Sunday, July 18

i could not have said it any better

My lovely twitter friend directed me to this post...  "Thanks, But No Thanks" wrote this fantastic post yesterday ...you can see the original on her blog HERE. I had to repost because she captured EXACTLY how I am feeling... but let's be honest, knowing that everyone else feels this way STILL doesn't make me feel any better.

One night, I got a text from Miss Legally Fabulous that said something along the lines of, "Taylor Swift sings the songs of my heart"...haha. That is totally how I felt when I read this post...you know, except not about Taylor...
** edit - i was just informed that it was "taylor swift tells stories. our stories." **


Please stop telling me I'm going to pass the Bar.

I am not a panicker. I never have been. I'm a major proponent of the Seriously Just Chill The Hell Out school of major life event prep, and I've been known on more than one occasion to tell 1Ls, OLs, and everyone else who will listen that they need to stop taking life quite so seriously. But right now? I'm panicking. Ten days till the bar exam, and every time I start to think about it, I feel like I may break out in hives.

I suspect this is the case for most of my fellow test-takers. Yes, we need to stop taking ourselves so seriously. But also? Even for the most chill among us, this is A Really Big Fucking Deal. $100,000 in loan debt and three years later, this is the test that will determine whether we actually get to be a lawyer. And no, 2Ls, I am sorry to inform you: that $100,000 that you'll be paying off till you're 50 did nothing to actually prepare you for this exam. So here, in this 2 1/2 month timeline, you must cram everything there is to know about this state's law into your head, and hope that most of it sticks come exam time. It's an extraordinary amount of pressure, akin to nothing else I have done in life.

To varying degrees of certainty, we all think we're going to fail. One good friend of mine called his mother this week, to tell her he thought maybe he should just give up now. Clearly, he wasn't going to pass, and it seemed like a waste to ruin the last few days of his summer working for something he wasn't going to get. Another friend has been waking up in a panic for nights on end, because she keeps having nightmares about the MBE.

If you've not studied for the bar exam, this may not make sense to you. It's just a test, after all. And that's true. If you don't pass, well, you'll take it again. Perhaps I'm an unreliable narrator, being in the thick of it myself (and having just had a hyperventilating panic attack because no. I do not have 45 minutes to make dinner. Must. Study. More.), but I have to reassure my readers who are not in the thick of it: these are not neurotic people. These are normally sane, sweet people, who have a great sense of humor about themselves. People who are B students not because they can't hack it, but because sometimes, it's sunny out, and going golfing seems like a better idea than Tax. We are not, generally speaking, panickers.

Still, to a (wo)man, we're all pretty sure we're going to fail.

When I say to you, "I am going to fail the bar," I don't mean it the way a nerdy college sophomore proclaims "omg! I am totally going to fail this chem exam." I don't mean that I might get a C, or I might not be the smartest kid in the room. I mean that, come November, I. Might. Fail. The. Bar. In fact, there's a 50% likelihood that I will. When I tell you that I think I am going to fail, I'm not saying it because I need affirmation that I won't. I'm not kidding. I'm not over-reacting. When I say that, I'm trying to warn you of what might come.

Darwin asked me a few days ago if I would check to see if some of my Least Favorites from law school had passed the bar. Surprisingly, I found myself answering in the negative. Let's make no mistake. I am a mean, spiteful person, who on more than one occasion has wished that members of my class got hit by a bus. I'm not nice. But this experience? It's so miserable, I don't even have the heart to wish it on someone else.

Here's the horrifying thing about bar results: they're spectacularly public. Unlike the LSAT, you can't hide out, and pretend that your score wasn't totally shameful, or that you aren't studying for the test, or that you didn't really care. You do care. Unless you live in a cave, everyone knows that you're studying for an exam, because you look haggard, miserable, and short tempered, and they never see you anymore. The list of bar passers is publicly posted. So, when the final results come out (in California, that's November: just in time to ruin both Thanksgiving and Christmas), and your name isn't on that very public list, everyone knows. In that one epic moment, it's awfully hard to get away from the nagging conviction that's been chasing you all summer: You're not as smart as you thought. You're not as smart as anyone thought. You're a failure.

Now, lots of smart people fail the bar exam. For a variety of reasons, it happens. These people are not failures. I can look at these people---people who I know and respect, and consider them bright, competent, amazing attorneys. The younger ones, I love and respect. I don't think they're idiots. For the older ones, it's a war wound, and a mark of character: proof that they really do "get" the real world. But if I don't pass? You guessed it. I'm a failure. Nobody said this psychology made sense.

