Preparing for War

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hello, friends!
My little army of RedBulls! They are going to war for me right now, seriously. I'm running on about 3 hours of sleep per night because the bar exam is less than a week away.

Although "crunchtime" is all about staying up until ungodly hours just to wake up minutes later and hit the books again, it's essential to maintain good health during this time. Does it matter how much you studied if you're sick come exam day?

Well, here are some quick tips on how to stay healthy when you're living that zombie life for a few weeks:

Take Vitamin C daily. Vitamin C protects your immune system, especially when you're under a lot of stress. If you'd rather not take a supplement, oranges, guavas, kiwis and grapefruits are good sources of Vitamin C, so grab a few of those for a healthy snack while you study. (Side note: Now that I mention food, have an egg or cereal for breakfast, especially the day of the exam, as studies show they boost concentration and memory. For more about this and other "brain food", click here!)

Stay hydrated. And no, I don't mean on a RedBull drip (although, I'm deathly close to that right about now). I keep a huge bottle of water nearby while I study. Your body is made up mostly of water (about 60%), so if you're going to stay up for days at a time, be sure to replenish it. Your brain works better when you're hydrated. Plus, cold water has a tendency to satiate hunger and prevent "study munchies", basically stop you from demolishing that bag of Tostitos in your pantry.

Take breaks. I know how tempting it can be to just plow through, but breaks can help you digest the material better. So take a moment to stretch your legs, change your scenery, exercise, listen to a bit of music, go on a coffee run or talk on the phone - anything to reboot. Even computers need to restart sometimes!

Ease into a normal sleeping schedule as the exam date approaches. Although many have warned me against it, all-nighters have been a necessary evil for me at times throughout my academic career. But you also want to be able to get a full night's rest the night before the exam, without feeling groggy in the morning. Your brain is much more astute when it's rested and much less prone to making careless mistakes. I find that the easiest way to do this is to start getting adequate sleep a few nights before. So, cut those all-nighters out 2-3 days before the exam! Also, a related piece of advice: on the days leading up to the exam, try to wake up and start studying around the same time that the exam will be. Your brain won't be accustomed to functioning at it's best at 8am if you've been on an afternoon/late night study schedule.

*Bonus tip! If your exam has a break in-between, be sure not to eat anything too heavy - it will make you sleepy for the rest of the exam! :)


"This is just a test."

Friday, July 19, 2013

There is only one instance in which this is true - scrolling over the top of your television screen as you watch Downton Abbey. Ok, I'm probably over-exaggerating but I know one instance in which it is definitely not true - the bar exam.

My Study Station.

Well, let's rewind. May 28th. Graduation. Truthfully, although I was very excited about the commencement of my law school career, I was not nearly as excited as others were, namely my parents, family members, close friends and my ever-so-loving boyfriend. I don't mean that in a negative way. It's completely understandable. While in law school (or any hard time in your life for that matter), those closest to you are usually suffering right along with you. I can't count how many times my boyfriend sat quietly on the end of the phone line, listening to me alternate between screaming about my finals and crying hysterically because failure was imminent, all the while dodging my hostile responses of "You don't know what it's like!" or "I most definitely do not!" to his "You got this" assurances (I sure was a raging you-know-what sometimes). And let's not even talk about the times my dad brought me groceries because I was too stressed out to think about stocking my fridge. The point is, those that love you do so much more for you than you realize when you need it most. Of course, they share in your successes as well. So on my graduation day, I glanced behind me to see my parents and my boyfriend leaning over the balcony and waving feverishly to get my attention (Really though, I was afraid one of them was going to fall overboard). It was adorable and made me feel so very loved, but I also just couldn't figure out why my cold, tiny heart wasn't brimming with the same excitement.

Five days later, I began Bar Prep classes. I arrived at nine in the morning (ok, more like ten) ready to learn some law. And when I left the classroom 4 hours later, I didn't feel nearly as drained as I expected to.

This won't be so bad afterall, said my subconscious.

