Walking the streets of Barcelona with my father used to involve a mild amount of embarrassment. In the city, where he was born and raised, and where most residents speak both Catalan and Spanish, there is a social convention: If you speak to someone you don’t know in Catalan, and they respond in Spanish, you should follow their cue and switch to Spanish because they do not speak Catalan. When someone responded to my father’s Catalan in Spanish, he persisted in Catalan. Sometimes they would call him out, explicitly telling him that they did not speak Catalan. Sometimes he would respond, “But we are in Catalunya.” I would stand by, hand blocking my face, hoping the interaction would end quickly. After seeing the national police bludgeon citizens throughout Catalonia with truncheons in a feeble attempt to block the October 1 independence referendum, I have a harder time seeing my father’s obstinacy as embarrassing.
When I first heard BC Law called “the Disneyland of law schools” during my 1L orientation, I was surprised. How can a law school – something that is grueling and competitive by nature—be likened to the widely proclaimed “happiest place on earth?” My only experience with law school was limited to the crazed mumblings of relatives in legal professions and of friends struggling through their own intensely cutthroat law school experiences. Before classes began I had been preparing myself to be swallowed by a writing-intensive version of the Hunger Games. “Keep your head on a swivel” was the sage warning from my dad as I set off on my new venture.
But I also found the Disney analogy comforting and personally appropriate. I recently retired from three years touring as a professional figure skater for Disney on Ice, where I had been actually living in this Disney dreamland. Disney was something familiar. I wanted to know more.
I have been grappling with the sometimes-tenuous relationship between my expectations and reality since I was a six-year-old girl, kissing my perfectly healthy mother goodbye before school. When I got off the school bus that afternoon, I expected my mother to be waiting for me at the bus stop, a snack to be on the table, and my father to be at work. Instead, it was my father waiting for me, no snack, and the news that my mother had taken a nap that morning and had never woken up.
Several years after my mother’s death, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, but I think emptiness is a much more complete way to describe what was happening inside my head. When people think of depression they think of sadness and tears, but depression is more like a parasite that sucks away all human emotions; happiness, anger, even sadness cannot exist as long as depression is present. Being depressed is like being locked behind a one-way mirror; isolated, invisible to your loved ones, and forced to watch them live their happy lives without you.
There are few things cooler for an 11-year-old kid than getting to stay up later than your siblings to watch an R-rated movie, so I vividly remember hopping on the couch with my dad to watch Crimson Tide in 1995. I clung to a pillow with wide-eyed excitement as the USS ALABAMA and a Russian submarine fired torpedoes at each other while Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman squared off with a nuclear war on the line.
At the movie’s tense climax, my dad, a Navy veteran, turned to me dead serious and said, “That guy’s wearing the wrong collar devices.”
My first reaction was “stop talking during the movie so I can see if the submarine sinks,” but my next thought was “how can he possibly know that?” I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but my dad’s time in the Navy had left him with attention to detail that he couldn’t turn off. It was impossible for him to watch the movie without critiquing the uniforms, lingo, and behavior of the sailors after it had been so ingrained in him by his supervisors and experience.
That’s what 1L does to BC Law students.
The personal statement section of the law school application can sometimes seem like an artificial reconstruction of particular stories in a person’s life that is carefully molded solely to convince administrators that they should choose one individual over the thousands of other people they evaluate. And, for some, the statement turns out to be exactly that. Yet, the process of writing my personal statement forced me to re-evaluate my pedagogical journey in attempting to justify to myself why I was going to law school and what I could possibly do afterwards. Thus, I can think of no better introduction to who I am for the readers of BC Law: Impact than the personal statement that put me on this path.
I see each person as an accumulation of his or her experiences. More specifically, they are a representation of the events, cultures, opinions, ideas and ideologies that shaped who they are and inform their perspective. This perspective, in turn, shapes how they see the world, and how they understand their responsibility to other people.
Now, what is my perspective? I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico to parents of Spanish and Cuban ancestry. My maternal grandmother was raised in San Juan by her grandfather, Jose de Diego, an active voice of the Puerto Rican independence movement in the late nineteenth century. As an independentista, he fought for sovereignty and the equal rights of Puerto Ricans under colonial rule. My grandmother was a firsthand witness of his struggle for equality, as the status of our island was debated and its future decided. Although neither of my parents were able to attend college, they worked long hours to start a cargo business from the ground up. Consequently, my grandmother took care of me during much of my early years and I have vivid memories of coming home to sit on her lap and listen to stories of de Diego’s battle for the people of Puerto Rico.
Heads up: There is so much to read in law school. And the case materials are not written in plain English. You will have to read some cases twice or even three times to get a clear picture of what’s really going on.
Then there are a myriad of 1L events to welcome us law-newbies – and overwhelm us further – on this exciting journey into the world of jurisprudence.
You have half-a-dozen student organization meetings to attend. Socialization follows.
Of the little time you have left for yourself, you’re given the choice to sleep or…
…go rock climbing, kayaking, run, hangout at the beach, and try out kiteboarding.
Sometimes, life has a funny way of telling you where you’re supposed to be.
In February, I had decided on a law school. Spoiler alert: It wasn’t BC Law. The school I chose was a highly-ranked choice close to home. I was beyond excited to send in my seat deposit, but for some reason I felt obligated to justify my decision to my friends and family. I remember pining over the ABA 509 Reports for some kind—any kind—of justification to back my decision. Now, of course, I know that the only person I needed to convince was myself.
If you’ve been following my law school journey here on the BC Law Impact Blog, you know that it hasn’t been an easy one. I was diagnosed with endometriosis – a chronic reproductive health condition that can cause back pain, pelvic pain, fatigue, and infertility among other debilitating symptoms – in my first year of law school. After a failed surgery between my first and second years of law school, and a successful, more intensive one in the winter of 2L, followed by a semester long leave, I am happy to be back on campus.
I spent the spring and the summer doing research for If/When/How on abortion access for teens, watching way too much of the X-Files, and working on my recovery. Getting your life back after a chronic illness sidelines you is a longer, and harder process than I expected, and I’m still working on getting my body and my mind back to where it was before I got sick. In the meantime, I’m taking it slow at school, and reflecting on what I’ve learned in the last few months. Here are some things I’ve learned about myself and law school along the way, and how you can apply them to (hopefully) make your time at BC Law a little easier:
In April, I had the privilege of presenting a talk to the Boston College community as part of BC’s Graduate Student’s Association’s program GradTalks. It’s an annual event that provides a forum for a diverse selection of graduate students to present ideas that interest them. I spoke about felon disenfranchisement, and what we have to do in Massachusetts to overcome barriers to voting rights.
Watch the video after the jump.
It’s almost here: the first seat deposit deadline.
Has anything ever felt so surreal? Have you ever felt less prepared? Have you ever questioned yourself or your choices more?
I get it. I really do. And it was that sentiment that drove me to try to help make this process as simple as possible for you.