Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Take Me to the Ranch, I Want to Forget About Flying A While







What follows is my most recent essay for my Creative Writing Class--English 307: Reading and Writing Travel:


            I don’t actually believe I can touch the sky.  I’m too levelheaded for that.  As much as I’d like to think that maybe skydiving or paragliding could accomplish this, I know in my mind that it’s just not possible.  Besides the fact that the sky is an intangible entity, incapable of being “touched” in a definite sense, I can’t even imagine what it would feel like.
            This whole obsession with flying began when I first watched “Space Jam” as a five-year-old.  A favorite among Michael Jordan fanatics and Looney Toon loonies alike, this movie inspired a lot of impossible dreams in me.  Right as the screen pans down on a young Michael chipping away at his basketball hoop, you can almost feel the motivation in the night sky, through the palpitations of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.”  As you’re watching, nothing seems more pressing than your desire to traverse hills, mountains, and planets.  A limit is nothing but that math term you learned once but forgot immediately.
            I used to feel these things.
            Sometime shortly after or shortly before I watched this film, I had my first existential dream.  I actually remember it being a daydream.  There was hardly any content to it; it was really just a visual eruption of my theories on life, up to that point.  Engulfed by clouds, and perfectly “sky blue” skies, I floated in the air, wondering what it meant to be a human in a world filled with so much that isn’t human.
            I mulled over this concept of humanity a lot; I wondered if anyone else—human or not—thought about things the same way I did.  Maybe there was another five-year-old out there just as pathetically prophetic as I was.  No matter, I didn’t mind being alone in this quest.  Thinking about myself and my relationship to the world around me naturally seemed a one-woman task.   
            During the first several years of my life, I spent a lot of time at home, pondering what it would be like to be somewhere else.  What if I were born to a completely different family, to a completely different culture, or to a completely different species?  These were the questions that toiled me as I sat in the back seat of our 1995 Toyota Previa.
            At least once a month I would dream about flying over some familiar place, like my neighborhood or school.  Despite the fact that I was gradually growing taller, my perspective wasn’t changing all that much.  I suppose I just wanted a change of pace.  I was cruising at 10 mph, but what I really wanted was to break 200.  What was it about home that made me want to fly?
            When I was seven years old, I went on my first real plane trip (that I could actually remember).  Those were the days when you could miss a week of school without playing catch-up the rest of the semester.  The destination was Tuscon, Arizona.  The occasion was my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary.  The point was to have some fun and maybe deviate from my musings for a while.
            The plane ride was fast.
            I forget if that was my first time riding a horse or not.  What a way to start, if it was.  Gunpowder was his name; coldly delaying the entire group was his game.  The trainer briskly handed me a stick to “motivate” my little horsie.  I just decided to use my legs.  For all that he lacked in motivation, however, Gunpowder certainly made up for in scaring the living daylights out of me.  Everything that horse did and would ever do was for his own benefit.  When he raced down a two-inch dirt road off the side of a mountain, it was because he wanted to get it over with.  When he jumped in the air, it was because he wanted to shake off the horse that just bit him in the butt.  He was sometimes about as useful as a keg of gunpowder, but where besides Lazy K Bar Ranch could I call a horse my own for a whole week?  I couldn’t think of anywhere else at that age.
            If I thought flying was risky, it had to be because I hadn’t yet experienced a whole world of risk.
