Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fighting the monster.

In a prior post, I spoke of the social anxiety and imposter syndrome to which I seem to be increasingly prone. Over the past five years, I have gone from introverted to at times damn near reclusive. I'm working on this – it is one of the reasons I keep going to Tuesday night trivia.

As most people know, the way to deal with things you irrationally fear is to keep doing them, also known as the “getting back on the horse that threw you” principle. And, unlike the thrown rider, there is really no reason for me to be afraid of other people.

So, last week, I approached the horse.

A professor from SLS was giving a talk in San Francisco titled “Prosecutors Run Amok?.” I have developed a casual interest in criminal justice, and it seemed like an potentially interesting talk. So I talked myself into driving into San Francisco for what was at most an hour-and-a-half to two hour talk and reception, even though I knew no one else who was going to be there. I had the faint stirrings of what would later become the worst cold I have had in several years, but I refused to let myself back out.

Dress was “business casual.” What the heck is that, these days? I settled on a dress and (gulp) pantyhose. I actually purchased hose: these days the only time I wear them are for rare job interviews. I also bought another pair of flats.

And I got my hair cut. My stylist spoke English with a heavy Russian accent, and I am not sure at all that our understandings of what “long layers” meant coincided, or that she quite comprehended what I wanted. Afterwards I was rather unhappy.

I then got ready – having to ditch the hose after poking a hole in them (I hate designed obsolescence) – and set out. At that point, my carefully laid plans fell apart.

The drive from Mountain View to San Francisco took two hours. Even for rush hour on a Monday, that's just ridiculous. I managed to keep myself calm by having a conversation with an imaginary companion. She was a woman who, like me, had given up the law for other reponsibilities and who was fighting her own sense of inferiority.

“Look,” I told her. “Just because you opted to do other things doesn't mean you have thrown away your brain. They do not repossess your law degree simply because you've chosen to stay at home with kids.” It was a little while before I understood that I was really talking to and about myself.

I finally arrived in the city, and then had to find my way using Google Maps. It was fine while I was in the car, but on foot I had to resort to using (gasp) actual maps. Since I cannot navigate my way out of a paper bag using visual maps,* it took me fifteen minutes to get from the parking garage under 3 Embarcadero Center to the building at the corner of Battery.

By that time, I was forty-five minutes late. I still made myself go in, as flustered and nervous as I was.

The talk – of which I caught about half – was interesting. The audience appeared to consist of a few criminal lawyers, both prosecutors and defense lawyers, with the many of the others being civil litigators. The speaker discussed the Duke lacrosse rape case, and I came away knowing a lot more about the case than I did before, and with a great many thoughts about how messy rape prosecutions are, and how to reconcile a deep belief in the importance of the criminal justice system with an understanding of the way that system fails rape victims, and how knowledge of that second can cloud judgment with regards to the first. (That is a post I am still fleshing out in my mind, which I hope will be up shortly.)

I stayed until the end of the talk, did not speak to anyone other than the most simple pleasantries. Still, I went.

I rewarded myself by taking the long way home, through the city to the Great Highway, down the Devil's Slide on south to Highway 92. It gave me a lot of time to think.

I am going to try and do more horse-riding.  I can't see any reason I should deprive myself of chances to learn and grow, or deprive others of my, ahem, occasionally scintillating presence. Tuesday night trivia is a given, of course, and there is another SLS talk in early December which looks interesting. (Unlike the previous one, it is at the Law School, a mere half-hour from my house. Phew.)

Look out world, I'm heading out.

*This is not really an exaggeration.  I went to a talk in the spring at Stanford using a map, and ended up having to  move my car once because I ended up in a really inconvenient parking garage, and asking two different people for directions. And it still took me fifteen minutes after I left my car the second time to find a building that was a block and a half away.

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