Yeah, okay, we'll see about that, said the almighty Bar gods.

Photo Credit
Edited by me
And just a few short weeks later, I wanted to scream and cry all over again, and I realized why my graduation was so bittersweet. I'm preparing to take a bar exam that dictates whether I get to practice law and requires that I memorize nearly 20 different legal subjects. Pardon my language, but how in the hell am I suppose to remember all of this shit? Seriously. I'm suppose to remember off the top of my head that a firm offer doesn't require consideration, unless the shelf life indicated is more than 3 months, in which case one would need valid consideration in order to ensure that the offer is held open for the desired time and thereby converted into an option contract. And why do I need to commit to memory things that licensed lawyers look up all the time? No lawyer actually knows every little nuance of the law. Really, Bar gods? Really, truly? I can't. You can't or you won't? says my overachieving subconscious. Nope, I most definitely cannot. 

You know that quote about not understanding someone else's life until you've "walked a mile in their shoes." Although sometimes, it's incredibly cliche, I find that it's one of those invariable truths. Some criticize things they haven't experienced while others empathize, but I don't think anyone who's hasn't walked in the shoes of a recent-law-school-graduate-about to-take-the-bar can really understand it. So here's a glimpse into that journey, and two things, or statements rather, that people think are helpful, but in some cases, actually aren't (although I, and I'm sure all bar-takers, couldn't live without the support. Don't stop supporting us, please; we need it!):

Just one week left and you are done forever. 
Ok, I admit that I might be a minority of one on this one, but it might be one of the worse things that can be said to me while I'm studying. Sure, when people say it they intend to help, to remind you that it's not forever. Yet, it saddens me because I wish it was. Well, maybe not forever, but I'm constantly wishing I had more time. Another week and I'd know this stuff cold. It's probably not true, but it doesn't stop me from glancing at the clock in despair as hours go by feeling as though I've made no progress. It's like that damn countdown on the Bar Prep course website. "15 days until the Bar Exam." Why did they think it was good idea to remind me of how much I don't know and how little time I have to learn it all on the same webpage? I know, it's meant to encourage people, but it really only sends me deeper into depression.
With that said, after I've taken the exam feel free to remind me of how I'll never have to sit through a two-day 12 hour exam ever again. That's something I can celebrate.

It's just a test.
Yeah, the test that determines whether or not I get to practice law; the test could justify three years of torture and thousands of dollars of debt if I perform well on it; the test that determines whether I get a job/get to keep my job offer. It's not just a test - it's the test. The only one that ultimately matters. And to think we spend countless hours terrified of Evidence finals or seminar papers. Even though no one wants to, a poor grade can be explained away or made up for with a better grade in another class. But failing the bar? What can you say about that? "I failed the bar but  got a 3.5 GPA." Umm, no ma'am, still can't practice law; take it again. And the fear of having to retake the bar, having to study day in and day out yet again, is enough to paralyze me.

Photo Credit
Studying to capacity feels a lot like overeating and feeling like crap afterwards and knowing you'll have to do it again tomorrow. Force feeding yourself the laws of nearly 20 different subjects just to throw it all up on a piece of paper 2 months later. There is so much to memorize that I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of statutes and case law, grasping desperately for anything to scribble down.
I literally schedule breakdowns. "It's 4:55? Ok, I have 5 minutes to blubber like a wildabeast. *5 minutes passes* Ok, take a deep breath and do 33 questions in the next hour." It's hard to justify any time to do anything else but study. I eat while I watch lectures, I hold it and run to the bathroom during hypotheticals, and I use a shower as a break between MBE sessions. I hyperventilate as I take the time to write this post.

