Monday, April 29, 2013

The Neighbor

When people base their lives on blind faith, any encounter with a non-believer threatens the core of their existence. To persuade and convert others becomes a way to justify their own beliefs. I am not a religious person but I do have steadfast dogma on certain subjects such as love, sex and intimacy. When those values are being intrude upon, I feel a natural impulse to react. In fact thinking back, I've spent a good part of my young adult life in the defensive position. I never liked being there yet I was never able to extract myself either. I guess the thought of being understood was just all too alluring.

A brief encounter with the neighbor sent my mind into a tailspin. I've been down this road before but obviously I still don't know better. As it turns out, inexperienced twenty-some-year-old guys really can't distinguish the difference between urbanity and desperation. They always manage to flatter themselves and insult my intelligence at the same time with silly saying like, nothing is going to happen with us. Over a slightly heated discussion I told one young man that someday when he's old and bald sitting alone at a bar he's going to kick himself for not having spent more time with me when I invited him to. He asked to see me again six months after that exchange. I told him I was moving out of town. It felt good to know that he had to kick himself a lot sooner than I thought.

This time I didn't react verbally. Yet, my mind is nevertheless filled with judgment for all he stood for and defensiveness for all I believed in. That and he told me we should no longer interact with each other, at least not physically, because he is never going to marry me. WTF?! Who said I wanted to get married in the first place? And why in the world would I want to marry him???? And how arrogant of him to say never?!

When I went to meditation with Caroline this morning all I could feel was entanglement. Unable to calm my mind sitting quietly in front of the wall, I felt the need to write down my thoughts as if I was carving out the ten commandments. After all those years of oral persuasion that failed to serve me any good, I use this blog as my outlet instead. Writing is my way of reflecting my thoughts. When I understand my own thoughts I can feel understood. While I realize that this is the opportunity to practice non reaction, non judgment, including non judgment for people who judge people, I also want to be kind enough to myself to let my thoughts wonder just a little. We are only human and this is my practice.

If you ask ten people what is love and intimacy you'll get ten different answers. No one is right or wrong (except the neighbor is far out of left field). I always thought if I have kids I'd want them to understand that love and sex are two completely different things. You can have one or the other or both or neither. It's possible to experience the greatest love without sex. It's possible to experience the greatest sex without love. And it's possible to experience the greatest intimacy without either love or sex. I believe this wholeheartedly because I have experienced it time and time again. What makes the experience great is not what we do or how we categorize it but the fact we do it with compassion and openness.

Since when did qualifying every human interaction become such a popular pastime? People seem to be tirelessly searching for answers to questions such as what type of relationship are we in, what does this mean and where does this lead to? And worse than that, the twenty-some-year-olds are dishing out the phrase, "this is only sex and nothing else," as if they were handing out tic tacs. Then there are the really upside down, inside out and twisted people who subscribe to an ideal vision that only exist in their minds and use its non-existence an excuse to distance themselves from the reality.

When we label, we judge. When we condition our minds, we are incapable of feeling. When we are blinded by our visions we can not see what is right in front of us. Until we move beyond the relentless quest for answers and the imagined space that separates us we are no closer to the true experience than outsiders who are watching a sequence of events from afar. Be present, be awake, and be supple. Care not for where the road leads to but enjoy every step of the way. I hope to always give and receive with love and openness.

Take away the obvious rudeness of certain sayings, it is actually pleasant to spend time with the neighbor. We listen to music together. We talk about relationships, life, love, family. We do dishes together. We roll around and climb on top of each other like little kids. If we made a short documentary on intimacy it would show him telling me how many kids he wants to have, three, and what their names are, Garrett-after his favorite character from a fantasy book, Brynn for a girl and names of family members like Dan or Steve for the third one.

In Chinese we say you can't see the mountain if you're standing within it. As I smiled back at him I thought, someday many years from now, after you've tried on too many pairs of shoes that looks nice from the outside but never fit quite right, you're going to remember what we experienced here. You won't recall my name or what we've talked about but you will remember how I made you feel. You might even realize that it is possible to experience intimacy with a stranger and that even someone who doesn't fit your list of criteria can nevertheless make you feel understood.

