All posts in Life

  • FYI Jury Duty is Actually Great

    image via Freerange Archives (CG Collection)

    (OK: it’s great unless someone died or was abused or some other traumatic event happened—that would be horrible and would make jury duty horrible. But in general, it rocks.)

    I was selected as a juror a few weeks back for a personal injury lawsuit. I served on the trial for five days. I thought I was supposed to dread jury duty—everyone groaned and offered tips to get out of it when I told them I’d been summoned—so when I got chosen, I dreaded it. But after day 1 of the trial, I was loving it, and after day 2, I was practically skipping home. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Here’s why:

    It’s Mentally Challenging & Intellectually Rewarding

    You have to really pay attention when a witness is on the stand—you’ll likely never get to hear that testimony again, and testimony is everything. Between the actual words a witness is speaking, their body language, and your background cognition of assessing their credibility, your brain is firing on all cylinders and you’re furiously taking notes. And it’s a very important use of your brain, which I appreciated so much. I know that sounds weird, but it was a really good feeling for me to leave the courthouse at the end of the day knowing I’d devoted my daily brainpower to something with serious, direct impact on lives.

    It’s a Fascinating Study in Human Behavior

    I positively marveled at the performance on display by both the witnesses and attorneys. Of course the lawyers were skilled influencers*, but even knowing they’d be doing their persuasion thing, I delighted in studying the specific words they chose, the phrasing in which they delivered them, the intentional pauses and suggestive facial expressions… To be able to send all those verbal and non-verbal cues while also laying out a narrative and adjusting to a witness’s sometimes-unpredictable testimony was super impressive.

    As for witnesses, here’s one thing I now know (as much as one can know after only one trial): When in question, it is human nature to oversell. Every single witness—even those who had no skin in the game and were only there because of some non-controversial information they had—seemingly felt compelled to over-explain each point they tried to make.

    Attorney: Was the treadmill in that position?

    Witness: Yes, it was like that…[should stop talking here, but:] and in fact, I’ve stubbed my toe on it several times!

    Attorney: Oh? So you have been in the exercise room several times, you would say?

    You see how this gets people into trouble. And yet every person up there under oath did it. Amazing.

    It’s the Most Down Time You’ll Ever Have on a Work Day

    I finished a book and took a few short online courses during my jury service. There’s a ton of waiting around—the courts move (necessarily) slowly and there’s a lot the jury isn’t allowed to see or hear—and it’s lovely. Well it’s lovely if you like quiet free time.

    You aren’t allowed to talk about the trial or even review your notes until you’ve heard all witnesses’ testimony and deliberation formally begins. So when the jury is excused from the courtroom, as it often is, you’re free to occupy your brain with whatever. (You can chat with your fellow jurors about anything but the trial, which I did do some—but usually I’d dive straight into my studies.) Each day of jury duty, I loaded up my backpack with a book, a notebook, and my laptop and practically giggled in excitement over the idea that I’d likely have so much time for learning and thinking. It was just the best.

    It’s a Ready-Made Opportunity for Civic Service

    The judge on my case said “thank you for your service” to my fellow jurors and me several times throughout the process, and at first it felt weird. I’d only heard that phrase used in addressing members of the military and government officials, and their service is far more significant than the handful of days I spent deciding whose fault the trip over the treadmill was. But as I was reminded, my participation in jury duty enables our judicial system to work like it does. Some people don’t show up** when they’re called for jury service—sometimes for legit reasons, sometimes because they feel they have more important things to do—so even just being there matters.

    I think many of us would like to contribute more to our communities and country, but we need a little nudge to get started. If you’re not a Leslie-Knope-type who knows the ins and outs of public service, the whole “getting involved” thing can feel intimidating. Listen: Being called for jury duty can be that nudge! In my experience, the judge, bailiff, and others go out of their way to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible—no sweat. It’s a well-organized, already-scheduled chance to perform a civic duty. Take it!

    And seriously, don’t dread it.

     

    *well, one of them was. The other was comically bad.

