Spring Cleaning

Liz's Rose

A rose by any other name… Photographer: me.

Out with the old, in with the new, it’s easy enough said but the past is a tricky thing. An older family friend used to say “The devil’s not the devil because he’s the devil, he’s the devil because he’s old.” It figures that the oldest habits for us to recover from are those that we don’t even know are habits.

I’ve made no secret of hiding my faith, or how it’s shaped me in my life. I’ve lived through many Lent cycles (from the “I’m giving up meat” to “I’m giving up TV” to “I’m giving up crayons”). This year is a re-visiting of an old standby for me: fast food. I know, I’ve read Fast Food Nation, I saw the documentary, but sometimes both out of necessity, convenience, and sheer reality (I need a meal for the next week, and only have $10) I just cave to the drive-though.

At first, it wasn’t too bad, given that I’ve given up fast food before. No Jack in the Box, no KFC, no Taco Bell, no McD’s, no problem. No soda, no extra sugars, no nothing that I’m not “supposed” to eat, fine. It’s called the seafood diet for a reason, you’re on Lent and Jesus called us all to be fishers of men, or something like that.

Slowly, though, it dawned on me that I was consuming fast food less out of desire for it, than because it was a habit. There’s an In N Out and several other fast food joints by the Milbrae BART stop, and there’s a McDonald’s in walking distance of the Caltrain by Menlo Park. I’m the type of person who could very easily subsist on dog food if it came to it, even though I do care out it on an abstract level: sure, ground coffee > instant but if desperate times call for desperate measures, I’ll have the instant and just live with it.

I was eating fast food because of my own urges to speed the world up to get me to where I needed to be “on time” and I’d succumbed to the hubris of believing I could ever be late on my Maker’s time. This course I’m on, is one I’ll arrive to with His help. Others might seem to be ahead of me because they’re buying homes, having children, getting married, all those things that we’re taught to want at a young age. All the things I think I want, but feel unprepared for at the moment.

It doesn’t mean my life’s an empty lot. It’s sometimes important to lie fallow, and wait to see what the spring will bring.

Flying through February

This year’s picking up steam, I can’t believe how quickly it’s stopped being such a new year. I imagine it’s zipped by so quickly because I’ve had to spend my time attempting to avoid disease and invariably catching it anyways. Between the boyfriend’s traveling and the amount of time I spend on public transportation, I just wind up catching whatever bug is popular at the moment.

I do everything you’re “supposed” to do: frequent hand washings, carry my own hand sanitizer, regularly clean common areas, increase my vitamin C intake, so I think at this point it boils down to my own constant state of stress. In law school, stress is inevitable. That’s life, though, there’s always going to be stress. I’ve decided it’s more stressful trying to avoid disease, and maybe I’ll just go ahead and try to catch it head on next time.

An assignment for my Negotiations class this semester was a haggling exercise, I’d have to try to bargain for a deal in a situation where I normally wouldn’t. I decided I’d try to work on the whole work-life balance goal, because as my Ethics professor likes to say, we were people before law school and we’ll be people after law school, too. The person I was before law school was fairly creative, and I’ve missed that part of me. So I decided I’d try to haggle for a DSLR camera.

To make a long story short, I got an Olympus E-520, with 2 lenses and a protective bag to carry it around. I’m pretty excited to be using it, because it’s got an underwater setting and I’ve been itching to use it to take pictures of my bettas. Fun fact: there was a trademarked betta. Neat, right? A part of me thinks it’d be a fun legal note to write about, some day.

Welcome, 2015!

Soledad. Solitary. Silence.

It’s a new year, and somehow, I feel like so much of it is a continuation of the year before. I’m still working on my law degree, it’s working for me but I don’t know if it’s an experience I’d tell anyone they should undertake. There’s so much student debt involved, even if one qualifies for having a portion of it taken care of by the school via scholarships and/or work-study programs. Those both carry their own can of worms, and I’d like to discuss them at a future point.

I don’t want to digress from the moment at present, where we’re all enjoying the feeling of newness with the new year. We want to make resolutions, but I personally hate myself so much when I fail that it’s part of why I really don’t make resolutions. I’ll set goals for myself, and hope the Lord or life or the sheer fact that I’m alive and uncertain as to why will direct me somewhere.

Being in law school has felt like being simultaneously tempted by versions of my best self and my worst self, and having to balance which one won’t ruin me. The human me, shed free of its aspirations and condemnations, the me I hope to one day present to my Maker. The small me, the fearful me, who by definition has to harbor sin, because i’m a woman. I belong to the human species. I am a member of the Catholic Church, but I’ve never really felt like it’s accepted me willingly, the way I’d hope my God would. The concept of faith is one that’s both passed down and selected, and I’ve never lacked for faith, but have found my spirituality wanting more than rote adherence to the past.

