"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.

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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:
Photo Credit
There's no way in hell I'm getting that one wrong.


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