    **the consequences of skipping vary from nothing to fines to jail time. Just go.

     

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  • 3 Things You’ll Do After Your Wedding

    wedding-kiss

    all photos by Leslie Cervantez Photography

    John and I tied the knot a few months ago, on October 25th, 2014 in Houston, Texas. Since I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to marry him, and since we’ve been talking about marriage since early in our relationship, and since John planned the whole wedding and I sorta just showed up, and since I tend to remain relatively unfazed in big life moments for unknown reasons, I thought the wedding wouldn’t have a huge impact on me.

    Like of course I knew it would be WOW WOW WOW that night and the next weekend at the second reception in my hometown, but I pretty much assumed we’d jump right back into normal life that next Monday.

    Welp, LOL at that. Here’s how it went for me.

    You’ll “Work from Home” for a Week

    Oh hi, extreme exhaustion. I was wiped out like I’ve never experienced before. And listen, I had a tough job right out of college involving long and physical hours, frequent traveling, and very little sleep, so it’s not like I’ve never been REALLY tired. This was different, man. My body was donezo, but so was my brain, and so were my emotions. I was just a blob on the couch for like 5 days. John was, too, actually. That whole week is a blur.

    It sorta makes sense, though: all the excitement and celebrating and love and drinking and dancing and catching up and seeing people you haven’t seen in years… You’re just so zonked after it all.

    wedding welcome

    It’s fantastic, but it’s depleting. Don’t think you’ll get right “back to it.” And speaking of that…

    You’ll Decide Normal Life is Stupid and Sorta Shitty

    Weddings are freaking magical. You’re SO HAPPY and your families are SO HAPPY and your guests are SO HAPPY and there’s music and fun and laughter and cake and it’s just the best time ever. All is right in the world, nothing can bring you down, and you’ve got this perma-smile on your face the whole time.

    cutting the cake

    And then you get home and you’re like, this is it? This is my life? Wait, what? What am I doing? Why am I not traveling the world, curing cancer, saving endangered animals… Ugh this sucks. Who am I? Life! LIFE! I must live you better! This can’t be it.

    You go into a mini depression, really. The magic is over and your typical day-to-day just can’t compare. Eventually you readjust, though, and become pretty okay with normalcy (which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but that’s a topic for another day).

    You’ll Reconsider How You Feel About Yourself

    I had a bit of a panic attack at our second reception, the one in my hometown. It’s sort of a long story, but here’s the gist: I haven’t exactly kept up with my old friends — with any of my friends, really – which I stopped beating myself up about when I learned about introverts. It’s just not in my nature to reach out to people only to check in (i.e. without a specific purpose for contacting them) — even if I’m thinking about them, even if I love the shit out of them, even if I still consider them one of my “good” friends though they’ve likely moved on to people who actually talk to them.

    When I first created the guest list for my Indiana reception, it was very short — but that didn’t bother me. I knew I’d lost touch, and I didn’t want to make anyone feel weird by having to RSVP “no” because they felt like they barely knew me anymore. And then my mom started encouraging me to invite more people, assuring me they’d want to come. She was right about those people, but then I got carried away with the thought of having a good ol’ time with lots of my good ol’ friends, and I invited a ton of people from my past that I wanted to be a part of it, no matter how long it had been.

    wedding reception

    Keep in mind, there’s an expectation in southern Indiana that your wedding will be huge. Everyone knows each other, and everyone goes to everyone’s wedding. With that came another expectation: that our Indiana reception would be bigger than the Texas one. (I mean it’s not like I had people asking me the guest count every day, but at least among our families, it was understood that the Indiana guest list could blow up. Except it didn’t…)

    I got a lot of “no”s. Maybe those people really couldn’t come, or maybe they just didn’t care to. Either way is fine, really. Really! Putting myself in their shoes, I would have found it pretty random that I was invited, and politely declined. I wasn’t surprised at all that my “huge” Indiana reception was actually going to be rather intimate.

    But somewhere in my brain there was this “I suck” feeling I did my best to ignore over the following months…

    When we showed up at the reception, there were like 5 people there, and that’s not an exaggeration. And suddenly, oh, there it is, can’t ignore it now: I cared. I almost cried or puked or both. I went in the bathroom and asked myself to just get through the night, and then I could go back to Seattle and forget that I had no friends. Because that’s where the panic and sickness was coming from — I felt like I had no friends, and it was all my fault.