            I consider the night I almost lost my socks in the swimming pool to be my first real daredevil adventure.  We were all defying social norms when we decided to break into Lazy K’s swimming pool and dive in, fully clothed.  There’s nothing like a little physical discomfort to make you appreciate what you’ve just done. 
I can say the same about the time I spent chasing the elusive roadrunner down endless trails of cactus pricks and tumbleweeds.  One night I got so caught up in the excitement that I spent all of dinner picking pricks out of my side.  I definitely didn’t fly that night.  If I had, I probably would have been able to catch that little guy, and avoid the associated cactus pains.
In an attempt to recoup my medical expenses, I devised a lemonade recipe with my cousin.  The ingredients: three parts whole lemon, two parts water, no parts sugar until we realized the concoction tasted like a pure alka-seltzer tablet.  We eventually stumbled upon an adequately gullible (sympathetic) lady who gave us a dollar for our troubles.  It was sometime after this that I saw something I never noticed in my high-altitude dreams. Where besides ground level could I ride a crazy horse, almost lose my socks in a swimming pool, chase a roadrunner while getting pricked by a cactus, and make a buck off of horrible lemonade?  I can’t think of anywhere else at this age.
Maybe childhood facilitated my appreciation of my surroundings, no matter which perspective I took.  Maybe something about that Dude Ranch awakened me to Earthly sights long gone unrecognized.  Maybe I was just in a good mood that entire trip. 
Every now and then I put on my headphones, listen to some nostalgic Christmas classics, and try to remember what kinds of wonder childhood held.  Was it really any different being a sentimental child than it is being a sentimental adult?  It’s not that I couldn’t transport myself to these former fantasies if I really wanted to.  The real problem is that being a grownup doesn’t always allow me the time.
            I think people are mistaken when they uphold the all-too-familiar trope that our magic gets lost somewhere in adulthood.  This seems more a way of justifying mundane working-life activity than a way of describing any fundamental reality.  There’s nothing inherently in us as twenty-, thirty-, or seventy-year-olds that deters our creative brain function any more than it did when we were seven.  It’s not that we “don’t believe;” it’s simply that our lives are structured in such a way as to leave little time for real dreaming.  Whether this deterrence mechanism is a product of times gone by or a more recent expression of what we think adults should be doing, it’s highly misunderstood.  I’m not saying it has to stop.  That’s just the way it (currently) is.
            Sometimes I still dream about flying, and it’s fun.  I revisit ideas of seeing the world from above, of escaping the little niche I’ve buried myself in.  I think I’ve spent too much time at home lately.  What is it about home that makes me want to fly?
            But all of a sudden, when I travel to a new place, whether it be the Outback or the backwoods, the sky doesn’t seem so heavy anymore.  Touching that “sky blue” no longer seems so pressing.  The real worry is that I will stop valuing the ground I walk on, not for any grand metaphorical reason, but only because it’s someone’s home, if not my own.  And the people who live there probably dream about flying too.
            There is a lot in this world that isn’t human, but dreaming isn’t one of those things.  Neither is changing your perspective, mentally or physically.  It’s part of growing up—and that’s something we all can make time for.
            I still don’t believe I can touch the sky.  It’s not because I’m too levelheaded for it though.  I’m still a dreamer in my own right.  R. Kelly’s song still gets to me every time I hear it.  And I still watch “Space Jam” hoping I, too, can defy gravity some day. 
I still feel these things.
What I really fear is a day when I’m forced to skydive or paraglide in order to feel alive, to remember everything that was never really forgotten: my dreams.
Even if we can’t touch the sky we can take solace in the fact that we are grounded.  Being human isn’t about breaking light or sound barriers everyday.  In fact, being human is more about not knowing what it is to be human.  At home, we think about flying, and when we’re away, we find new appreciation for our home.   When it comes to being human, it’s a risk, but it’s a risk you can be sure to appreciate in adulthood.

