On Living in Irvine

by ursavoice

Jennifer Henry
J.D. Candidate 2013, UCI Law

Moving to Irvine was not a totally easy transition for me. That said, there are palm trees and I am wearing a short-sleeved shirt in February. I will survive. But even given the insanely nice weather, Irvine life has required some adjustment after living and working in a semi-bustling downtown in a city full of neighborhoods.

I am sure I am not the only one; I think we all need to find strategic ways to cope as we make ourselves comfortable in our three-year homes (or longer-term homes, for those of us who are faculty and staff). I would bet that even those among us who grew up here are finding new ways to exist in Orange County as part of the UCI Law community.

Coffee shops are like a microcosm of my broader mission to make myself at home here. I love coffee shops, and not just because they provide me a steady stream of inexpensive legal addictive stimulants and a quiet place to work. Unlike my house, which also has these things, coffee shops provide some likelihood that somebody will notice if I watch Janet Jackson music videos on YouTube instead of reading. For $1.50 or so, coffee shops give me temporary community. My books and I have access rights to about three square feet of real estate. I breathe the same air that nearby strangers breathe and somebody knows I exist that day. I recognize the chess group at Peet’s on Friday nights and the Saturday morning group of old men discussing the price of gold, wheat, etc. It reminds me of what seeing my neighbors felt like, back when I lived in a place where more than two of us occupied each square mile.

Some days, I make friends. Really, Dean Chemerinsky makes me friends. About once a week, I have to remove my headphones to respond to the question, “Excuse me, do you go to law school? Do you know Erwin Chemerinsky? He saved me from [Constitutional Law/the bar exam/insert dire situation here].” And then I get a life story. Or a blog address. Or encouragement that law school is hard, but being a lawyer is rewarding. I tell myself that I am annoyed by the interruptions, that I am only being polite to show the community how nice we UCI Law students are, but I love these impromptu conversations. It makes me think that I belong here and that UCI Law belongs here. It reminds me that good, interesting, kind people go on about their lives, no matter what the landscape looks like.

This is also a plea for you to try Paradise Perks at Jeffrey and Irvine Center Drive if you have not been there already. It is awesome, and is one of the few independent coffee shops in Irvine. Moreover, my productivity depends on it staying in business.