Tuesday, September 25, 2007

We are who we are

It's been enough time between entries that I figure it's time to discuss something new. The problem is, I'm having trouble picking a topic. I mean, there's so much to discuss. I could talk about my constant battle with my weight. Or my inability at getting a job. Or the inexplicable ability of the women in my class TO get a job. (I'm not saying that retaining women in the law firm isn't an issue that needs to be addressed. I just think throwing more and more new women associates at the problem isn't going to fix it.)

The problem is that I hate coming off as whiny or pissy or any other word that ends in 'y' and means I'm not acting manly enough. (Sexual stereotypes exist for both sexes, of course. It's just unmanly to talk about stereotypes against men.... Ironic.)

Anyway, this dilemma leaves me in a bit of a bind. What can I talk about, if I can't complain?

One interesting topic, at least in passing, is my recent realization that practically no one in law school was "cool" in high school. This is surprising for any number of reasons, but first and foremost is the fact that an awful lot of these people are INCREDIBLY athletic now. They've got the looks, the stature, the physique. How is it, I am left to wonder, that they were in the unpopular crowd at one time?

Ultimately, I am forced to conclude that, once we've recast ourselves, we can be whoever we want to be. Easily the nerdiest guy in our class, the guy who anxiously awaited the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the guy who spends his off time play World of Warcraft and other ultra-geeky activities, this guy probably the most ripped dude I know.

Another guy who swears to having been a bookworm in high school spent the summer going from hippy festival to hippy festival.

Cute girls have degrees in hard science. Even cuter girls have spent time heavily involved in local and national politics.

EVERYONE unabashedly discusses Harry Potter.

This is law school. Hell, this is adulthood. Popularity is no longer measured by the loudest, or the scariest, or the meanest. It isn't measured by sports, but by the earning potential that comes out of sports.

As far as I can tell, adulthood popularity revolves around three major traits:

1. Attractiveness
2. Ability to Earn (and current earnings)[Perhaps Ability to Provide would be more accurate]
3. Ability to Connect [or possibly Get Along. This last one needs some tweeking]

I think that's it. Everything else is really an offshoot from these three categories. Some might argue Confidence as a major factor, but I really think confidence is just a contruct created to define a person who fulfills all three major traits.

Consider: From the perspective of a 3rd party (because who else is measuring popularity?), there is no way to know who is and is not confident. As such, it is necessary to look at the clues. I think it is a natural presumption for people to assume that attractive people are more likely to be confident. Furthermore, we assume that those people who have no trouble talking to everyone around them must be confident. And, lastly, don't we naturally feel more comfortable, perhaps more provided for, by those who are confident (or who we assume are confident)?

In response you might say, "But NJ! Sure, those three traits are all good indicators of confidence, so why don't we just ASSUME that the trait that leads to popularity IS confidence, rather than those three traits?"

That's a great question, You. The reason I would be hesitant to equate confidence with popularity is two-fold.

First, popularity does not result magically from a state of mind. As much as we would all like to pretend to have telepathy, we don't. What we do have is our own automatic reactions to the behavior of other people. And popularity, if nothing else, is not so much a measure of the person who is popular, as it is a measure of the way people around that person behave and respond to specific traits exhibited by the person.

To analogize: if the brightness of reflections of the sun were like popularity, then the explosions of the sun would be one component, but the light that came out of those explosions would be the much more major component.

To put it another way, it's all about what is being measured.

The second reason I hesitate to equate popularity and confidence has to do with the idea that maybe they don't fit together. It's entirely possible (and even likely) that women who are not confident at all exhibit all of the traits listed and are very popular; meanwhile women who are confident would not see the point of exhibiting these traits and would, consequently, be characterized as unpopular.

Ditto, but less confidently so, on men.

Anyway, bringing this all the way back around to the beginning, I am forced to conclude that many people took a hold of their own destinies after high school and made their lives as they would have them be. Fat kids became thin. Nerdy girls got cute. The unathletic kids got big-ass muscles. Steve became less of an asshole, and Jay, who was voted most-likely to become a child rapist, went on to lead a Fortune 500 company.

And then was convicted of child rape, because some things never change.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Rejection? Really?

It's 11pm. Do you know where your kids are?

So today I had another interview, and I walked away incredibly excited about the job. Seriously, I need to stop that. As far back as I can remember, the place I've ended up has been somewhere unexpected, where I've had my reservations. Often these reservations were well founded, and I hated life until I adopted, adapted, and improved.

Which is why I'm starting to get a little worried. I've had all kinds of interviews, and I've totally blown it on the ones I wasn't interested in, which means I'm not getting those jobs. Then, on the flip side, I've done very well with the interviews that really excited me, but I don't GET jobs that really excite me. I get the job that makes me feel lukewarm or even tepid.

