Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Other Shoe Has Dropped.

School started again, and I was not ready for it. I am not sure exactly why it seems so scary and overwhelming, but I suspect it is a combination of all of the following factors:

1. Last year the professors babied us. They started off each semester kind of slow, and eased into the subject matter, explaining basic principles first, establishing a base. Then they slowly moved on to more complex stuff. It was still extremely difficult and it was unbearably stressful at times, but it always started out slow. Also, the professors spent more time on each concept - going over the analysis and drawing outlines on boards.

This year, there's none of that. We've just jumped right in. The first day in my criminal procedure class, the professor called on me to go over the facts of a case and state the ruling in the case - within 10 minutes of class beginning. I was frozen for a full 15 seconds before I was able to gather my wits about me and pull up the brief I had written. That's the problem with professors who know you.

2. I thought that this semester would be easier, because I've already been through a year of school. "I got this," I told myself. I know how to read and understand the material. I know how to write a brief. I know how to start looking at the big picture.

The truth is I don't "got it." I know the basics, but we're on to more difficult subjects, and different professors. The reading assignments are longer. The teachers know we made it through a whole year, and are still here, so they don't waste time. They expect more.

3. I spent the summer abroad, so I forgot what real classes are like. Summer abroad classes are more laid back. I had my criminal procedure professor this summer, and in France he started each class out with a hypothetical question and story that we would spend half of the class time discussing. Then he'd lecture, then we'd discuss some more. Very rarely was it necessary to do the reading. Then come the first day of the semester, I get grilled in class by the same professor. I was used to summer classes, and real classes have been a rude awakening.

The bad news is that I wasn't prepared for the level of difficulty and the demands of the first week. The good news is that it's only the first week, and I have the time to realign myself and get on track.

On the other hand, I made law review, and that is going to make my semester crazily busy. I will be spending 15-20 hours a week every other week checking citations in articles we're going to publish. In the off weeks, I'll be writing a 35 page paper for potential publication. It's going to be crazy.

Before it gets too terrible, I'm going to write a quick blurb about the two books I've read so far since coming back from Europe.

Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates

This is the story of a couple, both members of which have lost that loving feeling. Their marriage is a shell, there's no connection, no intimacy (by which I don't mean no sex), and no respect. There's just the idea that they live together, they don't hate each other, and they have two kids.

At one point they address the emptiness, and in an attempt to rekindle the flame and regain their passion for each other and life in general, they decide to move to Europe. They make all kinds of plans, and they're looking forward to it. Then life happens. There's a promotion, there's a pregnancy, there's fear of the unknown. The end result is an emptiness even worse than before.

It's impossible to read this book and not worry about your own relationships - with friends, parents, siblings, and mostly with significant others. My marriage is good - I love Mike more than I did when we got married. We're close, we talk about everything. I'm not saying we agree on everything, but I would describe my marriage as healthy and rewarding - nothing like the marriage in the book. But I couldn't help but worry that my marriage could become like theirs.

I think everyone should read this novel (or at least see the movie, which is a pretty good interpretation - as far as movies from books go), because it will scare you into cherishing your relationships. Unfortunately I think it is a fairly accurate depiction of many marriages today.

Girl, Interrupted, by Susanna Kaysen

Two things I did not know about this book before I read it: 1) it is a true story - a memoir; and 2) it's not really a story, it's more like a statement.

I expected it to be like the movie - the story of a girl in a mental hospital and the characters she meets/lives with. To some extent it is, but it is more of a statement about mental hospitals, how they were run in the late 1960s, and the types of girls that go there. It is also a statement about the perception of and treatment of mental health issues at that time.

The book is sprinkled with real chart notes from the author's file while she was there, which is interesting. A little is told about life after the hospital and how she lived the rest of her life. It is an interesting read, and it's short enough to keep the interest of the reader, but if you're looking for scandal or vivid characters this isn't the place to find them.

School will likely be keeping me extremely busy, so I'm not sure how much reading I'll get done this semester, but I will try to keep up some, and keep the polls going.

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