Self-portrait v. 1

July 29, 2017. I give all of the glory to God. Three days ago I sat for the two-day Pennsylvania Bar Exam. This entire study process has been daunting, humbling, intense, and now – a great relief. During the increasingly scarce non-study hours, I managed to create new law friendships, learn new music, cook (finding time for that was a miracle), and even laugh a bit along the way. I know that His grace gave me the energy and focus to study. The support of my loved ones and friends helped me move forward each day. The post below is one that I “picked up and put down” without ever publishing to WordPress. The message and intention remain the same. This is just the beginning and I hope to update you all on more of my experiences post-JD.

(Early July, ’17)¬†Sitting outside on the back landing of my apartment; absorbing the breeze and warmth and city noises of July. With 12 days remaining until the exam (and me a bit behind on blogging), June is complete.

Often, the end of a thing invokes reflections on the thing’s entirety. This is my first “Law and Policy” related post, and I have shared the following advice in a number of ways to different people over the years. Completing law school and earning a J.D. in the U.S. has made me reflect on how I arrived here and what was helpful for me in this journey. In a large sense I am really at the beginning of all that is to come, though especially as this stage of my career has ended, I wondered whether I would do anything differently.

We all have accomplishments, regrets, successes, and mistakes; but the thing I am most grateful for is that I stayed true to myself. I never changed the essential core of who I was or what I believed in. Law school even helped bring out some of my deepest, most innate qualities. Sure I adapted to new situations, and developed or got rid of some traits. Though I stayed essentially true to who I was and who I am.

From an early age I knew that I wanted to go to law school. As early as I can remember I was nominated to the role of lawyer in the family. I was the person who was going to attend law school. Whether it was the destiny surrounding that early designation, or whether it was more a choice of my own that led me there, I also knew a few things about myself: I liked to communicate – loved to read and write, and I also liked working with people. I knew that these fundamental things lent themselves well to a career in law where good writing, advocacy, and communication are key.

So I worked for a couple of years and entered law school with these qualities in mind. While most of my work before (and during law school) focused on environmental law and policy, I also gained experience in immigration law during my third year. I made this transition because I wanted to develop more than one area of experience – and once again, I knew a few things about myself: I loved to communicate and work with people. That I am bilingual, the daughter of a diverse ethnic family, and previously worked in communities also made immigration work in the U.S. an important and even natural fit for me.

I do not write all of this to say that we should never change, or that being our most authentic selves is always the best way to be – but instead, that when I listened to the qualities within me that spoke to me most, my work was so much more rewarding. In the context of immigration, for example; think about building the trust of a client who looks to your organization/firm for advice, or who looks to you to eliminate a barrier of communication when you are able to interpret for them. This work and these moments are life changing; both for the individual who needs your help and for you.

Moments like these help me see the purpose of lawyers and policymakers, and it encourages me to always develop my ability to communicate and empathize with other people, especially with those who share little to nothing in common with me.

This post may eventually become an extended article on law school advice, and I would be happy to write one at some point on more of the specifics. Feel free to comment below with requests. I also know that there are probably an infinite number of articles on this topic…but in the spirit of this post – no voice is the same. Each one is unique. As we all collectively add our perspectives to this world, let us remember to stay true to our perspectives. Nothing is wrong with a bit of change, but just as our genetic identities* are distinct and unique, there is no other person in this world who can fulfill our created purpose if we are not there to fill it. Stay true to your voice, and if you are unsure of it – search for it and act on it so that your work in this present life is a reflection of the purpose created solely and uniquely for you.

*Check out this¬†link¬†from The Telegraph and podcast episode¬†from Cambridge University’s “The Naked Scientists”, on whether our thumbprints/thumb marks are truly unique. Interestingly this aspect of our identities is still debated ~

Update: “New Things”

I finished reading War and Peace during my spare, non-study time…which lately has been fewer and fewer hours each day.

The version I have is translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude, and includes lots of supplementary material like Tolstoy’s personal reflections and posed Q&As regarding his book. It took me years to read it after picking it up and setting it aside numerous times. After 800+ pages and more characters than anyone can remember, it is done!

Tolstoy captures human emotion and expression in a remarkable way, and unlike any other author I’ve read. I did skim through many of his pages on reflections of the Napoleonic Wars. The lengthy discussions on history become repetitive and disjointed at times throughout the end of the book. Overall though, this was a really really great read – one of my favorites – and (as an English major at heart), I’m satisfied to know I’ve read one of the greatest pieces of literature in history.

~ celebrate the little things ~

Update: “New Things”

I got a keyboard!!¬†ūüėɬ†It is a full (88-key)¬†M-Audio Keystation¬†– a beauty, and I’ve actually had it for several weeks. I love it! With semi-weighted keys, the best part(s) about this Keystation is that you can connect it to your laptop, record, synthesize & compose music, play different virtual instruments, and get the authentic sound of real instruments from your keyboard. Also comes equipped with Ableton, an incredible music performance software whose company is based in Berlin and Pasadena.

It took some getting used to setting up the Keystation with my computer, installing music software, adjusting the MIDI controllers, etc.; and I am nowhere near mastering all of its functions and capabilities. BUT I have at least figured out recording and how to play a Grand Piano (my favorite), which is pretty cool. It has the sound of an authentic grand piano. Along with the stand and foot pedal, this has become a good way to take a break from studying, or to simply take a break from all that is going on in this word. I cannot put into words the moments of solace that I find in music.


M-Audio Keystation 

See 5/23 for the start of this thread and the meaning behind “New Things”

Update: “New things”

This week’s event¬†was making progress in Bhujapidasana, an arm-balancing yoga pose. (Yoga365Days¬†has great insight¬†on this).

