Sunday, February 24, 2013

"What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness." - John Steinbeck

Well, clearly it's been a while. Two months since my last post. I meant to catch up after Christmas but per usual, this year of service has been a whirlwind...

To hit some of the highlights, it was wonderful being home, even though it was just for over a week. I was able to relax, eat some yummy food (that I didn't have to make myself!), see family, visit friends, and experience good ole snow. I felt pretty rejuvenated when the time came to make the trek back for Mid-Year Retreat. I had the community car in NH so early on January 2nd I began the journey to MA. There were three pick-ups and then we ventured onto Ocean City, NJ. It was a long ride, to say the least. But it was nice to get down the shore and see everyone. All of the domestic volunteers arrived at different points throughout the day and we settled into the house for the retreat.

Mid-Year really proved to be a time to reflect and think about the first part of the year and what is to come. They kept emphasizing that we only had five months left of our volunteer year. It was hard to try to keep that in mind, while also trying to look ahead. I was in the midst of applying to law schools. The application process was consuming and stressful. It's hard because I want to feel present in my surroundings and enjoy the year, growing with every passing minute and never taking it for granted. But I'm also being pulled into the future because of my decision to pursue professional school. Either way, a year of service is just that - a year. It's temporal and finite. We spent a lot of time discussing ways to improve community life and what aspects are hindering progression. Although service trips and immersion experiences are things that I am very accustomed to because I've taken part in many, I had never been on a retreat. I wasn't used to a lot of free time and space and opportunity allowed for silent reflection and considerations. It was a relaxing few days and it definitely raised my spirits as I entered the second half of my volunteer year.

I cannot believe it's nearly March. I feel like I have just returned from retreat and it's early January. Once I got back I was determined to finish and submit my applications for law school. I ended up applying to 12 schools... eek! Most are in the Northeast, but there's a few that are spread throughout the country. I tried to choose programs that were known for public interest or had good clinical opportunities. Thankfully all of my schools offered me application fee waivers. But it was still so expensive applying. You pay a fee to sign up for the LSAT, the LSAC service that compiles what's called your law school report that's sent to each school you apply to, a fee to each individual school you apply to to send the report, and I also took a prep course and bought prep materials. It's really a racket. I am now in the process of finishing the financial aid applications. So hopefully in a few days the hustle and bustle of the application process will be finally over and then it's just a waiting game. Because I took the LSAT in both December and February I probably will not hear from the majority of my schools until end of March until mid-April. I was really excited that at the end of January I received a call from Admissions at one of my schools telling me I was accepted with a big scholarship. It was a really great feeling to at least know I was into one school. :)

I am still enjoying my service site. I feel like I have grown so much over the last six months at VIP. I can now handle stressful situations with a more mature and confident attitude. I found that I have the ability to be assertive and also to be intuitive. Because the executive director and one managing attorney are both on maternity leave, the entire staff has been working extra hard to fill the holes in their absence. I feel I am very needed and appreciated. I even came up with my own ideas of ways to improve our materials. I worked on an inheritance tax return guide for clients that explains to them step-by-step how to file the return. It was really rewarding to see a need, follow through with a remedy, and have it be appreciated. I am also getting better at pitching cases to volunteer attorneys. Although it's still kind of awkward asking people to take cases, I've learned that I must be self-sufficient and a self advocate in order to get cases out. It's a good skill for whatever job I eventually enter. Feeling like I am making a difference for people who have real legal needs, while also growing professionally and maturing as a person, I couldn't have asked for a better placement.

We are trying to plan some fun things to do as a community in the coming months. We signed up for the Philadelphia Color Me Rad run in June. It's the 5K run that tours the U.S. Paint is thrown at you as you run and you end up covered in all different colors by the end! Which reminds me, I better start training more diligently... We also bought tickets for an indoor mini-golf place, which sounds fun. We've been trying to go to movie premieres for free as much as possible too. If you haven't used I encourage you to create an account. It's completely free and then you can search for screenings in your area code. If there's an open screening you click on it and reserve the free passes to print. You can get up to two for account. They go quick, and you have to get to the movie early in order to ensure a seat, but it's totally free and you see the movies way before their release date. Sometimes there are even reviewers or famous people there! We've seen Warm Bodies and the The Croods. Even if you ended up not loving the movie, it was free and a good way to spend some time.

I should mention that the weather patterns are strange here. It's crazy to think that New England has been getting slammed with snow this winter, while Philly mainly gets rain. Even Nemo didn't hit us, besides a few flurries here and there. I am not complaining. Even though I am from NH, I do NOT have thick skin. I think I was born in the wrong state...

Anyways, from now on I plan to keep up with my blog. Wish me luck as I embark on the last four months of my service year and await my future plans!

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