Sunday, August 16, 2009

say goodbye to bar summer

My friend told me to call her because a guy she knew wanted my resume. I called her today as soon as I got the message. I've been looking for a job since the end of the bar exam--looking full-time, that is. Full-time as in: get up in the morning, have coffee, and summon the courage to face Craig's List.

Craig's List? you say. Don't tell me you are looking for a law job on Craig's List?

It's true, I will tell you. You can look on Symplicity, the law school jobs board, for judicial clerkships for the top 15% of law graduates. You can also find jobs there in Maryland, White Plains, downstate Illinois, California. You can look on the government jobs website for jobs requiring licensure and many years of experience. You can look on Careerbuilder or and be told that you can sell insurance for AFLAC. You can cruise Vault and Lexis and Lawjobs for the same listings you found elsewhere.

Or you can look on Craig's List. There, you can find small firms looking for law students who will work for ten (10) dollars and hour. You can find egregious ads offering law students the chance to "intern" (work for nothing) at a small firm. You can find even more outrageous ads looking for unemployed law graduates to work for free while waiting for their bar exam results. And you can find lots of ads looking for experienced attorneys to do piecework jobs (document review). Sometimes you can even find an ad or two that looks like a real job, and so you try once more to de-gay your gay gay resume and gay cover letter, and send them off into the abyss.

Your resume says you have crested your forties and are on the downslide to fifty, and have somehow, inexplicably, thrown away a solid-looking teaching career to rack up 125K more in student-loan debt so you can start doing entry-level work in an office. Your resume says you taught gender courses and interned at gay public interest law organizations. Your cover letter cheerfully explains that you wanted to "engage more directly with issues of social justice."

After you've sent off your gay gay gay credentials, you look can stay on Craig's List and look for work to "tide you over." There is dogwalking, tutoring,and adjunct work aplenty, and you briefly consider the dogwalking gig before you remember you have bad feet, short legs, and a resume that says you graduated from college in 1984. That leaves tutoring and adjunct work.

You send off a bunch of tutoring applications and quickly get back a grammatically-suspect reply offering you a job if you agree to engage in some complicated check-cashing and money-wiring operations. Another recipient tells you that if you get your license to sell insurance, you can have a job cold calling businesses to try to get them to buy policies. That leaves adjuncting.

It is late in the summer. Classes start soon. You know what you have to do.

It's time to put on those fishnets, purse your lips into a pout, and walk the streets selling yourself as a composition lady of the morningafternoonevening. Strut it sister! You love teaching writing! You know you do! Grading paper after paper after paper for a few dollars in your g-string--you want it!!! You flaunt it! Oh baby, your eyes are getting old, but your pen still knows how to drive them wild with a few well-placed grammar suggestions.

For your special customers, you can still offer the lure of the semicolon.

And so you find yourself here again, my friend, five years after you lost your job, in the exact same place you were when your paychecks ended. You have gone to law school, taken the bar exam, published a law Note, and racked up a total of . . . what is it? !50K in student loan debt? 160K? You aren't sure. And you are begging for a last minute comp section to pay rent until a job comes through.

One guy who asked a fancy professor friend for my resume also asked her what I had done to contribute to my jobless situation. I thought about my gay gay life and my gay gay book and my gay gay resume and I thought, could it be my heroin habit? My carelessness with my eyebrows? The fact that I only possess one suit?

The good news is that I told one friend that I was applying for dogwalker jobs and she was so horrified she found me a class for the fall. Now all I need is one more class, or a tutoring job, to get through until November.

So today I'm driving down to a community college on the far south nether regions beyond the city, to turn in paperwork for composition adjuncting. It's going to be an hour commute each way MWF, and with traffic back it could take a lot longer, but I need the extra 5K I'll get from teaching 2 classes (really 1.5) down there. The paper application is horrifying, reminding me just how punitive the job market has become--have you defaulted on any loans? Can you pass a background check? Can you pass a CREDIT check? Are you drug-free? Really, I never imagined I'd have to pass a body cavity search to be allowed to teach comp, but anything goes in this Second Depression, so I'm taking a bath and preparing to leave the house. It is a very cheery campus, with nice facilities and sunny-faced, instructors, so I think I'll like it. More later on the depressing fact/uplifting versatility of having "a foot in both worlds" (or a foot in neither). Wish me luck. It feels like a Classic Rock on the car radio kind of day, and those are always good days.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

graduation day

Today the saga of law school ended, at least institutionally. The class of 2009 graduated, and I was one of them. I did not graduate with honors, which means I was not in the top half of my class, but I think I'm not at the bottom, so that's something. The faculty have a lovely tradition of filing out, then forming two lines at the top of the stairs for the graduates to walk through. It was startling to emerge from the auditorium to see so many of their faces turned towards us, and even more startling to hear my name called and see hands stretched out to me as I walked past.