I had never been able to balance this pose¬†quite right – and have always had relatively lean arms – so getting the balance and strength was a huge progress point for me. And it was fun! It’s that moment when¬†you realize how capable your body is in doing things that you thought you didn’t have the physical strength or center of gravity to do. I’m going¬†to keep working on it every few weeks to see if I can turn it¬†into other more advanced arm balances. Any thoughts or recommendations are welcome! On to the next one…

A Change of Pace: Food

I do not intend this blog to focus on food, but lately cooking has been something that helps carry me through studying and the pressure that comes with it. This environment breeds creativity.

My grandmother and I spoke a few days ago and she told me about the preservation methods that her family used for food while living in the islands. I was astonished that in the heat of the Caribbean, meat could be kept preserved for a long time by using pimento spice. It seemed to be a type of drying or salting method of meat preservation. After we spoke, I wondered how pimento alone kept the meat preserved, so I later looked up the word (which I commonly associate to pepper) and remembered that it has two meanings Рred sweet pepper and allspice from the Caribbean and Central America. My grandmother referred to the allspice variation of pimento, which has been traditionally used for food preservation. This is something I definitely want to add to my cooking soon.

In the meantime, I’ve been experimenting with variations on Quinoa Tabbouleh. I made a basic recipe with parsley, mild cheese, tomato, vidalia onion, cucumber, olive oil, salt, a bit of balsamic, mediterranean sea salt blend, and jasmine¬†rice rather than quinoa or couscous or wild rice. I was reluctant to use rice though it turned out well! The main thing is to dice everything up to about the same size and simply use the¬†amount of ingredients that you want to have left over for the week.

My other¬†new food item is arugula – i’ve been adding it to sandwiches for lunch and pasta sauce as well. It is very bitter though its¬†earthiness helps lighten¬†the flavor of rich foods. I recently added it to a pasta dish while cooking with¬†fresh pasta (a first for me).


*Thanks to Analida from “Analida’s Ethnic Spoon” for the link above on¬†allspice. Check out her other posts on ethnic cuisine here.¬†

It’s been a while…

It’s been a while, and I’ll be honest. This week has been a bigger adjustment than the first two combined. I have not felt like blogging, and every time that I had a topic come to¬†mind I lost motivation later in the day or gave up any desire to write.

I think that with most things that require¬†intensive, prolonged work – you need to give yourself time to develop a routine…and wade into it, slowly.¬†Like¬†testing the waters and¬†seeing how deep they are. I did the opposite and enthusiastically¬†jumped into the deep end without worrying how cold it was.

Now realizing that I have the summer ahead of me (and talking with my friends who are studying as well) – I started taking time to relax a bit mentally – not that I stopped doing work! – but I’m starting to adjust to the appropriate pace of June 2, 2017, three weeks into Bar prep.


“3 Shifts” to Approach Studying and Working From Home

[Side thought: this could also be applied to authoring, writing articles/doing full-time research, or preparing a submission to an academic journal].

  • 1. Early morning ->¬†early afternoon
    • Most focused; complete assignments in¬†class or at a “worksite”
    • No distractions, (not even phone calls unless emergency or on 5-minute break to talk to family, e.g.).
    • Go in¬†“airplane mode” or just turn off as many devices as you can.
    • Up super early before work/study/class? -> have¬†a moment of peace, go for a run, do yoga, take a walk, or trip to the gym
  • Lunch/Siesta
    • Avoid¬†many¬†“working lunches”
    • Eat and¬†take an actual¬†break for at least an hour – up to a couple of¬†hours possible if recovering from any physical symptoms; e.g. illness,¬†or if it is a particularly exhausting or difficulty with adjusting type of week
  • 2. Afternoon until early evening
    • Could be more¬†productive than morning depending on work style
    • Bulk hours of work and study completed here (4-7)
    • Take a small break after this in between evening¬†shift: ->
  • 3. Late evening if necessary for extra review or practice
    • (I can be a bit of a night owl though know that 6-7 hours of sleep is important; particularly when retaining information)
    • Ideally have a time window before sleep where your workday ends. Lights off, books closed, computer turned off. The end ūüĆĚūüĆö

Disclaimer: This could all change or turn upside down at some point!! (And I am speaking especially to myself on this one) -> Just stay as consistent as possible; keep the faith and focus; work and work diligently. Five more full days left in May.

Music Profile: Flamenco

There are a lot of different study techniques. For me Рbackground music works. Visiting Spain in 2008 introduced me to the music genre of Flamenco. I completed an immersion program with my school and traveled from Córdoba to Madrid, Segovia to Toledo, Málaga, Granada, and other parts of central and southern Spain. It was beautiful and a trip I will never forget.

We visited an intimate music spot one evening, where Gypsies (or “gitanos”) gather to perform Flamenco. Something about the performance stayed with me, and much later in 2014, I became an avid follower of the music genre. In¬†February of that year I learned that the legendary Paco de Luc√≠a had died. I was casually¬†reading the BBC and learned that de Luc√≠a¬†was a famous Flamenco guitarist from Spain. Remarkably and shortly¬†after reading the news, I became friends with a Spanish grad student in DC who knew about de Luc√≠a and helped bring¬†the¬†news that I read, and history to life.

Just one month later in March, Flamenco greats¬†visited and toured in DC to honor de Luc√≠a’s legacy¬†– and me and my friend went to the concerts. Jos√© Fern√°ndez Torres “Tomatito” performed with his son;¬†Paloma Fantova and Antonio Canales (renowned dancers) also performed.¬†From then on, I added Flamenco to my music playlists, took a class, and went to a performance of a local group in Philadelphia. Today one of my favorite groups is¬†the “Gipsy Kings” – listened to them today. The music is full of fervor, syncopated rhythm, staccatos, fancy guitar work, and relentless singing from the depths of the soul.