Which necessarily means that I'm not going to get any of the jobs for which I've so far interviewed. Instead I'm going to end up working for a 3 person firm in Hutchinson that is heavily involved in local (not international) cattle and grain trade. Or maybe divorce work.

That'll be great. Fond memories there.

I believe a philosopher of logic would tell me that I'm currently operating on a fallacy. To which I would respond, "Ha ha! Fallacy!"


Nothing? Doesn't anyone get penis jokes anymore?

Now, for a meta-moment: I'm sorry for writing such a series of downer entries, but such is law school during hiring season. Law students exist in four different categories of emotion at this time.

1. Relieved but nervous, because we got a job, but we're terrified of it.

2. Frustrated, because we've had a thousand (or 3, 4, 5, or 6) interviews, and none of them seem to be panning out. Kind of like dates in my life. Only my number is smaller. And I'm about 300 miles past frustrated.

3. Terrified, because we don't have a job; we don't have prospects; and we don't have a clue.

4. Married and going to law school because we are bored. This is only for established couples, where one person is already married and making a decent enough wage that the other isn't too stressed out.

At times like these, its kind of hard to believe that things are going to get better. And yet the suicide rate of lawyers is WAY lower than one might expect.

So that's nice.

OK, OK. I'm just kidding! For all I know, the suicide rate might be way higher than we expect. Sheesh! It's called creative license, people!

Anyway, taking all of this into consideration, I was especially interested and surprised by the letter I received today from Polsinelli. It appears that they were very impressed by me and were glad that I had taken time out of my day to interview with them, but there were so many great candidates that, even though it was a very difficult decision, they simply could not offer me a "call back" interview.

Now, I appreciate rejection couched in kindness as much as the next guy, but have a heart! Posinelli was rejecting me after an interview THAT NEVER HAPPENED!!!!

That's right. They had two full rooms of interviews, as I understand it. That means 40 full people. Unquestionably a long, arduous, honest day's work. But I was in no way involved! None. Not even a little.

When I got the letter, I was confused. At first I was relieved. I hadn't gotten a single rejection letter, and I was beginning to worry that I'd written my address down incorrectly or something.

Clearly that was not the case.

Anyway, I was relieved, but then I thought, "Wait a tick! The first KC firm I interviewed with was Swanson Midgley. They were very nice. I don't think I've ever interviewed with... who is this? ... Oh yeah, Posinelli."

So I get online, check with easelaw, and sure enough: No interview. I had been wrongly rejected.

Not that I'm complaining. I mean, if I can be wrongly rejected, couldn't I also be wrongly accepted.


"N. J.?"


"This is Latham Watkins in Chicago. We were very impressed with your resume and your interview with us at the Chicago U. Career Fair. We'd like to invite you to a call back interview at our firm."

"Huh? But I didn't even app... Did you say call back? Will I be paying for my flight?"

"Oh, no, sir. The firm handles the costs for call back interviews."

"Where do I sign?"


Oh, how wonderful would life be, if mistakes like that worked both ways? Sadly, in my experience, they don't. The world is filled with incorrect rejection letters. You have to be rich and friends with 5 of the 9 supreme court justices to get incorrect acceptance letters.

Sorry, I'm not very good at political humor.

That's my story tonight. Now it's almost midnight. Do you still have no idea where your child is? Have you considered adoption? Seriously, once he puts down the gun, your kid will realize you're doing him a favor.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Who to blame?

I'm painfully bored at the bookstore. I've finished my high protein and fiber breakfast bar. I don't have any books handy to do homework with. And I've checked facebook about 25 times. No, zero cute girls have posted on my wall in the last five minutes.

Which leads me to all y'all! Happy wednesday and merry hump day. Have you eaten your apple?

I don't really have many things to say today. I had my interview. It went well. I get the impression that they aren't interested, but if they could hire everyone, they would, yadda yadda yadda.

It's crazy how only a few GPA points up or down can completely change your interview status. If I were .2 or evey .05 gpa points higher, I'd probably have gotten about 10 more interviews, instead of my five or six. On the other hand, if I were down by an equal amount, I'd have gotten zero interviews.

I guess that's a luck thing.

Or potentially not. It may well be that I am to be in that unhappy group that interviews exclusively to round-out the pool. At the end of the day, I'm not going to get a call-back, much less a job offer, and I'll have ultimately wasted my time and possibly my money buying a new suit for nothing.

Wow. That was bleak.

Law school is a funny place, because everyone spends so much time absorbed in their own problems. They may show this in different ways. For example, one person might never talk about their problems, but be constantly thinking of them. Another might speak out long and loud. Either way, the self-absorption is undeniable.