As I walked up the stairs I walked right by Maude. She was fascinated watching all the blue velvet-lined gowns file past, and even more startled when I leaned down and addressed her. She just stared at me, as if I was some exotic creature. As if I had a mortarboard on my head.

Afterwards there were so many people milling around we had to leave, but as we walked towards the elevators I would see someone I knew and we would stop for a minute.

I don't have a lot of fondness for my law school experience but I don't hate it. It is an experience designed for young people in their twenties, and that is going to be alienating for someone older. I don't blame law school for the out-of-sync existence of middle age, nor can law school be blamed for my commuter relationship to it, my insistence on a life elsewhere, insulated from and outside of it.

The end of things is so rushed. I imagined somehow that I would have time to linger and say goodbye. There were some people I liked.

Two days ago I sat up until 6am writing my last paper, and tonight I spend the last night in my house writing this. This house has been a quiet place elsewhere for me for three years, and tomorrow the road will swallow it up behind me, and this door will close. I am already thinking about the bar exam, the bar course that starts Monday, and finding a job.

But for tonight, I am deep in the feeling of an ending. This was my transition from academia, and the plane has landed. We disembark. If I am lucky there will be an office at the end of the summer, and 8 to 6. But the papers, the research, the school calendar, the professors and classrooms will be gone. If I am lucky there will be interesting work. If not, there will be duty, and life lived in the corners of the week. But that is tomorrow.

This is not how I thought it would end, but the ending is not a surprise. Good night, academic life. Good night room. Goodnight, dusty college town. Goodnight to all the semesters of all the years of my life. Goodnight all-night papers and 48-hour exam crams. Goodnight person I was, and who I thought I would be. Goodnight, goodnight.

And have a pleasant tomorrow.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Daycare Blues

So parenthood is amazing and stressful, but amazing. The problem is that I have no time.

Now, I used to hear parents--mostly mothers, let's face it--say they had no time, and I was skeptical. Really? No time at all? When I had no time, it was because I was managing my time badly. I had plenty of time. What I lacked was organization.

See? That's how stupid I was.

Then we had a baby. We still didn't lack time, really--what we lacked was 1. sleep. and 2. freedom to leave the house. Baby Maude slept a lot, ate a lot, and cried a lot.

But then she grew up.

Suddenly she smiles every morning when she wakes up. She smiles every time she looks at us. Her firm little round cheeks are red, red rosy red and you could just bite them. Her eyes are dark and deep and lovely. The symmetry of her face is breathtaking. And she will take up every waking minute of my day, or her other mom's day, or our day together.

The first sounds come crackling over the baby monitor at 6, or 7, or on a rare day, 8. Before 6 she has to go back in her bed after she nurses; after 6, she comes to bed with us and nurses and we pray, pray she falls back asleep for a bit.

Eventually she wakes up and starts kicking GF, and moving her arms, and making whiny sounds letting us know she is bored. We know, by the way. We are just ignoring it.

Then GF sighs and moves baby Maude away from her body, which has been getting pummeled. Sometimes I feel a little set of nails scratching insistently against my back. I roll over and see a little set of the darkest eyes. "Hello Maude," I said, and I kiss her. She doesn't stop smiling. GF then either 1. gets up to feed the cats and turn on the coffee, leaving me to play with Maude and eventually get up and change her, or 2. asks me to please, please get up with the baby so she can sleep in just a little more, or 3. gets up with the baby and lets me sleep. We kind of work out who is more desperate at the time.

Sometimes--glorious mornings!--Maude gets in bed at six or seven and sleeps TWO MORE HOURS, and everyone gets up together singing! Those days are the best.

Mornings can be fun. There is baby in the Johnny Jump Up bouncy chair, and coffee and the paper, and then oatmeal with some kind of fruity goodness mixed in for baby, and Greek yogurt or eggs for us, and playing on the floor with blocks and stuffed animals and little plastic colored bowls that stack up or snap together into spheres. Then there is eventual crabbiness (hers) and the nursing prelude to naptime, which can be anywhere from 10 to 1130.

