Friday, September 9, 2011

Going Slow

{Monarch Bay, Dana Point, with my AE-1}

Did I tell you that I was generously offered and elected to take almost three months off between the Bar exam and the real world?  That's why things have been slow around here (here on the blog, and here in real life).  I wish I could say that I've been using the time to cook up some plan to eliminate child poverty, or start a business, or write a book.  But unfortunately for me, I am neither a world humanitarian, entrepreneur, nor author.  No, these days have been far less glamorous than that.  These days have been all about the in-betweens.  All those things that you usually try to squeeze in between your coffee and when you have to run out the door to get to work before traffic hits, or between your lunch meeting and your conference call, or between pilates class and dinner.  Those things.  The things that never get done when you only have the in-between time to do them.

It turns out that when the big things that frame your time are missing, the in-betweens become your days.  So I've let those things expand, scheduled them into my days, and checked them off my to-do list as slowly as possible.  Because I can.  I remind myself constantly that there is no reason to hurry.  That the fact that it is 9am and I'm still on the couch, chilling with Regis and Kelly, is not a reason to panic.  There is nothing that I'm supposed to be doing.

Waking up on the morning after the Bar exam was like emerging from a three-day death march* through the tunnels of the sewer system.  Blinding.  Disorienting.  But then glorious.  After a few days struggling with exam-PTSD, I relished in the slowness of this new life.  I patted myself on the back and quickly adopted the morally justified "I've totally earned this life of leisure and luxury" attitude.   I did only what I wanted, when I wanted (well, I held back on that Groupon deal for the 5-night stay in Fiji, but otherwise...).  I perfected l'arte di non fare niente (the art of doing nothing), a skill that my Italian professor considered beyond the comprehension of the average American, and with a name fancy enough to trick my inner dialogue into thinking it's a legitimate hobby.

But this feeling of deserving deserted me after a few weeks, leaving me with no good excuse, and no defense against my nagging self-guilt and rising panic level.  (And yes, I know that the fact that my stress level has an inverse relationship with the length of my to-do list means I am crazy.  But that's a topic for a whole other post...or therapy session.)  So in the last two weeks, I've been trying to come to terms with the daily reality of this slow life where I am mostly on my own.  I've been trying to appreciate the value in its steady simplicity, trying to see it as an opportunity to learn to lead a more purposeful, considered life.

It's completely unnatural for me.  I'm the sort who rushes because contemplation takes too much time, and who does things first and then analyzes whether I should have done them only if they turn out wrong.  I'm the sort who has zero patience for forethought.  I'm the sort who feeds on change.  Clearly, the slow, purposeful, steady life is not my forte.  But I'm working on it.

Currently, my old AE-1 film camera is a big part of this experiment/evolution/self-improvement(?) project.  It's always with me now, and it has forced me to think before I shoot.  In digital, everything is picture-worthy.  (What, exactly, could be unworthy of a picture when the picture is costless?)  I'll snap 200 pictures to get 2 good ones.  I'll snap pictures just to see what they look like on my preview screen.  Because why not?  But with film, you only get 24 snaps in a roll, and there are no re-dos.  Each roll costs money and time (to buy and to develop) and space (in your purse).  And then there's the waiting for it to be developed part (remember what I said about zero patience?).  It's a slow process, but I'm learning to appreciate it in a different way than digital photography.  It's perfect for me right now.  And I'm kind of in love with it.

Today, I'm heading up to the Bay Area yet again (yes, I do still live in L.A....), and I'll be bringing the film along with me.  I hope you, too, get some time this weekend to practice l'art di non fare niente.  See you all Monday!

*I'm not quite sure what a "death march" is per se, but it sounds adequately awful to serve as a comparison to the Bar exam.

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