It’s been a day.
Last night I chose to spend my time at a privacy event in SF rather than reading for class, crazy, I know; You know it’s bad when someone walks up to you and asks “wow they let the 1L’s out to play?” Cue me waking up at 6am to a forgotten calendar event “Civ Pro Assignment Part II Due Today” -oops. Strike 1.
Scrambling, I finished Civ Pro and my readings at 10:20am, Contracts class is at 10:30am, I live 8 mins away from the law school, and my wonderful husband who I cherish as my rock, soulmate, and partner in crime, left the house with my car keys on his way to work. Strike 2.
Admittedly, these mornings are typical when it comes to the day in the life of Jess Miers the over-exhausted, under-prepared, scattered 1L. But what really made this morning different from the others, before the calendar notifications, emails, and half-assed contracts review, was the early morning phone call from my mother: my grandmother, Noni, as we Italians call her, had passed away. Strike 3.
As I’m standing in the down-pour, wondering how I got duped into thinking it never rains in California, waiting for a $15 Lyft to go 2 miles to campus, I couldn’t help but wonder, what the fuck am I doing right now? I spent most of the morning in bed after cancelling all of my meetings for the day, convinced I was definitely not going to class today, so why was I outside, drenched, wondering why the covenant of good faith is only applicable to special insurance relationships in Midland v. O’Bryan?
Noni played a significant part in shaping the woman I am today and I have no doubt that she heavily influenced my decision to enter the legal field. The majority of my childhood summers were spent around the card table, learning games she played with “the ladies,” but more importantly, soaking up life lessons and little words of wisdom she would impart in me when no one else was around. She would never let me win at cards, and I appreciated that. She’d grab my cheeks in both hands – “Now how would you ever learn Jessica???” after she’d beat me for the 50th time at Kings in the Corner or Racko. And she was right, I needed to learn for myself. I needed to out-strategize the master. And, honestly, I never really did. She was too good but she made it so much fun to try. She challenged me, and though I’d fail nine times, when I’d occasionally succeed on the tenth, it was absolutely rewarding.
Law school is full of failures, interspersed with tiny, occasional, but rewarding successes. The challenge is not necessarily the classes or the job hunt or student organization duties, rather, it’s much more about how you respond to constant failure: botching a cold call, blowing a multiple choice exam, missing a crucial issue in the torts hypo, not getting enough sleep, getting down on yourself for not reading, letting your mental health slip, getting rejected from the 50th blockchain crypto privacy as a service bullshit Bay Area startup. Those who can pick themselves back up, dust off, and re-strategize are the ones who make it. Those who give up after the ninth try, never make it to the tenth success.
Noni was the kindest, most tolerant person you could ever have the pleasure of meeting. She’d grab my hands and say, “I don’t care about the color of your skin or who you love, if you’re a good, honest, person, you’re fine by me.” I’d hear that line a lot throughout my childhood, which, seeing the amount of hatred and bigotry in this country today, I realize how important it is to instill those words of love and acceptance early on in our children. She was always about helping others, even if it was in the smallest of ways. “Now Jessie, take care of your brother. He’s the closest friend you’ll ever have,” she’d often say. “Take care of your neighbors.” No matter who it was, “take care of them.” She believed in fairness and equality, and when she saw something that wasn’t she’d always sigh and say “now that’s not right,” looking my brother Eric and I sternly in the eyes to make sure we understood whatever injustice had just taken place.
My typical elevator pitch is that I went to law school to save the Internet. I’m an advocate for online free speech. But on a deeper level, I went to law school because all my life, I’ve always been one to stand up for others. I’d rather “take care of others” before taking care of myself, sometimes to my detriment. I derive energy and happiness from being a voice for the voiceless. I take notice when someone is treated unfairly, and I spring into action when that voice inside me says “now that’s not right.” The legal field is entirely based in being an advocate for anyone and everyone – taking care of your neighbors, no matter who they are.
Noni was sharp and man did she have the strongest bullshit detector. “I wasn’t born yesterday,” she’d say when my brother and I thought we were getting away with something stupid. She LOVED Judge Judy. “No funny business,” she’d say, “that Judy is a smart one.” I remember several afternoons spent watching Judge Judy with Noni in the basement of her sea-salt scented Westerly beach house. She’d always pull me in close, holding my face and say “now if you stay in school and really learn and become just as wise, you’ll be just like her one day.” That always resonated with me.
So perhaps, there’s a few reasons why I found myself standing outside in the pouring rain waiting for a Lyft to drag my ass to Contracts even though life seemed to desperately want to keep me in bed for the rest of the day. With each blow, came the opportunity to get back up. With each moment of hopelessness, came the opportunity to help someone else that may be having an even worse day. And with each frustrating moment of reading and re-reading and re-reading the rule against perpetuities and wondering why I voluntarily put myself through this hell, came the opportunity to become wiser, like Judge Judy.
A close friend of mine inspired me to write today. She had posted to her Instagram story a picture of her freshly made salad with the caption “life tip: live with your grandparents during law school.” I hadn’t seen it but she had frantically texted me later in the day OH MY GOD I’M SO SORRY IF MY INSTA STORY MADE YOU FEEL WORSE. HOW COULD I FORGET??? and I laughed. I’ve been on a rollercoaster of emotion all day but all I could do was laugh and reassure her that she in no way hurt my feelings. In fact, her story made me smile, because if anything, we as law students need to step back and cherish and remember our relatives. We get so bogged down in the day to day grind that family often takes a back seat. My advisor always asks, what’s most important? Followed by the answer: Family. Not grades, not getting a job at a fancy big law firm. Family. Life is short. Honor your loved ones with social media stories, phone calls, letters, hugs. Do not forget about the people that got you to where you are today – the people that shaped you into the person you are now. Cherish your family and take time to show appreciation while you still can. There’s more to life than UCC 2-204.
I’ll miss my grandmother deeply, but I’ll hang on to our memories forever. Blowing bubbles in her backyard, Easter egg hunts, finding seashells on the beach, making Tortellinis in the kitchen, her stories about my grandfather, Nono, I never had the opportunity to meet, stories about Govoni’s Market, her lectures about respecting my mother and father, learning to be wise like Judge Judy, and getting my ass kicked at Rummikub. I’ll keep her life lessons in my back pocket for when I become the attorney I so desperately strive to be. To remind myself to be sharp, motivated, determined, but also, self-less, kind, and patient.
Today, I could have stayed home in bed, but I chose to go to Contracts, hand raised high like the proud gunner I swear I’d never become, answering more questions than I’d normally volunteer for, because that’s what Noni taught me.
“Good girl” she’d say.