Naptime lasts an hour if you are lucky, and longer if you are especially blessed, but it can also be a failure where certain persons decide they are not tired and are going to make birdlike sounds over the intercom for the duration while they heap stuffed animals on top of themselves in their crib.

When are you getting work done? You may ask. Ask away. The answer is, we're not. No time! She is going to be up in an hour, and one must bathe and dress, check email, make the bed, do the dishes, straighten up.

After naptime, if we are all home and no one has meetings or classes to teach, the best bet is Fun Family Errand Day, or the Zoo, or the Aquarium, or the Art Museum. GF got us memberships to all with her tax return, and they give us places to go with a little girl hungry for things to do. Usually, though, there are meetings and classes, so Fun Family things have to wait till Friday afternoons or Saturday. I am gone at school downstate Sunday night through Tuesday evening; GF teaches Tuesdays and Thursdays and often has Wednesday meetings; I get home late Tuesday nights and teach Thursday nights.

No time! Which is why, finally, we capitulated to daycare.

I feel very guilty about daycare. I am surprised by this. I imagined that daycare would be easy because I would resent the constant caretaking that comes with a baby, and so would hand the little one over to daycare with a sigh of relief. But the thing is, I like taking care of the baby. I like spending the morning with her and taking her on an adventure in the afternoon. The other day I put her in the backpack and we walked to the health food store to get vegetables. How crunchy granola is that? The sun was out and children were spilling out of their schools and Maude was fascinated and I was getting a little workout and all kinds of ladies were talking to us because Maude is so cute in her backpack, and it was a peaceable world, a world of gentle rhythms moving around the life of a child. I wasn't getting anything else done because after going home we would have to make dinner for us and dinner for Maude, and then we would feed Maude and give her a bath and GF would nurse her and then it would be time for her bed. And then GF and I would eat and maybe watch Rachel Maddow and think about work we might get done and then feel so tired. But it would be happy.

Also, we love our Tuesday babysitter, and Maude loves our Tuesday babysitter. The only problem is that the Tuesday babysitter costs 100 dollars for only one day, while daycare for three whole days is 150. And GF has a full-time career, and I am a full-time student teaching a course, so Tuesdays alone won't cut it. Did I say there was no time?

So daycare. Out of several options, including a kind of structured school-like one that sounded very attractive but is run by a woman who can't seem to ever call back (she has no time), we found a woman who babysits in her home and has taken care of other children we know. They love her so much they go back to sleep over even after they have started preschool. I can see why they love her, because Maude is fussy and tired when we go to visit this lady, so the lady decides to comfort Maude by feeding her a tangerine. She peels the tangerine, then takes off the inner skin around each section, extracting the sticky jewel of the pulp and offering her tiny bits of summer. It is thundering, raining, pouring outside the windows of her livingroom, which she has turned into a place for children to play by pushing all the sofas against the walls. There are bins of toys and stuffed animals. Maude seems puzzled about why we are there, and vaguely irritated, as if sensing something.

But it is only my imagination. This will be fine. The lady is Eastern European, maybe Russian, given to hugging and kissing Maude already and speaking to her sometimes, at the edges of her sentences, in a dark mellifluous language. She feeds Maude the tangerine bits, and tells us that she makes food for the other two children she cares for. She nods approvingly when we tell her Maude loves garlic. "Lots of garlic!" she promises, as we put our wet shoes back on and stumble down her stairs. The rain has stopped. I run to the car, happy to drive away with my little girl still with me, safe in the back.

GF and I talk about it, about the three days a week--Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday--that will help us get a handle on the end of my semester, the spring quarter of teaching and meetings, the summer bar study for me and research and writing for her. Three days a week! More time than we can imagine.

And yet. I know that we need to do this, but my heart breaks to think of the hours with her I will miss. There will be mornings lost, flavors tasted, other people teaching her things. I will see her after a day apart from me and her eyes will be filled with a life I don't know. We will be building an economic base for her, and careers for ourselves, but we will miss the differences, the startling beauty, of each morning and afternoon she is away, in someone else's house.