    This story has a happy ending, though. People showed up. It was a small crowd, but almost all my best girlfriends came. Almost all our close family friends came. I ended up having a blast.

    girlfriends

    When I got home, though, that “I suck” feeling kept popping up, and I seriously doubted how cool I was with myself for weeks. Who lets relationships fade like that? Who is so bad at friendship that half the people she was once super close with didn’t come to her wedding? I felt really shitty about this. I still do.

    But what helps is remembering what my friend Rachel said when I explained to her that as the “no”s rolled in, I had started to worry no one would be there at all: “Did you really think we wouldn’t come?” she asked, referring to our circle of girlfriends. “We love you.”

    Cue sigh of relief. I don’t have a lot of friends, but I have really great, understanding, with-me-for-life friends. I’m more than okay with that.

    Anyway, my point with this section: your wedding will stir up emotions and doubts you didn’t know you had. Give yourself some head space to work through it.

    Cassie Sanchez wedding picture

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  • What If You Stopped Believing Your Bad Habits Are Bad?

    coffee beans and crumbs on a plate
    image by basswulf

    “I really need to start leaving some food on my plate. I always eat every last bite. I probably eat so much food I don’t actually need just because it’s there…”

    I was saying this to myself in my head the other night after dinner. I’ve said it many times. But that night, for whatever reason, some part of my brain argued back:

    “Why? Why do I need to stop clearing my plate? I’m not even a little bit overweight. I eat mostly healthy foods. Is eating everything I’m served–by myself or others–really an issue? Maybe I’m filling my plate up with the perfect amount for me. Maybe the typical restaurant serving is actually appropriate for this fat kid in a little body. 

    I’ve heard plenty of times that my clean-plate habit is bad, so I believed it was.

    But is it really that simple?

    Other “Bad” Habits of Mine

    I skip social outings to stay home and read (am I making myself unhappy?), and I do a very poor job of keeping in touch with friends (am I making myself lonely?). I often don’t eat breakfast until several hours after waking up (am I screwing up my metabolism?), and I sometimes eat big meals very late at night (am I screwing up my sleep?).  I wear gym clothes and no makeup for work (am I hurting my productivity?), and I avoid talking on the phone (am I hurting my business?). I rarely stop to take pictures of special moments (am I failing to capture memories?), and I just can’t make myself post regularly to social media (am I failing to promote Alternative Badassery?).

    Without context, most would consider these habits bad, or at least counterproductive. But let’s take a closer look…

    They’re Habits Because They Serve You

    That whole internal debate over whether finishing all my food was truly problematic spurred a series of evaluations of many of the habits I’ve been thinking I need to break. Bailing on happy hours, not reaching out to friends, only sporadically interacting on social media–what if we said “Resting and relaxing, enjoying quiet time alone, keeping private things private” instead? Well, then it all just sounds like an introvert‘s means of self-preservation, doesn’t it? I’m merely behaving as I’m naturally inclined to behave.

    What about my late eating schedule? I don’t know, I haven’t actually noticed any negative side effects from this routine. My metabolism seems to be humming along just fine, and I’ve tried everything under the sun to help me sleep, including experimenting with what and when I eat–that doesn’t seem to be a factor. What’s interesting, though, is that shifting my eating times back usually means I get more done in the day, because I’m able to allocate more of the morning–when I’m at my best–to other tasks. I get to breakfast after my brain power dies down a bit. What’s the problem here? Why do I keep thinking I need to change this?

    As for not “getting ready” for work, I am no more productive with makeup and presentable clothes on. Again, I’ve tried it. All getting dressed and pretty does for me is take up time in my day that I could be working. And phone calls? I’m horrible. I’m awkward and ineffective on the phone and always rush the conversation. My business is better served if I stick to email. It’s just a stronger form of communication for me.

    Oh, and never taking pictures? Turns out I may remember more of the experience by not snapping a photo of it anyway. Sweet.

    Are Your Bad Habits Actually Bad?

    I’m not saying you should rationalize smoking a pack a day, or finishing a bottle of wine or pint of ice cream every night. C’mon.

    Maybe, though, what you’ve been told is a bad habit is actually a helpful practice in your life. And maybe, then, you can give yourself a break about needing to change things. You can ignore the advice that’s good for most people and just go with what works for you.

    I’m betting you can avoid some future failed New Year’s Resolutions this way. What do you think?

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