Tops, Shorts, and Shoes: J. Crew.  Necklace: Alexis Bittar.

All photos by Alex Zhu, taken in Bern, Switzerland.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Road Not Forsaken


There are many ways in which my life feels like a bridge collapsing behind me...only in the best way possible, of course.  It's just that, as soon as a new goal materializes in the horizon, my present circumstances seem to become hogwash, intended solely for completing some requisite task at hand.  The problem is that I'm pushing for something to happen when that something simply needs to enfold on its own.

This first month of senior year has been rough for me, not in any traditional sense, but in the sense that I don't feel like I belong here anymore.  After a long summer of preparing for law school, I've realized just how much I've grown out of that na├»ve 18-year-old that stepped into her first (and only) college dorm.  I've heard freshman upon freshman rehash the latest frat party, inquire about Dance Marathon, and over-enthusiastically recite Chaucerian Middle English, all of which have led me to somehow appreciate the remainder of college less and less.

This isn't to say I no longer value the experiences I've had.  Though it's true that I wish I had more "Kodak moment" memories, I've still had at least my fair share, along with a bounty of lessons to teach the grandkids some day.  Nonetheless, I can't help but feel as though spending hours finishing up this undergraduate linguistics degree isn't going to mean much beyond, well, semantics.

So what's the solution?  For this, we must look to that presumably ancient proverb that encourages us to be as present as we can in everything that we do.  Sure, you might be waiting for that all-important LSAT score to come in so you can submit your law school applications and solidify your future, or you might be in the process of applying for jobs in order to advance into the real world.  But college is right here, and it's something we're lucky to finish, to engage in, and to reflect upon.

I think back to elementary school and the much clearer meaning everything had.  It seemed that almost every trip to the bathroom was a milestone, and when something was especially important, you laminated it--a sure sign that you accomplished a feat worth remembering!  I cherished those tokens for what they were, and for the exercises in self-worth they would always be.

What can we really do beyond making the most out of every experience we're given (or, even better, every experience we seek)?  And who's to say there aren't multiple unpredictable ways by which we can laminate our experiences?  Only you can answer these questions, and while the results might not always please you, they will certainly ease you into a path most suitable--one that grows infinitely, but in a way that always seems to work itself out.

Findeth feith, myn brethren. :)

Amanda

Dress and Shoes: J. Crew.

All photos thanks to Alex Zhu, and all animals thanks to his sister, Julia, in Switzerland!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Parallel in the Universe


In the wake of a special and utterly timeless man's passing a few weeks ago, I know it is my turn to speak, not only for my own processing, but in the service of apprising a society that so often shrugs off discussions of mental health.  Robin Williams was a man of many eccentricities, and yes, anxiety was one of them.  His toils, his strains, his pulls, and his stresses made him into the sensitive, exuberant, and completely empathetic man we had the pleasure to know...a man who has surmounted endless discomfort, accomplished so much, and brought joy to so many people.  Just try to tell me this man (with his pal Koko) is a coward who took "the easy way out."

I don't claim to be an expert on Robin Williams, his work, or his stressors, but I have encountered many degrees of perturbation in my life.  Living on a university campus alone qualifies me as a frequent observer of mental exhaustion and overproduction.  And while many have suffered more mental anguish than I, I'm certainly no stranger to overthinking, over-worrying, and overloading.  While these activities may sound harmless at first, their repercussions are countless.  The slope into potentially disastrous measures is often slippery indeed.

My intention in writing this post is not to prescribe a mode of thought or action to anyone, be it a man who too often contemplates such struggles or one who never devotes a single morsel of thought to them.  Rather, I wish to express to everyone that mental distress exists and that no one is immune to it.  Because we are high-functioning humans with brains and emotions capable of rocking the universe, it's no wonder many of our psychological states share a term with that of disruptions in the galaxy around us.  Take "perturbation" for one.  My handy MacBook dictionary lists as one definition: "a minor deviation in the course of a celestial body, caused by the gravitational attraction of a neighboring body."  In other words, one body--man--becomes inundated with "attractive" insecurity and/or frustration, leading this body to stray from his desired course of action.  Unlike in the galactic sense, however, perturbation in the human sense does not always stop at the minor, but often crosses over into the injurious.  But maybe the structure of our universe can shed some literal light on the subject.

What at last prompted me to complete this post was a brief yet undeniably poignant tribute to Robin Williams made by Billy Crystal at the Emmy's last night.  A key component of Crystal's speech, time is an element we often associate with the universe, a foundation constantly moving forward yet preserving its history arrantly intact.  Crystal notes about Robin that "It's very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives."  He goes on to compare him to "the brightest star," in "the comedy galaxy," no less.  More important, he extends the analogy to a "celestial body," long cooled, but whose "beautiful light will continue to shine on us forever."  "Robin Williams [and a legacy trickling with every bit of light we have all produced], what a concept" indeed.  Darkness doesn't stand a chance.

