Every time I get too overwhelmed with my life- my empty bank account, my flightiness, my choices, my self-victimization of said choices, my existential dread for the future, the fact I've yet to settle on a kind of law despite sinking three years into law school, my poorly behaved labradoodle and then the awareness of being a white midwestern girl with a labradoodle, etc.- I am forced to do an aggressive reset.
It isn't pretty. It requires about three full days of absolute commitment to the bit. I act like a Victorian woman who has succumbed to hysteria, who must take to her fainting couch. I allow myself total self-indulgence. We are driving around to Midnights. We are rewatching every niche BBC period drama we can find. We are dying our hair with henna while listening to Las Cultch on an edible. We are having A Little Cry (tm). We are dragging ourselves to coffee shops-turned-cocktail bars at 4:30 in the afternoon, right when they are most annoyed that you are on your computer, ruining their trendy, dimly lit aesthetic. We are kinda cleaning our house, but mostly catching our own reflection in dusty mirrors, slowly sweeping the floor like Brandy's 1997 Cinderella, and somehow always losing steam before actually making the bed. And of course, I will light a goddamn holiday-scented candle.
To be able to handle everything in my life that is about to come crashing down at me at full speed - dumb work stuff, finals, Christmas visits with the foster care youths I represent as a court-appointed specialized advocate, getting back my MPRE score (don't ask), my last semester of law school (which will involve a trial practice weekend class, mediation simulation, and a Title IX clinic with a nearby boujee private university, all amidst prepping for the bar and trying to desperately secure a job I actually enjoy for after school), and of course yet another Christmas as the Hallmark spinster leaving the city to go save the family farm sans any hometown hunk ((I explicitly blame you, Indiana!!!))- I have to prepare myself now.
And the pièce de résistance, bien sûr, is disappearing completely into my Mind Palace, if you will. Everyone has one but I figured my favored one is actually quite universal. I allow myself to go back mentally to under the fig tree. This is absolutely the most dangerous thing a millennial feminist woman can do- second only to talking herself into curtain bangs, or rewatching the 2005 Pride & Prejudice Director's Cut. You know the fig tree*- The Bell Jar excerpt that perfectly encapsulates the modern 20-something year old woman's dilemma. There are too many opportunities, hanging like figs, ripe for the taking, just above of our reach. But if we do not pluck one, too anxious about selecting the wrong one, we will starve as they fall and wither around us. Ugh, it is beautiful. It is tragic. It is Fleabag. It is Promising Young Woman. It's that TikTok sound "oh how I love being a woman!" It is the discourse around Don't Worry Darling, but not Don't Worry Darling itself. It helps remind us that we do indeed contain multitudes.
Under my tree, I look up and see every version of me I did not pursue. I refused to pursue. I was too afraid to imagine. I was too self-loathing to nurture. I see the version of me, right after that fifth grade aptitude test which I tested perfectly in the center of being right-brained and left-brained, going instead to the left. Becoming a show writer, going full Mindy Kaling. Blowing off law school and really finishing that novel (don't ask...but do) and trying to shop it around, and seeing it on a big screen one day. Trying out story-telling, maybe like comedy, but maybe something different, something new. A version of me where my voice was taken dead serious, simply for the sake that it is mine, and I care about it, and I am brave for offering it to you (the disembodied perpetual Audience) to care about as well.
And there are versions of me that, right after I got my Pottermore result of Ravenclaw, I bravely accepted the fact that I actually cheated to get that result, of course making me a true Slytherin, and I embraced that side of myself. I go big law. I go politics. I pursue this crazy idea I have of incorporating child welfare advocacy concepts into employment and tort law to reinvent our understanding and protection of child actors in Hollywood. Or I dedicate myself to taking down abusers and assholes of domestic violence online, through "revenge porn" and doxxing and stalking and other disgusting forms of everyday gendered violence; I even go after the Internet platforms that empower them. I go full avenging angel and do civil rights sexual harassment lawsuits for prisoners, or go after the tax status of cults, or force universities to protect their female students by actually providing equal access to a safe education.
And then there are the versions that do none of these things. That take the ultimate plan B route and becomes an underpaid pro bono immigration lawyer. Or doesn't do law at all, maybe becoming a professor, or a teacher, or a community advocate. Or maybe I don't ever find a community, and I keep jumping every three or so years for the rest of my life, filling up my passport like a calling card of all the places I have loved. Maybe I end of fostering, and become a mom, however unconventionally, but still totally whole-heartedly. I drive a mini van and never really learn how to cook anything except Trader Joe's meals and live near a good school district. Maybe I get married (lol). Maybe I get pregnant (less lol- what a living nightmare). Maybe I never leave Indiana (sad).
By just sitting under this tree, totally dissociating, investigating each unlived life without so much as raising my hand to touch them- nothing else truly gives me more joie de vivre, however dumb that sounds. It's the perfect reset. It acknowledges the unknown future before me with open arms, knowing I'll continue it because I want to see where it'll go. I will continue the bit. Continue to find myself mindlessly walking through antique shops, being forced to buy a white tinsel vintage Christmas tree, or planning a minute detail of my law-themed Christmas party (entitled (Law)veActually, naturally) without so much as starting any finals outline. The hard reset will end soon enough, whenever I'm unceremoniously forced to enter my studying montage, clocking wild hours at the library, and existing off of bad black coffee. So please, if you need me until then...don't. I am committing to the bit.
*This is of course referencing a point of view by an upper-class white woman from a very limited, segregated era. However, I watched 10 Things I Hate About You at too impressionable an age, so when Kat read The Bell Jar, I read The Bell Jar. The imprint was permanently made. I too apologize for being a highly influenceable Midwestern suburban girl, but you'll have to pry this kind of feminism- the Taylor Swift discography of feminism, if you will- out of my cold dead hands. I am its unfortunate apologist.