Photograph courtesy of Dr David Tan
Geri is Legal Adviser to the President of the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal, and Adjunct Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Law. She read law at NUS (LL.B.), University College London (LL.M.), and Leiden University (Dr. iur.), and space studies at the International Space University. She was previously the principal legal officer in the Chambers of H.E. Judge Sir Christopher Greenwood CMG QC at the International Court of Justice, and legal officer in the service of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany. Geri has 15 years of academic experience in the law, and has taught and conducted research in China, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, and the United Kingdom. She loves making up recipes to test on the unsuspecting, as well as contemporary interior design (check out her attempt here).
This is a Letter addressed to Padawan Geri who, the week after her final year results at NUS were released, has just received a full scholarship to the International Space University’s Space Studies Program. Will it be pupillage and the bar, or off to outer space?
You’re the girl who came to the Law from math and pre-med, who struggled to understand that not all problems could be reduced to a single answer. You’re the girl who chose to go to Law School instead of Medical School, because you believe that people need a reason to live as much as the means to do so. You’re the girl who went through Law School crippled by your awkwardness and reticence (you’ll learn that your condition is called “introversion”), who never hung with the cool kids. You’re the girl who doubted you’d get anywhere in the law, because in your mind you weren’t as eloquent, or intelligent, or sociable, or confident, as the people around you.
You’re the girl who found her twin soul (at Law School, of all places!), the best friend with whom you conquered the world (ok, just the Lachs moot competition, but it did feel like the world had been won). You both were the girls who loved the law but who, individually, loved veterinary science (her) and international relations and space engineering (you). You’re the girl who, with your best friend, constantly wondered whether law school was a good idea at all. You’re the girls who would laugh and say, hell yeah, we found each other here, so it can’t be all bad.
You’re the girl who wanted to be an astronaut.
You’ll be the girl they remember at Law School as the “space cadet”, the one who fell off the face of the reasonable good earth, the one who skipped out on the PLC and the bar to follow her dream into outer space. You’ll be the girl who returned to that Law School, a decade-and-a-half on, to tell your outer space story to a new generation.
You’ll be the girl who lapped up the classes in magneto-hydrodynamics at the International Space University. You’ll be the girl who will present the study team’s project on astrobiology to the World Space Congress in Houston that same year. You’ll be the girl who was at her most incandescent then, finally immersed in her natural habitat and among her natural kick-ass, space-loving brethren. (You’ll also meet your other best friend at the International Space University. Who also wanted to be an astronaut, and instead grew up to build spacecraft and space stations. One day, you both will have a son who will also want to be an astronaut. Hopefully, your son will be more successful than either of you!)
You’ll be the girl who had your Eureka moment at the Space Generation Congress in Bremen, when your mind finally expressed what you could not articulate before: That your two loves, international law and space exploration, embodied your lifelong goal to contribute to the long-term survival of our species. That if you could not be an astronaut, then you certainly would work to make sure everyone else could be.
You’ll be the girl who stood outside the Peace Palace, refusing to join the grand tour, promising never to step foot in that beautiful building until you earned the right to work there. You’ll be the girl who finally walked in seven years later to work for one of the best mentors anyone could have asked for.
You’ll be the girl who will lose her best friend in a tragic car accident. You’ll be the girl living her parallel life, forever only one-half of the twinned souls who should never have been torn asunder. You’ll look back on your plans to have been the girls who established the world’s first surfer-babe law firm, and wonder what that would have been like. You’ll be determined to live your life with Attitude, as if it’s all on borrowed time, in honour of the best friend who loved you and supported your space dreams. You’ll be the girl who will write that international space law textbook because you both had agreed that you one day would.
You’ll be that girl, if you would but dare to be.
You’ll always be the girl who would rather be incredibly bad than simply mediocre, although, to be honest, you’d prefer to be spectacularly brilliant. You’ll always be the girl who wants it all to be fair, and who rails against the world each time it isn’t. You’ll always be the girl who, when true to your magnificent self, will be a daredevil and a straight arrow.
You’ll always be the girl who wants to be an astronaut.
You’ll always be (with apologies to Sarah Williams) the girl whose soul may set in darkness, but who will rise in perfect light; for you have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.
Ad astra, ad infinitum et ultra!
Geri at the Peace Palace. Photograph courtesy of Gérardine Goh Escolar