Catholicism shaped me in many ways, but I have had to walk a rocky road to get the seeds of faith to germinate in me. Mainly because it took so long for me to realize that I was judging myself far more harshly than a loving God would. This is by far the heaviest burden to carry, and while I shrug it off now, I am grateful that I realized at some point that judging me would always be in my God’s power. I’d do much better if I were thankful for His blessings than if I were forever querying Him for favors.

The lessons I learned last year were a further reinforcement of how an appreciative attitude helps one advance in one’s goals. My goal for this year is to try to be more patient. It’s a virtue for a reason, and difficult one to grasp.

What are your new year’s goals or resolutions?

So you see

Doe you see what I see?

The doe in the photo was camera-shy, and I wasn’t sure how close I could get to her without upsetting her. I’d observed her fawn, which was nearing adulthood, but if it was still trailing its mother then it still hadn’t been chased off yet. Mother nature, is only nurturing enough to ensure offspring could hypothetically survive, then you’re on you’re own, kiddo!

The deer in and around Pacific Grove are basically semi-domesticated at this point. They’re unafraid of people and only slightly wary if there’s a dog around. Thus while being wild, they’re totally fine with people with cell phones approaching them within a few bound’s length distance.

The stance in this photo is what gives way this doe’s ultimate intention to spring forward in flight, should I get too close. Her ears are pricked forward, her eyes are fixed, it’s the rear hind-leg: it’s coiled like a wire ready to spring into motion. In a blink of an eye, she could be gone.

But her gaze is set – she’s seen humans like me dozen times. We’ll get to within a range she’s comfortable with, fleeing is always her option. Fighting is not in her nature, her half-grown fawn, it’s either learned to stay hidden or will dash when she does. lesson learned: humans remain familiar and foreign, a lurking danger.

Oh, doe, oh hear. Your plight is one near and dear to my own heart. You’re distrustful of me for being human, and I distrust so many humans for the same reason – they’re also human.

Fickle Fashion

Can you tell where the necklace is from?

The other day on my way to class, two men sat behind me. Their conversation centered on things that are important to those in the Silicon Valley: VCs, being an entrepreneur, and starting a start-up. The type of things that as a bay area native with my specific background, I’m familiar with, sort-of*.

Back to those men and their conversation: it quickly spun into a discussion of wealth. One pointed out to the other that a friend of theirs had to be rich. Why? The friend always wore Armani.

Fashion’s one of those things that society thinks I ought to understand, by virtue of being female. To some extent I do subscribe to some norms, I manage to get dressed on a daily basis and on most days can look like I put some thought into what was on me. Present me with two sets of heels, though, and ask me to identify whether one’s a Louboutin or Jimmy Choo, and I wouldn’t have a clue.

From my work in marketing, I get that brands and branding are a thing and consumers (A.K.A folks like me and you) are supposed to want one product over the other. Coke vs. Pepsi, Armani vs. Abercrombie, Tiffany vs. Target. Inherently, those brand names are supposed to make us feel one way or another about the company’s products and draw unstated assumptions about the folks that choose one over the other, or another item entirely.

For me listening in on this conversation, the man who’d pointed out the label and stated whoever was wearing it had to come from money told me more about him than about the actual person he knew who wore all Armani. It reminded me of an interaction I had with someone on a date once, who had asked me what perfume I was wearing because it smelled so good. When I told him it just happened to be basic body lotion, he jumped into a diatribe about how a worthwhile woman wore expensive perfume, otherwise she couldn’t be taken seriously (I didn’t see him after this, I’d prefer to be with someone who cares less about how much I spend on perfume and more on whether I’m a decent person).

As a visual species, it makes sense that we’d have this fixation on brands in order to determine where we stood in society. A king would be distinguishable from a duke, the same as a pauper could be told apart from a princess because of what they were wearing and how they’d be behaving. Some products are geared to be luxurious, and others we’re aware are supposed to be cheap.

What bothers me about this, and why I don’t care that much about fashion, is because it seems like inherit in this is classic classism. There’s the unstated concept that what is expensive is “good” and what isn’t is “bad” and it bypasses any attempt to engage with the person aside from how they’re choosing to present themselves solely on what they’re wearing. Personally, I’d prefer for people to make judgments on me based off of my actions and their interactions with me, and not on whether I was wearing designer label clothing.

Is there a way to care about clothing band names without sounding like you’re obsessed with fashion?

*Granted, I’ve had stints at YouTube, Google, and was with some start-ups until they closed (I jumped ship before a place was acquired, too) so I do know some bits about how the Valley works. I’m just under the impression that without the CS/Engineering skills, I can’t be a vital part of the company. At the end of the day, people want a product that works, and all my customer service and marketing talent can do is maybe draw people in and make them feel good.