Tuesday, May 26, 2020

10 Graduation Gift Ideas for Class of 2020 Grads

Right around this time of the year, the class of 2020 would have been celebrating graduations as they move on to their next steps. However, due to COVID-19, we've all been forced to adapt to a new way of life. For the class of 2020, this meant missing senior year festivities, having to say goodbye to classmates over social media, postponed celebrations with close friends and family, and virtual graduations. Having to miss out on these big moments is hard, so it's important to remember our graduates in this difficult time and to celebrate their accomplishments. If you're stumped on graduation gift ideas, I rounded up 10 great gift ideas for grads at varying price points that range from fun to professional.

This post contains affiliate links, meaning , at no extra cost to you, I may earn a commission if you click the links and make a purchase

1. Gift Cards
Gift cards are always a great gift idea. You may not know exactly what your grad wants or needs, so this takes out the guess work. Amazon is a great company to send a gift card from since there are so many options. College textbooks can be bought at a (somewhat) cheaper price, there's a great selection of school or office supplies, and there are items that your grad could buy just for personal enjoyment. I also love that you can shop through Amazon Smile where part of your payment goes to a charity of your choice. You could also get your grad a gift card to Starbucks, Panera, their favorite shop, or to a local small business. Most gift cards can be sent over email so there's no worries about coming in contact with other people. Your grad will appreciate being able to treat themselves to something nice!

2. Amazon Prime Membership
Whether your grad is headed to college or moving into a new post-grad apartment, odds are that they'll need to buy a few things. An Amazon Prime Membership will give them expedited delivery, discounts on Amazon products, access to free Kindle books, Amazon Prime Video, and Amazon music, and other great perks. An Amazon Prime Membership can help your grad long after they receive their diploma.

3. Headphones
Studying in noisy places can be tough. Dorms are usually bursting with activity, people working on group projects in libraries can make focusing hard, and sometimes you just want to listen to your own music. Headphones are a great graduation gift for your college-bound senior, future graduate students, or budding professionals. Airpods are a popular choice because they're small, easy to pop into a bag, and can charge in their case. They're also conspicuous enough to listen to music while you work and have built-in microphones if you need to make a call. Another great option are Over-Ear Headphones (the ones pictured come in black, blue, teal, purple, red, and white). The sound quality on these are great, and they also come with noise canceling features if you just want a quieter environment without playing music. Bose is also claimed to be the authority on headphones if you want to splurge on a really nice set.

4. Books for Pleasure Reading
When everyone is cooped up inside, it can be fun to escape into a literary world for a while. Pleasure reading books are also a nice break from reading dry textbooks. Find out your grad's favorite genre and stock them up on a few bestsellers! I just finished Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman and cannot recommend it enough! Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is also a great book and has a recently-released Hulu series adaptation (check out my review here). Your book-loving grad will be so excited to get into a good book as they enter their next chapter of life!

5. Streaming Service Subscriptions
In between all the studying your future college student will be doing, they'll also need some time to relax. A favorite college activity has always been watching Netflix in bed. Hulu, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video are also great options to keep your grad entertained.

6. Keychains
Keychains are a cute gift to recognize your grad's accomplishment that they can take with them wherever they go. They're a great way to personalize a set of keys and jazz them up a bit. I have a couple that I like to keep on my own keys that always make me smile. They can also be added to backpack zippers, hung on cork boards, added to bookmarks, or kept in a jewelry box as a reminder of an accomplishment. Keychains are also pretty inexpensive, have so many different designs, and won't break the bank even if you get them customized.

7. Mugs, Tumblers, and Glasses
Creative drinkware is always a fun idea! There are so many different options that can be customized to something your grad would love! Most people drink coffee, water, wine, or something else, so mugs, tumblers, and glasses will definitely get a lot of use.

8. Picture Frames
This one is my personal favorite. Pictures let us look back on happy times in our lives. Being robbed so many fun end-of-the-year memories that your grad was no doubt looking forward to is tough. Picture frames can be a way to remember the good parts of their final year in school that made them smile. They also add a personal touch to dorms and apartments.