The non-lawyerly types won't check the bar passers list, of course. Probably. But they will ask, with gleeful anticipation, if you've gotten your results in. And they're happy to ask, because these well-meaning family members and friends really do believe that you will pass, and their faith in you will be vindicated. Here's the trouble with that, though: if you've been saying, over and over again "Oh don't be silly! You'll pass!", when I have to face facts with you that I, in fact, did not pass, I'm going to have to face that ominous and awkward silence, followed by your condolences. I will then have to have this conversation with every person who asks.

And here's the thing about that: there's no getting away from the fact that you failed the bar. You can't even claim that you just got desperately ill halfway through and couldn't finish, because Jan Honisberg has been telling us BarBri kids all summer about all the appendicitis-ridden, in labor, concussed bar-takers who have taken the exam and passed. This, ultimately means that not only are you a failure: you're less competent than a concussed person. Fantastic.

When I hear someone tell me, offhandedly, that oh, of course I'll pass the bar, it only increases my anxiety. I want to grab them and shake them, and explain that really, my terror is valid. I need you to understand that. If (or when) I fail, I need you to get that these things happen. I'm afraid that you're expecting too much of me, and that if I fail, your impression of me will be irreparably damaged. I don't want to fight with you about it. I really, truly, do believe that I am going to fail. If I don't, it will be by the skin of my teeth.

So, friends and family of the bar-takers: I extend my condolences to you. I know we are just miserable to be around right now. But we do need you. Not to tell us that we will pass, but to tell us that you (as Darwin so eloquently put it) have faith in us. Even if you're certain that we're out of our minds, you won't change them---to me, the specter of failing is just as real, and just as terrifying, as a child who's been left at a grocery store, convinced he's alone for good. No, your parents haven't left you forever, and no, you may be right. We may pass. But in this moment, we feel alone, and overwhelmed, and totally terrified. The bar exam is in 10 days. We don't need assurances that we'll pass, we need your help to mitigate the crazy. We're looking for damage control. Tell us you understand how we're feeling, and you think we're smart. Give us a hug.
When BarBri has robbed us of our confidence and left us as pathetic messes on the floor, tell us you believe in us. Buy us a popsicle.

And hopefully, when it's all over, you can tell us that you always knew we could do it. And if you can't? Well, we'll cross that bridge when we get there.

9 comments:

ImNobody said...

Thanks for the shout out :)
Glad we're in this together!

Legally Fabulous said...

Taylor Swift tells stories. Our stories.

Jill said...

I apologize. I will just tell you I have good wishes for you from now on :)

Julia said...

I'm Julia and I'm an attorney in Phoenix. I know exactly how you feel, even though it has been almost 10 years since I went thru that horrible bar exam ordeal. Here is my advice for what it's worth (as someone you don't know):
1. You know what you know. What you do not know, on the essays, you can make up a rule of law, analyze that, and get points. Do NOT sit and quiz yourself in your head about the factors of adverse possession.
2. This is the last test of your life and you need a D-. That advice really helped me because I was your classic overachiever pain in the arse who always wanted to be perfect.
3. You have done everything you could do. You studied your tuckus off. You went to the barbri crapola. Etc. I suggest making a list of everything you did to prepare in great deal as a study break.
4. This is a hazing. No one outside of it will ever understand. Everyone who has been through it does. You are part of a secret club now, regardless of the results.

I'm not going to say you will do great or anything like that. You will do the best that you can and that's all anyone really expects of you.

carmar76 said...

Great post & I love Julia's comment! "You will do the best that you can and that's all anyone really expects of you." It's what I tell the kids at test time, too! : )

tfox2 said...

I just took NY/NJ bar last year and had many of same feelings like you. But at end I knew that my grades in school were decent and around 90%+ of ppl in my school passed bar and ppl with decent grades passed at a higher clip. And I am sure of those that passed not all of them studied for the bar as studious as you and I and yet they passed anyway.
And like was stated earlier you only need a C/D+ to pass bar.

SO don't panic and I'm sure you will pass the bar like the rest of us

Angela said...

First of all, the term "spectacularly public" literally made me die laughing. I'm not sure why, but that was funny.

And also, one of my brother's best friends failed the California bar more than once before he passed it, and now he is one of the most powerful and important (not to mention disgustingly wealthy) attorneys in San Francisco. So I mean, either way, things will work themselves out.

Glitterista said...

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Catherine said...

I read this and it is EXACTLY how Clint has been feeling so I forwarded this to him so he could see he is not alone in the way he feels about the exam. Best wishes to all of you Bar takers :)I get how hard all of you have worked - I have watched Clint study all day and all night- so keep it up, walk in there with confidence, and give it your all! GOOD LUCK!