Unlike the neighbor, Frank always knew the right thing to say at the right time. When I mentioned the interaction to him over dinner he cut me off before I could finish elaborating my thoughts and told me something I didn't realize I wanted and needed to hear. "You're having an affect on him," Frank said with absolute certainty, "no matter what happens from now on he'll never be the same again." And just like that, I felt understood, validated and relieved. For a street beggar, what's worse than not being given any money is not to be noticed. As confident and self-assuring as I am, at times a little acknowledgment can go a long way. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Making Connection

With a few more months left in town, I moved into a cheaper sublet to cut down on living expenses. The place is a bit smaller but the rent is half of what I paid before so I really have no reason to complain. Besides, it forced me to get rid of some of the things I didn't need. And as part of the cost cutting, I had no intention of installing a new internet connection, especially for such a short duration. Even though I now live in the same building as the girl I've been carpooling with for the last year, my request to "borrow" their wifi was denied due to concern on connection speed.

So now desperate for some connection, I waited until she left for the day to knock on my neighbor's door. Based on what I've heard from Dina, the neighbor sounded rather antisocial, private and with a low noise tolerance. Since I've never seen or met the guy before I really didn't know what to expect. When the door finally opened, I was in a state of bewilderment. Emerging out of the darkened living room was a sharply dressed and hansom young man. As I introduced myself he immediately shifted his attention onto the Eastman shirt I had just put on few seconds before. "Did you go to Eastman?" he asked. Now even more surprised, I exclaimed, "Yes, I did! How did you know Eastman? Most people don't recognize it." "Oh, I went to school for trumpet very briefly." And just like that, I was hooked.

A PhD student in neuroscience who once went to school for trumpet and is now standing before me in perfectly pressed white pants, light blue shirt and matching brown leather belt and shoes as if he just stepped out of a casino in Monte Carlos. If anything was every served on a silver platter this might just have to be it. Except, well, except, I was outrageously under dressed in my workout pants, flip flops with hair pulled into a ponytail and no make up!

I inquired if my music was too loud, to which he answered no but would be glad to take my number in case anything bothered him. I couldn't sense even the slightest trace of flirtation in his voice or demeanor but he added my number to his phone like a pro. As for wifi, he had none but who cares for wifi when I've just connected with such a cute neighbor upstairs? 

Red Light from an Attorney

Congratulations on the scholarship offers.
As I mentioned before, I have no doubt you would be an excellent international trade attorney. But I voted for you not to go in the poll, and found I was with the majority. Unless you feel like you can’t survive without being a lawyer, like it is your destiny to do so, your heart is not going to be in it. When your heart is not in it, you likely won’t be happy or satisfied with the result. Yes, you’d have a shiny new JD on the wall and likely a license to practice law from at least one jurisdiction to frame next to that JD, and given your intelligence, you’d probably have a “great” job at a large firm paying a good starting salary. But, you’d be working 80-100 hours per week, starting from the bottom, and trying to claw your way up. That would be your reality for years to come. Then you’d make partner and you’d be in the back-stabbing business of trying to wrangle in clients and keep your partners and colleagues from stealing them, still working 80-100 hours per week. You’ll be making a ton of money and have what most lawyers call “golden handcuffs.” But you’ll have very limited time outside of work for friends, family, children, etc.

 I know, I’m making this sound better and better all the time, right? If you want to challenge yourself, you don’t necessarily have to go to law school. Save up some money and start your own consulting firm or your own business; that’s challenging. Find something you love and do that. You’re obviously smart enough to be a lawyer, but if you can’t even convince yourself that you want to go, you certainly can’t convince me (or anyone else) that you should.

Ultimately, it is your decision. It’s your life. How do you want to spend it?


Thank you for sharing your thoughts on my conundrum. As you can imagine, I have done a lot of research on law school. You're correct in saying that I don't have a strong desire to be a lawyer. However, I also don't have a strong desire to keep my current job. I am interviewing at other places but I've been through enough companies by now to know that a job is really just a job. This is not the right thing for me to do and right place to be at this point in my life. I would like to get into consulting someday but I have a hard time seeing that happening without a JD. With law school, the opportunities for me to intern with USTR, BIS, DOJ, USTIC and other government agencies are endless. I can also clerk with CIT, just down the street from Cardozo. Maybe with a few more years of industry experience after law school I'll be more ready for my own consulting firm.

While it would be nice to have time, energy and resource to enjoy life outside of work, I find myself extremely lonely most of the time here. I have a difficult time meeting people and not to mention a potential mate to settle down with. I'm a very assertive person and I feel like I'm running out of options here on the social front. Just about everyone in my field is older so it's unlikely that I'd meet someone at another company or five other companies. I'm not sure if I'd make a lot friends in law school but at least I might have more opportunities to network in other places. I would like to have kids someday and I need to create a good story for them. I just have to decide on which one.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Green Light from My LSAT Instructor

I have a few questions before casting my vote:
1. What is your ultimate career goal?
2. How much research have you put into law school? Do you really understand what you will gain from the a law school program other than a J.D.?
3. Is this something that you can reasonably afford given the skyrocketing cost of the program?
4. What are your alternatives?


