Monday, August 03, 2009

Bar Reflections Part 1: The Summer of Studying & Emotions

I am done. I am alive. I am happy. And after a few days, I am almost fully recovered from taking the California bar exam except some related dreams/nightmares (we will save that for part three).

Since this blog is like my own time capsule, I figured I would record my final thoughts about the bar exam, especially since I stopped blogging in the last month. Just need to get a few last things out of my system then I am moving on after that. If you are sick of/bored with bar-related things, come back in a few days. If you want bar exam tips, just let me know. I wrote 7 pages of advice for some friends who asked me for it. Otherwise, here we go.

Overall, the workload this summer was pretty similar to how people described it would be. Non-stop class and studying, especially for California test-takers who often had Saturday classes. By the last few weeks, I even cut out all my tv shows. It was up at 7am, gym for 45 minutes, and then studying until I went to bed at midnight. By the end, it was easier to move all my materials to my bed since I was referencing so many books. My roommate and I started eating dinner at our desks as not to "waste time." I can buckle down. I think I was prepared for that.

What I was not prepared for was the roller-coaster emotions. Previous bar-takers would try to explain how you would feel but you just do not "get it" until you go through it yourself. I never really had a major breakdown or hit the wall in terms of not being able to study anymore. However, there was the constant weight of failure looming over my head that was so oppressive. The weight of having to do this all over again. The weight that all this hard work would not pay-off.

The strangest and hardest part of this summer was the constant self-doubt that inflicted even the most confident of us. It was such a mind-trip. Some people may have thought my fear of failure was irrational, but I do not think it was completely unfounded. Even looking past all the statistics about California's bar passage rates, I personally knew many smart individuals who failed the California bar.

Some days I thought I had this test in the bag because I was rocking graded assignments; other days I flipped to a practice essay and wondered how there could be so much more to learn or why could I not understand something. Am I really seeing this for the first time a week before the test? I wanted to see the light at the end of the tunnel while simultaneously wanting more time. It was really difficult to accept that even if I had all the time in the world, I would not be able to learn everything. That is the most challenging part for the studious, well-prepared law student. The loss of control.

Additionally, there were honestly so many days where what no one said felt comforting. I know so many friends and I appreciated people giving us encouragement while we simultaneously thought "they do not really know what it is like." Sometimes the more people said that there was no way I could fail, the more afraid I was of becoming the girl who surprised everyone by failing. Then I would feel bad for not appreciating other people's encouragement. Similarly, I would have these moments where I would tell myself that the worst thing that would happen is having to take this test again. Then I would feel bad for stressing out. Conundrums.

This probably seems much worse and melodramatic than I meant it to come off. It was not the worst thing I have ever gone though, but it was the most challenging academic endeavor. And I am someone who likes school and studying, I could not even imagine what it felt like for someone else. I cannot count how many times I actually gave myself pep talks. I told myself that I was a lawyer (per instructions of Judge Bruce Lee), told myself that there would be ponies (per instructions of Professor Franceze), wrote a message telling myself to not freak out (per instructions of Professor Honisgberg), told myself that I have always managed to come through during test time, told myself that if I could get published I could write a stupid essay. I probably sounded like a crazy person.

In the end, I made it through relatively unscathed and felt like I prepared as much as I could. I also felt so lucky I had a really great support system that did help a lot. From a roommate who was going through the same thing (we called it the buddy system), to law school friends who sent each other encouraging gchats and emails, to non-law school friends who would do things with you and not make you feel bad for neglecting them, to the boyfriend with care packages and patience, to parents who sent stuff over and wished me luck while they were on vacation in China.

And that's what I did over my summer vacation. Next up: the test.

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