If the universe is any indication, it's not remorse or aggravation that we ultimately contribute to our surroundings.  It's all the joy and magnificence that precedes, coincides with, and follows it.  Take a cue from the stars and let darkness recede into smaller and smaller portions, slowly but surely.  Relax and reward yourself, because whether you feel you're in a good place or not, you've already given so much light to the universe, light that is unique to you and to the strength you carry in being human.  This strength can empower and it can hamper, but as a source of energy, it cannot be created by anyone else, nor can it be destroyed.  The galaxy is in this sense the quintessential win-win situation: your worries pass with time and become negligible darkness, but your triumphs transform into the light you see before you.  I'm no physicist, and this is just a theory, but I think we can all see who the natural victor is here.

Plunging your head in the clouds--or the stars--is not necessarily the frivolous practice your parents warned you about...

Take a shot at it,
Amanda :)

Trench: Saks Fifth Avenue.  Jean jacket: J. Crew.  Necklace: J. Crew.  Shoes: J. Crew.

All photos by Sean Su.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Soul Proprietor


Quite a while ago I read a quote inside Humans of New York that took me aback more than any anything had for a long time.  Having stored these words in my ETR (The Elegant in the Room) vault, I recently (meaning just this minute) tracked down these three lines:

"Of course it's absurd to talk about fairness in the universe."  "Why is that absurd?"  "Because there's no such thing as karma.  I mean, when you're a good person, people can sense it and they'll reciprocate that goodness.  But the universe isn't keeping some balance by guaranteeing you a reward."

Beyond the complex metaphysical question tackled, what I find most enchanting about this quote is its frankness.  Sure, my neighborhood pundits spouting steadfast ideologies miff me as much as the next gal, but when it comes to necessary issues of the soul and ethics, most people seem hesitant to take a stance at all.  Their heart, their experience, or their fear prevents them from first, sincerely contemplating, and second, consolidating all their contemplations into a meaningful set of values.  Such a working game plan, attuned to both your instincts and ambitions, may sway and alter, but it will always be the whole, accessible philosophy that you alone created.

Granted, the quote starts out somewhat disheartening, suggesting that no aspect of our world is truly fair.  But once you read further, you notice that what the author really means is that the universe itself isn't goodness, but, rather, that we are the goodness; that is, if we choose to be.  In other words, "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul": when external remedies appear bleak, we can always rely on ourselves and the thought we have put into the road ahead.

And this quote coming from an everyday woman walking the street, someone who gains no advantage by being smarter or more successful than the rest of us.  A rare intelligence and communication shines through nonetheless, and the quote turns out to be one of the most optimistic I've ever read.  Little is more empowering than the realization that we have full capacity to reward others and ourselves for our biggest feats and smallest niceties.  What's more, the acceptance of this capacity better equips us to approach head-on and and feet-down the very real challenges we face everyday, challenges that can't often be mitigated by an elusive worldly power.

To be sure, I do not mean to criticize faith, religion, or anything of that nature in this post, for a discussion of values and beliefs is insufficient without them.  On the contrary, I wish to provide a human and realistic perspective on the forces that have the most immediate sway in our universe, namely, our minds and our actions.  While a higher power may control some of the more principal aspects of life and death, we have ultimate license to control what's in front of us and what's to come as we take infinitely more steps toward a plan of our own.

With goals so methodical and feats so distinct, it must be ourselves with which our journeys are linked.

We come even closer with each and every blink. ;)
Amanda

Dress: Anthropologie (old).  Necklace: J. Crew (old).  Flowers: Dierberg's Florist.