9: Padfolios
A great gift for emerging professionals is a padfolio. Before law school, I had never used one of these, but once I started using it, I loved it! They can hold papers, business cards, and other small items, and they have a sleeve for a legal pad and a loop to keep a pen in. Padfolios are an excellent item to bring along to interviews to hold extra resumes, keep business cards, and jot down notes. They're also super useful during internships and look much more professional than just a pad of paper and a pen clipped to it.

10. Work Bags

As your grad enters the working world, they'll need a sturdy bag that can hold a laptop, files, a wallet, keys, and any number of other things. It's best to go with a neutral colored bag that can stand on its own and will be able to hold a fair amount. My parents bought me the Tory Burch Robinson Tote in the picture on the left as a college graduation gift, and it survived all through law school and is still in perfect condition. This Laptop Bag (center) and the  Kate Spade New York Women's Margaux Large Tote (right) are also great options. Having a professional-looking work bag will send your grad off to the working world confident and put together.

Do you have other suggestions for great graduation gifts? Let me know in the comments!

Make today the best page yet,

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Best Paige In The Book Review: The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you click the links and make a purchase
When I looked up An American Marriage by Tayari Jones on Amazon, The Queen of Hearts by Kimmery Martin was listed as a book that readers also read. Since I loved An American Marriage so much (read my review here), I figured The Queen of Hearts would be a good one to check out as well. It seemed like a lighter read after such a heavy topic in An American Marriage, so I dove right in. Overall, it was a good read that didn't take too long to get through.

This book focuses on the friendship between Emma and Zadie, both of whom are doctors, and a secret from their past that threatens to upend their friendship and possibly their medical careers. Zadie works as a pediatric cardiologist, and Emma is a trauma surgeon. They met at a summer camp for science in their youth and became fast friends. Emma and Zadie went to medical school together where they expanded their friend group and started relationships while working to become doctors. During their third year of medical school, Zadie falls for chief resident Nick Xenokostas, and they start seeing each other. The charming and charismatic Nick is only more attractive because Zadie's relationship with him has to be kept secret. However, tragedy from that year causes an unexpected end to the relationship. Zadie and Emma have since moved on from that year in medical school and settled down in Charlotte, North Carolina where their lives revolve around medical careers, their friendship, their husbands, and their children. The friends are happy with where they are in life- that is, until Nick reappears and takes a job working alongside Emma during a plight in her career. Nick's reappearance causes the friends to re-examine what really happened during their third year of medical school, threatens to unearth old secrets, and puts Emma and Zadie's friendship in jeopardy. Will the secrets come out and ruin an age-old friendship?

This book was very well thought-out. If you're a fan of Grey's Anatomy, then this is definitely something you'll enjoy. Martin tells the story from the perspectives of both Zadie and Emma, and she also jumps around in time to tell her characters' stories as the past weaves itself into the present. Martin, who is a doctor herself, utilizes her education and experience to create a very believable environment for her characters and their lives.  There was a lot of medical terminology that I was thankful Martin took the time to spell out for those of us who try to avoid hospitals at all costs. The writing came off as intellectual and at times almost pretentious. Overall, I felt this added to the credibility of Martin's characters as doctors.