And while so many mid-20-something girls spend their summers lounging poolside MaiTai in hand, enjoying actually shopping (with all that money they make actually working for a salary) on Fifth Avenue on a warm afternoon, leaving the office at 3pm on Fridays to sip happy hour cocktails with the girls, taking fun vacations to South Beach or weekend getaways to Cape May with their amazing boyfriends (I'm totally talking about you right now. You know who you are, and you know I'm uber jealous), I'm just stuck in my studio-converted-into-a-one-bedroom apartment, breathing in 3-day-old air, wearing yesterday's sweats and tank top and praying desperately that I pass this godforsaken test - or at the very least, survive it.

I can't pretend it's all hell and shit storms. There are those downright amazing moments that happen when happiness, pure happiness, peaks through. Like when you wake up from a long night of studying to a text message from one of your best friends, the one you text back and forth with about how much this shit sucks, stating "We need to kill this & then we'll never have to take it again!!" And it makes you smile. Like when your crying hysterically and after somewhat subduing you, your boyfriend says "Hey, the NY State Board of Law Examiners website says that 86% pass the bar the first time. I never doubt you. You are the smartest person I know, you're in that percentage for sure, you can do it babe." And suddenly, instead of longing to fall into pieces on the floor, all you want to do is squeeze him until you burst.

It's sweet moments like those and the sometimes fleeting feeling that I can do this that sustain me. It's a horrible process but somewhere between crying and screaming, things become almost bearable. Eventually, some things just begin to "click", I start getting more questions right, and at times, the crazy scenarios hypothetical Ann, Bob and Carla get themselves into make me laugh and shake my head. Because the truth of the matter is I will survive it, and I will be better for it. At least that's what I tell myself everyday before I dive into a big red book full of riddle-like questions. But who am I kidding? No matter how almost bearable it becomes, I'm just trying to make it to the real bar to answer the only bar question that really matters:
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There's no way in hell I'm getting that one wrong.


Lipstick Stains and Coffee Cups

Thursday, July 18, 2013

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What the hell does that even mean? Is this blog about lipstick stains on a coffee cup?    
I've named my blog "Lipstick Stains and Coffee Cups" because I think that it uniquely symbolizes many of the things that matter to me. That makes no sense. Well, let me explain.

When thinking about creating a blog and putting all of my bloggy thoughts on the internet, I had to decide what kind it would be. And of course, in "typical me" fashion, I was indecisive. I wanted so badly to be able to narrow my interests down into this one word category like other blogs - sports, beauty, love, school, cars, cities… whatever. I thought "If I had to write 3 posts right now, what would they be about?" Literally, the first things that popped into my head were: Atonement by Ian McEwan, Lush USA body butter, reasons to dislike Lebron James, and salted caramel truffles (That's four. I was hungry). How can I be so specific yet so random? It's only when I thought about who I was and began to categorize the things that make me who I am that I was able to figure it all out.

And so "Lipstick Stains and Coffee Cups" was born (Cliché, ugh! But, really, how else can I say it?). These two things summarize two sides of who I am. Lipstick, to me, represents class, sophistication, and of course, beauty. I can't help but think of a classic 1950's woman, Dorothy Dandrige or Marilyn Monroe, with red lips, perfect hair and glowing skin. And coffee, well besides being my life source, it represents intelligence and deep thought. Every time I walk into a cafe, I wonder if the man in the corner typing on his laptop is writing the next Of Mice and Men, or if the guy by the window reading Sarte's Being and Nothingness is on the verge of greatness. The red outline of lips on a cup or glass is like a signature mark that a woman leaves behind her. You see it and you know there was a woman in the room. It's like saying "We are here." I like that.

So my blog will be about the things that make me, me - beauty, books, brains, brawn and everything in between. I'll rant and rave about a new novel, complain about my workload, review my holy grail foundation, post my cardio workout playlist, and write out how mad it makes me when people under- or over-estimate me. Prepare for stream of thought writing, overuse of parenthenticals (I apologize in advance), italicized inner thoughts and maybe even a run-on sentence or two (nobody's perfect!).

I'm inspired by, and this blog is inspired by, a quote from Elizabeth Taylor: "Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together." It's reminiscent of the whole pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps thing, but better. Words to live by .
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