All photos (and french braid) by Amber Schlomer, owner of Natural Images Photography. :)

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Pique of Excellence


The urgency which we impose on our ourselves dictates some of the most consequential moments of our lives.  That is what I have boiled my anxiety down to: an urgency to achieve, to feel, and to resolve.

When a friend rests in a perpetual state of hesitancy or lacks faith, I christen myself the mental martyr who will emotionally exaggerate my buddy's qualms in order to grant him sympathy.  Whether my friend needs or desires this sympathy is a question of viewpoints, vices, and virtues.

More than an altruistic inclination to improve the lives of loved ones, this habit of prematurely settling debacles stems directly from the unrest I personally accrue from immobility.  If I encounter even the slightest hint of suspended progression, I will do everything in my power to tug it back to life.  Simply put, I cannot bear the fruitlessness of a layover.

I do not detail this internal monologue to color myself in any shade purer or nobler than the norm.  By contrast, I wish to reveal the multifarious upshots of forcing onto life a strict linear as opposed to a circular narrative.

Not only in friends, but in myself I often notice a halted drive to better myself, a state of mind we all experience but, I believe, would never wish upon anybody.  And why would we?  It's not as if uncertainty or writer's block damages one's quality of life to a perilous or often even noteworthy extent.  Nonetheless, it's these little dangers to creativity and liberation that really get to me.  The thought of myself, a friend, or any human wasting a substantial portion of his life to no avail irks me to the end of time.  To be clear, I don't consider frequent spouts of fun-loving recreation to be a waste of one's life, nor do I dismiss any acts held in high esteem by the actor, no matter how controversial.  What I do consider a waste is a departure from one's goals or intentions, whether big or small.

Of course, such a life of incessant striving and repairing is unsustainable.  I know this, but I still go through with it.  I continue to view my own lapses as existential crises, threatening my worth and potential.  Why do I do this?  Part of it is innate psychology, another is ambitious plan-of-action, and yet another is hopeful deliverance.

I don't claim to be the most selfless sort of humanitarian.  In fact, I reflect upon my own life and compare it to those of others probably more often than I should.  This lifestyle will occasionally hurt my psyche and pride to extremes that almost convince me that ceaseless struggle toward fulfillment is not the way to go.  And for a lot of people, it isn't.  But why does it work for me?  Despite how many times it has induced a headache and endangered my confidence in myself and in humanity, it has afforded me some of my most momentous and empowering insights and accomplishments.  Yes, I think too much about the meta and too little about the simple pleasures of life, but that mindset has gotten me where I am today and given me the knowledge and initiative I need to distribute empowerment to others.  I've got a long way to go before I discover a comprehensive and rewarding antidote to humanity's strains, but the process of getting there is something to write home about, if only in the metaphorical sense.

Be proud of your life's endeavor.  And on a more literal note, remember to write and thank your first-ever inspirations: your parents!

Happy June!
Amanda :)

Dress: Express.  Shoes: Express.  Bracelets: Prada and Ann Taylor.

Photos by Alex Zhu (top two) and Sean Su.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

I Think, Therefore I Can

It doesn't take a perfect vision to create a convincing composition.  All the artist must do is set aside the large part of her compulsions and cater to what she knows the customer wants to see, wants to feel, wants to believe.  In other words, she's a smart businesswoman, doing all she can to ensure the customer comes back.  But this also means she's a poor psychotherapist, sailing down a circular trench rather than taking her chances with the raging waters.  Where in the world do we submerge our little flippers?

In short, it's easy to put on a happy face for those you wish to impress, appease, or simply avoid.  What is it about the human condition that allows us to so seamlessly slip into a persona we don't recognize in a few years time?  Likewise, how is it our internal vibes can so starkly contradict our external state?  The irrevocably shy child, the isolated college freshman, the downtrodden love-seeking teenager--why don't I identify with these people anymore, and why do I pity them so?

