t stand feeling like this. And  for me, the only thing worse than feeling like this, is other people finding out about it.

So I keep it to myself.*

I fake it out in public and lie to my friends.

I refuse to write.

Three years ago, I trained to be a yoga teacher. Many mantras, life philosophies and spiritual rules to live by emerged from my teacher training. Of these, the most frequently referenced was”speaking your truth.” We talked about it constantly. What it means, what it sounds like, how it feels. The consequences of not doing it. I remember the conversations. Listening to people have epiphanies, reveal themselves, cry. I was present and conscious in the room.

I never connected to the experience.

I thought, “I’m an honest, straightforward person. I rarely hesitate to give my opinion, in some cases, regardless of whether I’ve been asked for it. Speaking my truth? yeah. I got that.”

But in the last three years I’ve considered the ways and circumstances in which I don’t speak my truth.

Hiding from my blog is a big one.

When I judge my truth, I don’t speak it. When my truth conflicts with the standards I’ve created for how I should look, act, and think, I don’t speak it. When I convince myself that other people don’t want to hear my truth, I don’t speak it.

When I feel less than myself, I go into hiding.

Right now, I want to stop writing.

Truth: Throughout law school I was pretty arrogant. I celebrated, sometimes gloated, about how easy it is was for me. When I thought about studying for the California Bar Exam I figured I’d have a similar experience. What feels torturous and overwhelming for most people will feel completely manageable for me.

Truth: I was wrong.

Truth: I’m struggling to be patient, kind, compassionate and human in this process. I feel disconnected, angry and unhappy.

Truth: I pride myself on being a well adjusted person. I’ve had a daily yoga practice for six years. I meditate. I write in a gratitude journal. I read self-help books and spiritual blogs. In my imagination, I have an arsenal of coping skills.

Truth: I cried all day today.

Truth: I want to erase everything above this line and share a light-hearted story about using the voice activation feature in my new car.

Truth: I’m going to publish this anyway.

*special shout-out to my mom, to whom I always speak my truth, from whom I can never hide, and who is constantly peeling my pathetic, tired ass off the pavement, dusting me off, and helping me get on my way. She never gets credit, or gratitude, or recognition, but I love her deeply for seeing me and supporting me, no matter what.