I enjoyed reading this book. I wanted something that was more fictional and removed from my problems or the problems of the world, and this book hit the mark. Reading about Zadie's relationship with Nick made me reminisce on my own choices that maybe weren't the best, but felt so exhilarating in the moment that I didn't care. The friendship between Zadie and Emma was also heartwarming. Watching all the emotions the characters experienced play out proved to be an entertaining read.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Favorite Quotes:
  • "With him, I was a more vivid version of myself."
  • "All you need to do to believe anything is surround yourself with a herd of like-minded reinforcers, and there’s no need for objective reality at all."
  • "How often in life did you meet someone whose presence caused you to blaze into an immediate erotic meltdown every single time you saw them? Every glance between us was charged; every utterance, every physical contact, no matter how slight, seemed to rearrange the very molecules of the air around us into incandescent conductors of longing. No wonder people used heat metaphors to describe passion."
  • "This feeling was why people got addicted to heroin, why people risked everything for affairs, why people jumped from airplanes . . . this rush of being as completely alive as it is possible to be, a honey-thick ecstasy coursing through your veins."
  • "It left me so vulnerable, this perception of myself as an impostor. I was brittle and rude sometimes, trying to overcome the ache of pretending."
  • "I was older; my life had irrevocably changed. My younger self had thrived on intensity, but now I knew the bottomless, elementary pull of love for my husband and children. I should no longer want to be consumed by the sun when I could bask safely in the glow of the moon."
  • "The way he looked at me was unsettling: a rapacious gaze, too familiar, still somehow electrifying after the passage of years."
  • “Your past is set, but your future is wide open,”

I recommend this book. The plot is engaging and plays out like a medical drama. I was eagerly page turning until the end. You can get this book here on Amazon. Let me know what you think!

Make today the best page yet,

(All images and text reprinted with permission from Penguin Random House LLC)

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting Law School

The past few months in COVID-19 lockdown have definitely made me nostalgic. In trying not to dwell on all the things I'd be missing out on, I tried to look back on the happier times and the lessons I've learned over the past three years. Law school is a long and difficult experience, and everyone is bound to make mistakes that they wish they could have avoided. Here are some of the things I wish I had known about:

1. Get Involved with MEANINGFUL Pro Bono Work
My pro bono work was probably the most inspiring part of my law school journey. Most of my classmates who weren't on the BigLaw train were interested in public interest positions. I admittedly wasn't sure which camp I resided in when I started law school. My first semester I kept my involvements to a minimum, and balked at the idea of getting involved with pro bono work that would take away from my studies. After accepting an unpaid public interest summer internship, I decided to work towards getting enough pro bono hours to qualify for a summer grant. The organization I chose to work with ended up being a glorified study hall: maybe 3 clients came in the entire semester, everyone just studied in silence while they were there, and I got nothing out of it. The next year, I talked with my school's public interest office about pro bono work, and they pointed me to a different organization. I loved the work I was doing, I felt like I was actually making a difference, and I definitely improved my skills. I continued to work with this organization through my 3L year, and I'm actually still helping after graduation. One of the clients whose case I did almost all of the work on got a HUGE compensation package, and I about cried when I heard the news (and I do NOT cry in public)! I've gotten a few recognitions for my pro bono work, and I attribute those to the fact that I am so in love with the work that I've gotten to do. My confidence in myself and my abilities has absolutely soared from my pro bono work, and I cannot encourage law students enough to get involved with pro bono work that inspires you. There are so many different kinds of pro bono opportunities. Your school will likely have a list of clinics and organizations it sponsors, and your local legal aid office likely has some opportunities for students as well! Not only does this look good on a resume because it shows that you care about helping others, but you get to do actual legal work that will make you a better employee. You can also make a lot of connections that could lead to opportunities down the road. Find something that you are truly passionate about, and see how you can help!

2. Choose Your Roommates Wisely
While roommates can be helpful financially, I personally would recommend getting your own apartment if possible. Living in close quarters with people who have different ideas of how to share space can be tricky. Add in the stress of law school, and it can get pretty explosive. If you're going to opt for roommates, try to get on the same level (and stay on the same level) for expectations on cleaning, guests, noise levels, and communal spaces. It's also helpful to meet the people you're planning to live with and get to know each other before deciding to sign a lease.