When I think back upon these past three years of college, I realize just how much I've changed for the better.  Every year brought a new life lesson to be cherished.  Freshman year was adjusting to the elevated academic pool and a newfound life of independence.  Sophomore year was learning to get over myself and hone my passions for the legal profession.  Junior year was trusting myself and finding who my true friends are.  Senior year will hopefully be relaxing and focusing on law school and the career ahead of me.  

Such an amalgamation of competing interests and agendas from year to year can make a girl quite the anxious specimen.  And reflecting upon these changes one to three years later can reawaken the same old anxiety, and understandably so.  As I look back at old Facebook posts or Instagram photos, a sudden surge of both annoyance and fear often overwhelms me--annoyance that I ever acted so childishly, and fear that I will act that same way again.  This mounting perturbation leads me to loop my mind along old memories and emotions, producing the self-fulfilling prophecy that there's nothing I can do and that I can't maintain my feats of pride.

Well, that mindset is bogus for hundreds of reasons, namely four: 1. I, meaning my conscious mind and not my anxieties or memories, am in control of my life, and 2. Nothing, not even myself, has the power to undervalue my worth and achievements, past or present, 3. My slip-ups have led me to the greatest realizations and accomplishments I can imagine, without fail, and 4. I have friends to help me out. :)

Given my natural tendency to ruminate on irrelevant memories and to accommodate others and not always myself, I often feel as though I'm losing my own essence and my principle philosophy as the hours tick by.  So, a couple days ago, I took the liberty of enumerating the primary values that have and always will define me and carry me through life.  With these in mind, I can always remain in my own center of respect, jubilation, and pride, and no one can take that from me.

1. Working hard.  In contrast to the "natural intelligence" other kids too often relied on to make a name for themselves, I muscled my way through AP classes and am still muscling my way through college.  This is not to say I have no natural ability or have not utilized it frequently; rather, I am making the point that I always interpret my own successes and my admiration for others in the lens of pure work ethic and not on privilege or political prowess.  Nothing on this page could be closer to the truth.

2. Empathizing with and boosting up others.  Whether through my blog posts, my public words, or my actions, I always hope to inspire others through my story and reflections to become the best, healthiest, most fulfilled people they can be, just as I'm trying to do for myself.  While it's important to put my own priorities first, I never hold back compassion or camaraderie at times when I know it is merited.

3. Remaining strong and driven, always channeling my passions.  Without some sort of long- and hard-sought goal in mind, hard work may be futile or unsatisfying in the end.  Likewise, what's in a goal that you don't value or advocate for yourself?  No matter how or why I falter, I will always hold my head high and own my passions to the utmost.  With the fight that I bring to my objectives necessarily comes an undying esteem for those objectives and more importantly for myself in so chasing them.

Friends may exalt, and brothers may cheer, but be not a friend to yourself, and your spirit may veer.

Feel free to post your own values on Facebook or in the comments, here!

Always with love,
Amanda :)

P.S. Sean took me by great surprise in asking to snap these photos.  I had just come out of the shower, and the last thing I expected was to jump into photo shoot mode within a few minutes.  But now I see how perfect the pureness and ordinariness of these shots are to my message of acceptance and stability in values above. :)

P.P.S. I have no idea who that guy in the last photo is.  Sean wanted to include him lolol.

Top: Phantom of the Opera T-Shirt.  Scarf: J. Crew.  Pants: Ann Taylor.  Shoes: J. Crew.  Glasses: Chanel.

All photos by Sean Su.



Monday, April 14, 2014

Nearest and Dearest

It's hard to imagine an existence where the one object, aim, or intention we hold nearest and dearest suddenly becomes sand in our slippery palms.  One moment we're nobly struggling to give life to our ambition, and the next, that ambition becomes an impossible relic of "good tries" past.  Such blanket consolations like "Nice try," "Good game," or "It was worth a shot" only work in sports or adolescent courtships.  When it comes to losing the long-sought prize around which we center our life, we'll need a lot more than a hardy slap on the back.

