Friday, June 30, 2006

A Transitional Period

It is difficult to write substantive blog posts when you only have two kid-free days a week to pack and do all your errands before a big move. It's even harder when you've packed away all of your relevant-to-thesis law books and 5-reams-of -paper-worth law review articles, and especially hard if you're trying to back up every file on your 5 year old laptop (hey, it still works, and I'm waiting for MS Vista) and updating your entire music library on a higher capacity IPod so that your engineer brother can compltely reformat your hard drive and reinstall the entire operating system to ensure peak performance. Starting over means a blank slate, but it also means your mind feels largely emptied (or rather, everything is temporarily misplaced and shipping via UPS Ground) as well. I feel like I don't know what to write.

So I feel ill-equipped to write anything very legal right now, despite the fact that most resources I need are online. It's too bad, since right now is prime blawgging time what with the end of the current term for the Supreme Court and so many interesting cases. I just feel a bit too unsettled right now to write about federalism or war powers---and besides, the real blawggers are doing such a fine job of it. At night, after a day of kids or packing, I just like to read my 10 legal blogs and 6 academic blogs and 3 newspapers, talk to friends, write something for the blog, and finish around 2 am with a chapter or two of a novel. I don't really want to unpack a book or article just to find some reference to a law related post. It's not weariness with the law. It's laziness with the packing/unpacking I've been doing these past couple of months. And since I'm not well-read or well-written enough to do legal analysis cold (and for some reason, despite my non-use of drugs or alcohol, I can't remember anything and rely on abstracts/outlines I make myself of everything I read), ehh, I think I'll wait till after next Friday to do some.

So I'm going to be a bit kind to myself for the next week, and indulge in some navel-gazing. It's easier to write on the fly. There is no need to hyperlink every other word. Being naturally solipsistic, I think such writing will just flow from me (the way quick legal analysis flows for more experienced law profs (you know, not "aspiring) in which they can write substantively without reaching for a law review article or book to make sure they're correct about something they know expertly). But I'll try not to turn this into a teenage diary. No, what I want to do is offer meditations on transition. What it feels like to change.

Right now, I'm pretty tired, but happy. My nights ae more social now, spent chatting with friends old and new. When you move away, people like to say goodbye. Which is nice, and ironic since though I've told the entire world (or rather, that part of the world that reads me) and a few friends that I'm going for an LLM moving next Friday, I haven't sent a mass email update to that whole coterie of everyone-I-am-on-friendly-terms-with-from-college-lawschool-and-beyond. Happy as I am about my program and about moving to a new place, it's strangely depressing to realize this is the first bit of news, good or bad, you have to tell people. Readers of long novels will attest to the pleasures in reading about the quotidean, in the detailed telling of the mundane daily events and the color of the chintz that makes the reader part of that world. Well, that's only in novels where at least something happens every once in a while. My daily life has been quite boring and uneventful this past year. It's the thing I keep describing to you, though it never changes: watch kids. spend time with family. try to research/write on 3 days off. bake. Just as those who are under 25 cannot feel true "ennui" (you're just bored, you'll get over it), so too does the boring person (me) lack the ability to call the details of her life charmingly quotidian. It's just boring.

It hasn't really hit me that I'll be leaving my family and I won't see them for 4 months. I'm happy for the independence, but I will miss the kids even more than I miss the large and loud family. But that's not what I'm sad about tonight. I figure it'll hit me when I'm alone in my apartment, and it's really quiet and there's no kid shouting for me.

No, tonight what I'm sad about is leaving behind my books. Remember that scene in The Great Gatsby where Daisy is weeping over the beauty and opulence of Gatsby's shirts? How the shirts demonstrated Gatsby's economic power of ownership, how he wanted to use that power to win/buy Daisy, and how such power was at once terrible and beautiful?

I want to weep over my books. I'm packing only the law books (and not even the large case books!) on Critical Race Theory, federalism (of course), hate crimes, jurisprudence and legal theory, and references for academic legal writing. That's one whole box already. Then I'm packing a few choice fiction collections (Flannery O'Connor, Richard Yates, Russell Banks, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edward P. Jones, the Iowa Writer's Workshop), a few cookbooks (big though), and a few books to relieve stress (David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, David Rakoff), and of course, T.S. Eliot. That's another box.

That leaves hundreds of novels I've collected over the years, since childhood (David Copperfield, Huck Finn, Madame Bovary, Laura Ingalls Wilder) to high school (Willa Cather, Fitzgerald...) to my four years as an English major doing a comparative lit/classic lit/American modernist fiction combo (too many to count). This leaves behind so many books I love. This leaves behind so many books I never got around to finishing or even starting. This leaves behind my fairly extensive poetry collection (Eliot, Hart Crane, James Wright, John Donne, Keats, Yeats, Housman, Theodore Roethke, Whitman, Rukeyeser, Rilke, Holderlin, etc.). I want to cry. Cry for the hard work it took to collect all this. Cry for the hours I spent reading and re-reading. Cry for the books I only barely dipped into (e.g. the poetry). Cry for the beauty of the spines and leaves, and the terrible beauty that is ownership and letting go of your possessions.

There is no reason to bring all this up if I won't have time to read much fiction while taking 2 classes and writing 2 papers. Which makes me saddest of all, that in the last few years my fiction and poetry reading has declined. I spend much more time reading things that are "useful" to my studies and career, but not as much for pleasure. When my work was pleasure (e.g. taking 3 fiction classes), it was easy to feel like I was multi-tasking. Now, at 2 am, I barely have energy to finish a chapter of a book. It's nice to get sick sometimes and read a novel instead of a law review article, the excuse being that I'm too doped up on Nyquil to annotate. So I lay back and read, and it's great.

I look at my books, and I feel regret for the past year--nay, the past few years. Regret that I forgot most of their plots (again, despite my non drug-use), regret that I didn't read a good 1/4 of them (I buy used from library sales but don't get to everything), and regret that I can't bring them with me. I regret not re-learning Latin, such that my former Latin Honor Society grades have now slipped to a bare ability to recognize declensions and cases. I regret not picking up French, like I wanted to. There was so much I wanted to do in the year after law school that I didnt get around to doing because I was busy with other things, because I was reading other things, and because I was helping to raise 8 children.

But I guess it's better to regret what you didn't do, than to regret what you have done. I guess, looking back, I did a pretty good job with the things I did do. I got myself into graduate school, I have a decent stack of law books read, and I got my 3 year old to talk and use the potty and the 5 year old to add and subtract, and the 14 year old to understand why he must not use drugs.

Still, there's a lot to leave behind--and it's more than the books.