3. Take Classes You're Interested In
There are so many classes in law school to pick from. Your first year classes will likely be mostly selected for you, but in your second and third years you have much more freedom. There will probably be a few required courses you'll have to take outside of your first year in order to graduate. I would recommend taking these as soon as you can. Scheduling courses is always stressful, and knowing you met your graduation requirements early on can alleviate some of that stress. If there are scheduling conflicts, electives are easier to let go of than classes that you have to have. I waited until my last semester for one of my required courses, and it made scheduling a pain. There was a class I really wanted to take but couldn't since it would have conflicted with the required course. Learn from my mistake. Once you have taken the classes you have to take, think about what kind of law you want to practice. If you want to go into litigation, see if there are any classes for trial advocacy. Future transactional attorneys may be interested in a contract drafting course. While you should try to take bar-tested courses to prepare you to study for the bar, you'll still have to re-learn the materials during bar prep. Don't completely ignore bar classes, but don't focus solely on them. You'll do so much better in a course you actually have interest in rather than something you're just taking to fill time or because you "have to" for the bar. Another point on classes, try to get some experiential learning classes into your schedule. You'll learn actual lawyering skills that will give you a taste of what actually working in the profession is like, and they're great resume boosters! I took a pretrial motions practicum course and the adjunct that taught the class actually helped me land my externship! Interviewers have also been much more interested in my experiential classes than the doctrinal ones. Try to fit in classes that will mimic what you'll be doing as an attorney to get experience that will help you down the line.

4. Focus Your Interests
I go back and forth on this, but overall I think it would have been helpful had I done it. I did internships in two different states (neither of which I'm going to be practicing in) and in different fields of law. My externships and pro bono work are also a bit mismatched. While I 100% believe it's important to explore differnt areas of law, being able to have a narrative of clear interest in your resume is also helpful. My fiancé is interested in prosecution, and his resume is filled with criminal law internships, coursework, and volunteer work. He's had a much easier time applying for jobs than I have. On the other hand, I feel like I'm able to appreciate a wider variety of practices and have an understanding of a few different types of law. While this gives me plenty to talk about in interviews, having a clear picture of what location I want to be in and what area of law I want to practice would probably make me a better candidate in the eyes of employers.

5. Make Time For Fun
I was so focused on doing well my first year that I didn't do much else than study, study, study. Looking back, I think if I gave myself some time off it would have made me relax more and have higher quality study sessions. My friends all joke that they barely saw me outside of class that first year. There were a lot of times I regretted not having a bit more fun once in a while that first year. Studying is super important, but making friends and memories is also important. My friends are what really helped me through law school, and I would have had such a miserable experience if I kept myself locked at my desk the entire time. I also let my hobbies slip, and I became a much happier person once I picked them back up. Crocheting while binge-watching Netflix was always a great way to have something to do when I didn't feel like going out, and reading was a great escape when I didn't want to think about classes for a while. Doing the things outside of law that make you smile can improve your time in law school and make it so much more enjoyable.

6. Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help
I'll be the first to admit I am not the greatest at this one. I've always had the mindset of "don't let anything get in your way" and "you have to fight for what you want." Admitting that I need help has never been something that I liked to do. Walking into a professor's office and saying "I really don't understand this, can you please help?" seemed like a fool's errand. I didn't understand the value of studying hypothetical situations and discussing them with professors. However, if you don't understand something, chances are that other people don't either. I was used to being the smartest person in the room, but in law school, so is everyone else. I felt dumb if I didn't understand something right away. Study groups seemed like a way for some people to show off how smart they were while others just internally cowered in fear. Well, that changed. I was talking with a friend about a problem we went over in class, and it turns out we were both confused. So we went to talk to another group of people- also confused. The law can be as clear as mud sometimes. Going to talk to your professors about class materials is a way to help you understand the concepts and maybe feel a bit better about where you stand. Law school also comes with a mountain of stress, anxiety, and a myriad of other mental health issues. Don't be afraid to talk to a counselor if you're feeling any of these things. Law school is tough, and needing help is a normal thing.

As my time in law school comes to an end, I want to wish anyone still there (or going there soon), the best of luck! I believe in you, and I'm always here to talk! To any law school veterans, what do you wish you knew before starting law school?

