No one tells you you’re going to lose your mind.
Lately, I’ve felt like I’d forget my head if it wasn’t attached, because studying from early morning until almost midnight every night has started to take its toll on me.
I have to pencil in time for exercise, food, and sleep, otherwise time slips away and it’s the next day before I know it.
I also have to remember to act like a normal person, because when I’ve least expected it, I’ve snapped at those I care for most because I look at my calendar of assignments and feel this overwhelming surge of “shit shit shit” and get mad at whomever is in my vicinity (not often, but it’s happened once or twice).
More than anything though, I think the most difficult thing about studying for the bar exam is the fact that, even though I’ve tried to pencil in yoga classes and social outings (which oftentimes are sometimes just a yoga class or two), I still feel like I’m lacking somewhere.
When I do something for myself, I feel bad that I’m not studying; and when I’m studying, I realize how much I’ve given up this summer (as in, I only saw one of my best friends for the first time since graduation because she had an unexpected breakup, and bar study be damned, I had to be there for her).
It’s a no-win situation because I’m constantly in this ebb and flow of trying to cram twelve substantive topics of law into my head without falling apart (literally, my body’s given up during some of the longer practice exams and I’m gently reminded that I have to be kind to myself. This is a marathon, not a sprint).
While I know this exam is just a blip on the radar in the grander scheme of things, it’s hard not to feel this insurmountable pressure to succeed. If you don’t pass the first time, you have to (rather, should) take it again, because you can’t really practice law without a bar number attached to your name.
If you don’t pass the first time, that means another three months of studying and almost a year of delay to apply to some jobs (because some require you already have a valid bar passage before you apply). A retake would also mean studying over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays; if I thought passing up summer activities was hard, I can’t imagine doing it over major holidays and family obligations. Again, not the end of the world, but certainly frustrating all the same.
A huge part of this exam is your mindset, which for me, was really difficult to snap into because bar study came on the heels of graduating from law school. My classmates and I literally had to start studying the morning after we graduated…and we’ve been plugging away at multiple choice problems and essays like nobody’s business ever since.
No joke, I did seven essays yesterday and have 250 MC to get done today (plus a bunch of other assignments). I thought a three hour, closed-book final exam on Criminal Procedure was a racehorse experience in law school, but this is a different kind of beast.
Law school was like this superhuman test of endurance, in which every semester was a different set of challenges, and at the end, it was all a blur how we got to the finish line. Or at least it was for me. I know it was hard – I can scroll back to posts on here how there were days I wanted to give up, and for whatever reason, I didn’t. Hell, in that year I took off while I figured out what was going on with my health, I almost didn’t go back because I knew how difficult it’d be (and it was, but I’m so glad that I did it anyway).
Point is, it wasn’t impossible…and that’s how I’m trying to frame this exam.
So if you’re reading this and you’re studying for a bar exam in a few weeks, know that you’ve put in the time and effort all of these years; this is no different.
If you’re reading this and have no idea what I’m talking about, that’s fine too. Last time this test was administered, it had a 27% pass rate…so it’s not just my lackadaisical self saying this is hard. But pass or fail, we’ll slog through this together and somehow make it out alive (at least that’s the hope).
Plus, if at first we don’t succeed, there’s always next time. Thomas Edison didn’t figure out the lightbulb on his first try, so it’s not a big deal if you need another go around for the bar exam. I mean…what, like it’s hard?
Spoonie Adventures in Books, Beauty, & Bullshit
I'm a twenty-something year old recent law and business school grad living with a chronic health condition. Follow along on my shenanigans.