Saturday, November 27, 2010

Crunch 'n munch

Whew, what a crazy couple of weeks. On top of the usual academic struggles, a growing case load at TAP, and the beginning of the busiest time of the semester for my department at my journal, I had to get ready for two visits from relatives really deserving of a fun time in Cambridge.
Last week it was my cousin Marcella, a freshman with a ridiculously difficult major at a prestigious college that barely lets her out of the science lab. She came just in time for the premiere of the new Harry Potter movie and the Harvard-Yale football game, so we joined some friends for both of those, then checked out the Harvard Museum of Natural History, walked Boston Common and the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, and window-shopped on Newbury Street before sending her home.

Three days later, we welcomed Russell's cousin Becca, who has the thankless job of teaching special education at an elementary school back in Texas. After bringing her to one of my law school classes and giving her the grand tour of Harvard, we took her to the Common and Newbury Street too (although we shopped a lot more than just windows.) Then she joined us for Thanksgiving dinner with friends, several culinary firsts from Mr. Bartley's hamburgers to tapas and Vietnamese coffee, and finally a tour of Fenway Park that we all agreed was downright magical.

Unfortunately, with the exception of a few delicious leftovers, the fun is pretty much over now. It's high time I buckled down and started preparing for exams, even though there is still plenty to distract me, from my journal (did I mention it's our busiest time of semester?) to my classes for next spring (for the 4+ available hours in my schedule, I can't for the life of me decide which combination of "Capital Punishment in America," "Law and Mind Sciences: Seminar," "Workshop on Law and Social Policy," and "Class Actions and Other Aggregate Litigation" to take!)

Luckily, my independent winter clinical proposal has been approved, so that hassle is finished as soon as I drop by the Clinicals office to sign some paperwork. But whether it's enough to make room for all the finals studying I need to do, we'll just have to see. Wish me luck, and happy belated Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nobody said it was easy

Last week was surprisingly okay, considering I didn't spend my weekend preparing for it. I got through my Monday classes just fine, and after more classes and a trip to the voting booth on Tuesday, I made time for another little break to watch election returns with Russell and the comfort of homemade margaritas. These are the times when it's especially great to have your own blender.
Wednesday and Thursday were a blur of Admin Law, Taxation, and training the 1L's at my journal for their technical edit or "subcite" of the articles we'll publish this semester. If the 1L's do good work, the job of my Technical Department is much easier down the line. So I've been training a lot of them myself, an investment I sure hope will pay off.

All this was made extra-busy by the fact that I decided, at the last minute and way past the official deadline, to apply to do an "independent winter clinical" this January. It's one of the ways to get academic credit between the fall and spring semesters each year, which is required for every HLS student. And since I could do it from Austin while helping my mom continue to recover from her surgery, it recently took on a new appeal.

Which is why, with typical Harvard generosity, the Clinicals office is letting me apply so late. I'll need a project I can't do at any of the existing clinics, a licensed attorney to supervise me, and a faculty member to supervise the paper I'll be writing in conjunction. I'm planning a project back at one of my awesome summer employers, so I'm pretty excited, but I'm also getting my butt kicked a little by working out the rest at a speed I think is considerate.

And that's fine, because a different part of my life got much easier this week, even if it did take a really difficult decision to make it happen. I'm talking about my Political Economy for Modern Capitalism class, which for weeks I've been feeling frustrated about.

I know I haven't really let on here, but it has been such a struggle trying to catch up with my fellow students' lengthy backgrounds on the topic, to develop any remotely decent ideas for the very long paper looming at the end of the year, and to square it all with my towering stress levels in other areas of life. So this class was seeming less and less worth the two credits it would earn me, and I was feeling less and less worth the professors' time.

Hating that feeling, I had started to wonder about withdrawing from the course. It seemed like such a terrible idea, but was it more terrible than staying in all year? On Friday I visited the Dean of Students Office for some advice, and as usual, they made the whole thing crystal clear within minutes. Because of my mom - because people just cannot pass up any chance to make things easier around my mom, and it is so sweet - the class is coming off my transcript without even the "WD" notation that would usually indicate it had ever been there.

It felt like crap to tell my professor, but with that done, I feel so incredibly relieved. I have plenty of credits without the class, and everything else I'm doing seems so much more manageable without it tacked on. Most importantly, I've spent the first part of this week wrapping up that clinical application - both my faculty and attorney supervisors just fell into place today - so with any luck I'll be approved soon for three great weeks in Austin.

This is a tough time to do it, maybe the toughest, but I'm starting to feel like I've struck the right balance between school and family. Which, as everyone at school keeps graciously, wonderfully telling me, is the most important thing of all.