Consider myself. Here I am, complaining about wasting my time on interviews when I never get called back. For all intents and purposes, I'm in the upper echelon! The vast majority of 2Ls are getting zero interviews and have no idea what they are going to do over the coming months....

A hottie just walked by. "How you doin?"

And I'm back. What was I saying? Oh yes, self-absorption. So all of these people are getting no interviews and no job offers, and all I can think about is how lucky those people are who've already gone on call-backs. The fact of the matter is, until an offer has been placed at our table, we're all in this big, jobless boat together.

This would naturally suggest that we ought to single out those who've gotten offers and whine about them, right? Well, I'd often agree with that, but even that really isn't an option at the moment, because those people all seem to be really nice, hard-working individuals who deserve jobs at least as much as the rest of us.

Which leaves only one group. That's right. I'm talking to you, law students whose spouses either are or are going to be doctors!!! Way to leave some of the money for other people!

That, of course, was a little joke, if only because they also seem to fall into the category of nice and hardworking. No, the only people left to blame are the hirers of the world. Law firms seemingly have no conception of what would or would not make a good candidate, so they hire as tradition dictates.

This means they look for people like themselves; they hire under-represented groups; and they rely upon the completely useless 20 minute interview.

Oh how I hate them.

I should change professions. I should become a mime, move to New Orleans, have zero dollars resulting in forced weight-loss, and eventually become a vigilante, patrolling the streets to ensure that Metropolis is safe for another day.

That would be awesome.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

To Rise

At least at KU, no one really knows why one person might get a job offer or call-back where another person will be totally ignored. The prevailing myth is that law firms run a numbers game. There is an unspoken rule that large firms need X number of people of color, Y number of women, Z number of students returning from their 1L summer, and, once those slots have been filled, the remainder may go to the nearly 65% white, male population.

I'm willing to believe that this equation is at least somewhat true. In fact, were I in the shoes of the casual observer or the firm, I'd think such an equation was eminently reasonable.

It's only when I happen to be a white male who is getting so few interviews, call-backs, and job offers that I start to get antsy.

A second theory is that women as a group aren't being hired. Rather, small, pretty, (possibly) blonde women are being hired, because juries like to vote for attractive women. This also does not lie outside the realm of possibility. Honestly, can one fault a firm for trying to stack the cards in its favor?

I mention all of this because I have a very major interview tomorrow. More than having any kind of desire to practice in one particular field, I want to practice on a national level. I don't want to be a small town or local lawyer. I want to feel a connection with the world and the nation. I want to feel that my efforts affect not two or three people, but hundreds or thousands.

Tomorrow I interview with my first multi-office, multi-state firm. Because of my GPA, because of my standing, because of my lack of inherent multi-culturalness, and because of my lack of a hard science undergraduate degree, I have found myself relegated to small firms in small towns.
I say all of this, not to sound snide or snotty or uppity to my roots, but rather to shout out that I want to be someone on a grand stage. I am too young. I am unoccupied and unmarried. My dreams remain vast and have not yet been shot down, deflated, degraded, or sundered.

And yet all of these hopes rest in slingshotting myself into the stratosphere now.

As Americans, we pride ourselves as being individuals, men and women, who can be born in 90 year old, cobweb ridden farmhouses, born not in barns, but close enough that the smell of manure is a comfort, and yet who rise up to be President or Sam Walton or the "Can you hear me now" guy.

Tomorrow I have been granted one of the many lucky shots of my life. If I mess it up, if I totally fall apart, or even if I never had a shot and they selected me because they needed to fill all of their slots, I don't imagine that I'll feel crushed in any way. Trees don't die after a little bit of hail.

But getting this shot sure would be nice.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Superbad Halloween


In a bit of random searching that started with a look-up of no-hitters and perfect games, I came across reviews for Superbad. Roger Ebert liked it. Peter Travers liked it. Salon.com liked it.

It is without question hilarious. I'm willing to dress up as Seth, if anyone else is willing to be McLovin.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

If Only....

It's going to be past two by the time I post this blog, which means nothing good can come of it.

Oh well.


If only I were about four inches taller and thin/ripped, the women would be lining up.

This is what I think on what I would probably call a fairly frequent basis. Sometimes, when I'm trying to be more realistic, I'm willing to drop the 4 inches taller thing, since that, at least, is out of my control.

My thought is this: I have an incredible personality. Everyone, I mean EVERYONE, likes me. I'm pleasant. I'm outgoing. I network because I enjoy networking. If you put my personality inside the body of some greek god, that man would be could probably be king of the world.