1. Don't have one. I'm open to anything but have a burning desire for nothing. It's not about the specifics of what I do but rather I want to feel that I've accomplished something and overcame challenges on a weekly, monthly, yearly basis. 
2. I have read everything there is about law school including: course work, OCI process, writing competition, law review, clinics, class ranking, post graduate employment statistics, earning potential, clerkship, student loan, IBR. I attended a few L1 classes, all boring. For a more personal experience, I dated a 2L from U of I last year. He was one of the few lucky ones who got a summer associate position at Baker & McKenzie and later offered the $160k/yr biglaw position after graduation. I met other law students through him and attended the formal ball at the law school. They are by far some of the most arrogant and classless bunch of people I've ever encountered. That's not to say they're not nice people or anything but just not my cup of tea. 
What am I going to gain from law school other than a JD?
*Ridiculous amount of debt
*A line on my resume
*I don't know what I don't know

3. No, I can't afford it and I don't know anyone who can unless they've got rich parents. The sex industry is just not that lucrative these days. Just kidding. I've done all the calculation and the numbers just don't add up.

For example, I'd have to take on at least $165,000 in student loan to attend Cardozo. That translate to over $2,000 per month in student loan payment over ten years (not participating in IBR). IF I get a biglaw job, $160k/year translate to roughly $8,000/mo. after taxes. Deduct $2,000 loan and $2500 for a 350 sq ft. studio apartment in Manhattan, I'd be left with $3,500 disposable income for all my other living expenses. 
The problem is that I have $3,500/mo disposable income right now in a large two-bedroom without a ten-year student loan payment. This means I'd actually have to make way more than $160,000 per year just to have the same qualify of life I have now! The reality is that less than 5% of current graduates land $160k biglaw positions. 

4. Alternative is just to get another job in my field but I've had lots of jobs at lots of different places before. I'm tired of jumping around. When the first week wears off it all get back to the same shit different day bs. There is really no more advancements for me in my field other than getting a JD. If I really want a change I'd have to do something completely different, like being a nurse. I have no interest in being a nurse or anything else.

So this takes us back to the JD conundrum. I can't look at the numbers because it just doesn't add up. There's a lot of opportunity cost for me but there's no good way to capture the upside other than the grim employment statistics. I'm not excited about going to civil procedure or property classes. The only path I can see given my professional background is:
  1. Go to law school 
  2. Intern at the Court of International Trade (CIT) or US Trade Representatives (USTR) or DOJ Fraud/White Collar Crime Investigation (specifically FCPA violation, bribery and money laundering).  
  3. Do everything I can go get on law review
  4. Clerk with CIT (would be nice to get on the US Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit but I'll be going to Cardozo, not Columbia). 
  5. Work for a big firm such as Arent Fox or Akin Gump as a trade attorney or Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg as a trade consultant for 2 to 5 years. 
  6. Start my own trade consulting business ten years from now. Surprisingly enough, one of the reviews from the website hit the nail on the head with compliance consulting thing. I'm just not sure if it's possible to do it without a JD. I know legally I can do compliance work because I'm doing it right now. The problem is credential. Clients want to see JD (and so do the Big 4).  
I don't need to be making millions of $$$. My goal with law school is to be able to work on my own one day. I can have a handful of small/medium size companies as clients to help them to establish, maintain and audit their compliance programs. I need to get out of the whole corporate office thing. I want some flexibility and control over what I do and an avenue to use my more creative side. Not to sound arrogant but I'm great at what I do and it doesn't make to much sense to abandon what I've worked so hard to build so far. 


My vote is go for it. From reading your e-mail, I know that you are realistic about your situation and you aren't just some kid who doesn't know what to do with her future. I would NEVER change my decision to go to law school and everyone finds a way to pay the bills once they graduate - I know you will too and I think you will be able to have a lot more flexibility in your future endeavors if you obtain a JD. Go get em...

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


It all comes down to two divergent paths: three years of school with crushing debt and uncertain future or a fatalistic future of endless struggle to conform to the corporate world. Options are a luxury despite the fact they may be equally vile. Although going back to school in the City has its allures, the thought of carrying a mortgage payment for ten to twenty five years afterwards without a house to show for completely frightens me. Just how exactly would I be able to be financially sound enough to start a family after that? Yet the thought of living the rinse and repeat life in the suburbs turns my stomach even with the possibility of having kids of my own. The glass is both half full and half empty. I seem to have come to a standstill.