When she was really little we used to put her in a swing to soothe her to sleep. The swing stayed for months in our livingroom. There were fish at the top that used to go around, and a light that changed colors, and music that played New Age baby songs that for some reason she just adored. She would sit in that swing and smile up at the fish and make happy gurgly noises when the baby songs played. Eventually she got too big for the swing, and I had to put it away. I cried a little bit the day I unscrewed the legs to the swing and put it away in the basement, because putting it away meant she wasn't a newborn anymore or even an infant. Then I felt silly. Of course she was still a baby. She was just a bigger one. A big girl.

But still. I made a video of her in the swing once, the only time I taped her there, and I ran across it today when I was looking for something else. I watched it for fun, but before long I dissolved. She is still the same baby now as she was then, but now she is also more herself, older, with more of her own mind. Now she sits up, reaches for things, laughs, and grunts in response to the life around her. I like the person I see glimpses of when I am with her now--sensual, curious, shy, assertive. In the video, though, she is preserved as a tiny being, just beginning to find pleasure in the world. Smiling up at her fish, still too small to sit up by herself, she moves her arms and her head to the music, rocking in her little swing, safe and nearby, as she is safe in my house, totally herself but always and forever mine.

Monday, February 09, 2009

I finally did the damn 25 things, ok?

I haven't been bloggin' for forever, in part because so many fellow bloggers are on Facebook, and Facebook is more integrated with my law school life, which is not given over to blocks of time to write prose. I have also resisted doing the "25 things" craze because I feel like we all did that already as bloggers.

But then I thought maybe it would give me the chance to write, by which I mean self reflect, and it seemed so much like writing, if shallower, that I couldn't resist. So I thought I would bring it over here and maybe, just maybe, it might help me climb back on the blogger horse a bit.

Hello everyone! Spring feels like it's just around the corner, though I know it isn't. Cheers to optimism anyway.


If you are reading this, consider yourself tagged!

1. I can teach dogs new tricks. I taught my last dog to jump over a broom because it was fun to watch her do it for food. I taught Joyce and Kate's dog to shake hands, also for food. For the dog.

2. I can jog at least 45 minutes on the treadmill if "Gossip Girl" or "Life on Mars" is on my iphone.

3. I learned to ski when I was five. I have never snowboarded though.

4. I can cross one eye at a time. Kids love this but their parents don't.

5. I am extremely sentimental.

6. I miss my mother every day, even though she died seven years ago and could be a homophobic holy terror.

7. I love writing, and hate that there is no time to do it right now.

8. I am afraid of falling, and so I don't like roller coasters that much and find it inconceivable that anyone would pay to parachute out of a plane. I could maybe hang glide or parasail, though.

9. I am happy that feminism refuses to die.

10. I am a whore for gadgets. I want I want I want.

11. I am not the least bit thrifty.

12. Costco grocery sizes excite me.

13. I would rather bite my nails than trim them any day.

14. I wear a size 11 men's shoe even though I'm only 5'6.

15. I like to cook for a family of at least eight, no matter how few people are actually eating. It's a weird fantasy that's probably tied somehow to exuberance around being the oldest in a family of six, which I was growing up. This inevitably leads to a lot of leftover mashed potatoes in the refrigerator at the holidays.

16. I don't shave my legs, not for political reasons but because I am too lazy to keep them smooth and I hate stubble.

17. My body has trapped enough estrogen in fat to keep me looking young forever. When I recently mentioned my desire to lose some weight, my girlfriend pointed out how young I look and told me "Don't puncture that balloon." I refuse to interpret this phrase.

18. Having a baby has made me rediscover singing songs, dancing in public places, and physical comedy.

19. I have never worked a 9 to 5 office job in my life, and I dread it. I dread unemployment more, though.

20. I wish I hadn't given up playing instruments, and I hope Maude decides to be musical.

21. I used to feel bad about spending most of my retirement money for living expenses while going to law school, but now I think it was brilliant.

22. My eyes are green and blue and brown, and they can look golden, or any of these other colors, with the right shirt. I love this.

23. I like to talk people into things. I want to make them try new foods and join Facebook and get iphones and drink more cocktails. A correlative of this is that I can be talked into doing just about anything. Except parachuting.

24. I am a true night owl. I can be exhausted mentally and physically, but I can always get a second wind at midnight and stay up till 3. There's something seductive about the concentrated quiet of the deep evening that makes it difficult to abandon.

25. I am happy that at a certain point, your friends are just your friends for good, and there is no use in agonizing over whether they like you or you like them or they are too difficult or you are. You just have to love them and stop agonizing about it all.