Anyway, I found myself challenging that thought today. It was an odd experience. Not an incredibly odd experience, as I tend to spend my off time challenging my own notions, trying to perfect the imperfect beast that is NJ. No, I'd say it was only an odd experience.

By the way, if you haven't already guessed, this is going to be an introspective blog entry. Sign in next week for more comedy.

Autumn started today. Not officially, of course. Officially autumn doesn't start for a while. It's just that in my mind autumn begins with the first college football game of the year. That's one of those rules of the universe that may not be denied.

With autumn comes a special season. A friend once had the theory that couples get together in autumn, because people don't like being cold and lonely. The theory was slightly deeper than that, but only barely. The thing is, I actually like the theory. The world changes in autumn. Sure, there's the leaf thing, but that's only one visual cue.

The air changes. Everything becomes crisp. New possibilities intrude themselves upon our senses. And for some reason we all finding ourselves getting lonely. As much as I enjoy the strong emotions that I associate with autumn, I do envy the married and the coupled of the world.

Today I went to a football. We won. That's not the interesting part. The interesting part is all about what happened before and after the game. Have you ever seen The Family Man with Nicolas Cage? No? Yes? It doesn't matter, except you might catch the following reference.

I got a Glimpse today. I saw what my life might have been like, had I not chosen to live in Lenexa, and had I not decided to start school in the summer. It was a strange experience. I felt like I was living the life of some alternate dimension Nathan. I felt a Sliding Doors moment. I would not have been overwhelmed had someone said, "It's like what those Monty Python boys said." "What, always look on the brighter side of life?" "No, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition."

Tonight I ran with a crew that fit my sensibilities. They were all nerds, but, at the same time, were friendly and chatty and had no problem talking to girls. They were the kind of people that I always wished Triangle had been. And I got the sense that, if things had been different, these would have been my law school friends.

If I haven't said this before, I'll say it now, Law School is like high school. Each class consists of about 150 people. Everyone knows each other. Everyone runs in their own cliques. There is this sense that talk among cliques is welcome and even encouraged, but breaking down each clique to form new ones is practically impossible.

Like I said, high school.

Over the past two days, I've run with several of these cliques. I've hung with the laid back B-schoolers. I spent time with the party crowd. I've seen the cheerleader crew, the quiet girl crew, and even the Iowan girls. Yeah, that's a group too. And, finally, as mentioned, I spent time with the party nerd clan. I imagine one day they'll be better known as the local politicians.

In each group I knew I didn't belong. Each one was happy to have me along, because I really am a nice guy, but that was the trick. It was each group including me as an outsider.

I've come to realize, after this whirlwind two days, that that is really who I am right now. I'm the outsider. My closest law school friends are all married and don't need me in their social support group, because they all have significant others who perform the job of support group quite admirably.

It was with this realization that I came to challenge my supposition. "Getting the girl" takes patience and effort and a single-minded drive to exclude your friends.

I'm an outsider because I don't behave that way. I'm all inclusive, all the time.

But it's a little bit more than that. Underneath it all, behind that guy who is friendly and smiles and is well liked because he likes everyone, lies a nervous, introverted kid who is afraid to open up and let everyone see... what? Not my flaws. I proudly display those, often humorously and to great effect. Not my smarts and not my opinions. Those I also wave about.

I have to think that everyone has one quality that they are afraid to bring into the open. They hide it behind an impenetrable door, and, when another person sees it, they feel naked.

As dumb as this will sound, for me that thing I so desperately hide is emotion. That's it. I'm afraid to let people see that part of me that I can't control, so I mask it under steel and hide it in twinkling eyes and an open mouthed grin.

I'm afraid to say I love you. I'm afraid to show anger or sadness. At times it comes out, if rarely, and in those moments I'm dreadfully embarrassed and ashamed. Then I worry that people will see it and not like me, or feel uncomfortable around me.

So I put it back away. I put up my wall. I show the game face and don't let people in.

Eventually, over enough time, I let some of these defenses slip on purpose. When I feel comfortable enough around another person, I start to let them in, a little at a time. But, being such a nervous guy, I practically always need for the other person to make the first move.

Which is why I guess I'm wrong about women. Even if I were six foot four with a body sculpted like a male model I'd still have problems. Men are supposed to make the first move and be adventuresome and always elevate the relationship to the next level, both physically and emotionally, and that just isn't what I do.

I'm nervous. I'm interverted. I hide behind my wall. I flit from group to group.

It's been about an hour since I started writing, and I guess I've gotten my point across. If you've managed to make it to this point, I congratulate you. Listening to people belly-ache about their problems can really grow dull after enough time, and I'm sure I've taken more than enough from all of you loyal readers.

next time: why talking about money is sexy

note: You'll find I rarely keep my "next time" promises.