Make today the best page yet,

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Dear Class of 2020

This week was supposed to be a long string of celebrations. My classmates and I would have finished our final exams and spent our evenings going to bars, hanging out together, and smiling about the ways we all found joy amidst struggling through law school for the last 3 years. My fiancé and I would be going out to new restaurants and other jaunts while we enjoyed a few days off without the stress of school and before digging into preparing for the bar exam. My family and his would be coming to Atlanta this weekend to watch us don doctoral robes and receive our hard-earned law degrees.

I had watched the classes before me celebrate this incredible milestone and waited patiently for my own moment. I poured my heart and soul into pro bono work during my time in law school and earned a medal to wear at commencement. Before I left to visit my parents, I had bought the perfect graduation dress in my school colors and had my eyes on a pair of shoes that would match both my dress and my graduation regalia. Just last week I received an email saying I was chosen for a commencement award. I had this glittering image of what the final culmination of the last three years would be, but now it's gone.

Since COVID-19 began being taken seriously, I dealt with the loss of my last year in school with varying levels of success. However, knowing what this week was supposed to be has made accepting my fate more difficult than it has been the last few months. I know I'm not alone in mourning the loss that the class of 2020 bears, so I wanted to take this time to address my fellow graduates going through the same things I am:

Dear Class of 2020,

I wish we weren't in this situation. I wish we were out enjoying the spring weather with our friends and laughing about the years that led us here. We've all put in hours of studying, stressed about any number of things, faced tragedy, worked hard, found success, and grown as people. I wish we were all focusing on how to wear our hair under a graduation cap, trying to remember "accept with the left, shake with the right", and looking forward to the next steps of our lives. We made it so far, and it doesn't seem fair to be at the mercy of a pandemic.

To the high school graduates: You have so much life to look forward to. If you're heading to college, you are going to meet so many new and different people. When I graduated high school, I couldn't wait to get out of the hometown I spent my whole life in, and I found such a wonderful place to call home for the four years I spent in undergrad. While your first semester, or even year, may not be the traditional experience, this will pass, and you'll get an authentic college experience. If you're taking a gap year, use that time to learn or explore or whatever else brings you joy. There are so many experiences to be had, and they're waiting for you. If you're entering the workforce, enjoy having more independence. If you're joining the military, thank you for being selfless and supporting your country.

To the college graduates: My heart weeps for you. Getting those "last hurrah" moments taken away is so unfair to you. I encourage you to look back on the happy memories that you did get to make. Also the memories that maybe aren't so great, but that you grew into a stronger person from. When I was in college, I grew so much as a person and made some wonderful memories along the way. While the experiences you looked forward may not be a reality any more, hold on to the experiences you did get to make. If you're heading to graduate school, get excited for becoming the educated professional you allowed yourself the opportunity to become. You will develop so much and get to experience the career you dreamed of. If you're getting a "big kid job," be proud of the accomplishment you have achieved that led to you to being able to get that position. You worked hard, and hopefully are entering a field that makes you happy. If you're unsure about next steps, embrace the uncertainty! You have so much time to figure out where you want to go next, and there's no set timeline to get there. Shadow people in careers you're interested in, intern at places, volunteer, travel, do whatever you think will lead you where you need to be.

To the graduate school graduates: I feel your pain. After making it through endless years of school, having the big culminating ceremony marking the end of your education was supposed to be a big deal. Maybe you're planning to go back to school later on, in the fall, or at some undecided future time. Maybe you're finally getting to have your dream career. Maybe you're uncertain about whether you'll get to sit for the bar exam because it's being handled so poorly (looking at you NCBE!). Wherever your next steps take you, know that you have accomplished such an incredible feat, and you're going to do great things in the world!

This situation has been hard on everyone, but I want to give the Class of 2020 a special moment to celebrate ourselves and our hard work. It's okay to be upset about the loss of a major milestone celebration. We have all done an incredible thing, and we have earned the right to honor that. Let yourself grieve. Once this is all over, we will emerge stronger and more resilient than ever. Congratulations Class of 2020!

Make today the best page yet!