But what led to such a rousing upset in the first place?  Well, when you choose to predicate your life's worth on one (not-so) imminent accomplishment, it's reasonable to expect a bit of a backslide when that plan falters.  The savior is not a diminution of high expectations, as that would only lead to a road of insufficient or absent meaning in individuals so naturally aspiring.  Rather, the savior is coupling high expectations with a grounded sense of reality, keeping your feet on the ground even when your mind flirts with the clouds.

This whole conversation begins about a year ago, at the time I was accepted into the Legal Studies Program at Northwestern and first began pondering my obligatory thesis for the major.  Perhaps I was on a legal high, so to speak, having been admitted to the Legal Studies major and to the pre-law fraternity, Phi Alpha Delta, right after an incredibly inspiring and rewarding winter quarter with two amazing legal studies adjunct professors.  Maybe I thought acceptance to the program necessitated an eventual thesis of distinction, even though this special honor implies not all in the program will receive it.  More likely, I was simply holding myself to the same lofty standards I always do.

One of the aforementioned professors above taught a class called "Human Rights and U.S. Refugee Law," a crash course in asylum law and adjudication, at the end of which I felt not only more confident in briefing asylum cases, but in synthesizing cogent arguments and presenting them publicly in a mock trial setting.  Needless to say, this course drove me to take on a very ambitious thesis topic, comparing asylum procedures and outcomes for women in the U.S. and Canada (see The Pilot Post for my original mention of this thesis).  What I did give myself credit for was my forward-looking attitude and desire to exert influence on the transnational realm of asylum law.  What I didn't give myself credit for was my perseverance in doing so while signs gradually pointed to increased criticism of my project.

Certainly, a smaller-scale analysis may have accrued better grades and recognition, but was that really the primary goal?  Did I not want to enlighten peers and legal scholars alike to the fairness and efficiency of both asylum systems in the hope of revealing an international model for gender asylum?  Was this grand goal meant for a more extensive law review article post-graduation?  Probably, but that doesn't mean initiating this work and mindset was not the most consequently gratifying thing to do.

My constructed world fell to pieces when I finally realized it would not be possible to receive honors for my thesis and therefore for the major.  The broadness of my topic, the limited time frame, the huge student-to-advisor ratio, and other classroom political factors which cannot be controlled ultimately precluded such a result.  Because an honors thesis was by far the brightest dot on my radar--indeed, sometimes the only dot on my radar--I was devastated when my eventual grade seemed not to reflect all the work and thought I put into my end product.

Now, I'm not saying I necessarily deserved honors, as nascent experience on how to write a thesis has taught me that I didn't go about it entirely the right way or delimit my time accordingly.  Nonetheless, there is something to say for the heart and purpose I brought into my work.  Of course, your work is nil if left unrecorded, but I did justify my thesis choice with all the language and background I could muster in a reduced time frame, thereby completing my practical duties.  What often goes unnoticed and/or unmentioned in seemingly cookie-cutter academic papers is the author's personal reason for enacting the research and her genuine goal for herself and for her successors.  Literature reviews, data, and well versed conclusions proving your novelty and significance in your field are fine and dandy, but where is the evidence that you intend to use this research to aid the world order, rather than simply to write an award-winning paper?

Some may contest that I would not hold these same ardent beliefs if my thesis had been distinguished.  But I respond that it's quite possible that the scope and content of my project had no way of being eventually recognized, even in its blueprint stages.  The seeming shift toward pure scholarly precision and away from legal discourse for lawyers' and humanity's sake is a distressing but perhaps irreconcilable side effect of academia.  Maybe my qualms are unwarranted given the task at hand, but I just hope that I can demonstrate my overarching morals and effect cross-cutting change as a lawyer, if not as a legal scholar.

Friends may flock to whatever you say, but what about those whose languages stray?  How will you show them a fine will is a way?

Act and proceed where your words may betray,
Amanda

Dress: Paperdolls Boutique (St. Louis).  Scarf: J. Crew (old).  Necklace: J. Crew (old).  Flower Crown: Self-made via Whole Foods Florist.

All photos by Sean Su.