several months ago my dad told me that he saw the son of a friend of his somewhere, a kid who was a new lawyer, and the kid told him that studying for the bar exam was the worst experience of his life. my dad passed that along to me, likely thinking this would make me realize that others have gone through the experience and have lived to tell about it. however, in response to this story i had two immediate thoughts:
1. this kid is an idiot. i know who he is and he's an idiot. and if studying for the bar exam is the worst thing he's ever experienced, well, i feel justified in declaring him an idiot.
2. to date, the "worst experience" of my life was waking up in the recovery room after having a brain biopsy, groggy and in a lot of pain, with a blonde woman resident from eastern europe standing over me and telling me, "miss mcnally? we didn't find fluid, that means it wasn't a cyst or an abscess. it looks like this is a tumor." yeah. beat that, bar exam!
now, with only two weeks to go before the bar exam, i have some additional thoughts on this matter. i vehemently stand by points 1 and 2 above, but i wish to distinguish this bar exam thing from other bad experiences in my life...
everybody goes through periods of stress and strife and anxiety. my "BFF TD" and i have discussed on several occasions that one of the reasons our friendship has worked so well is because somehow we've managed to time our freaky-outy-ness so that we're not freaking out simultaneously. however, all of those wonderful friends that law school has put into my life? you know, the people whose praises i've sung and on whom i've come to rely over the past three years? well, these days we're ALL going through stress and strife and anxiety over the SAME DAMN THING which means we're at a limited capacity to be supportive to each other. we're all kinda like, "oh yeah? you're stressed out about the bar exam? really? the bar exam? what, is that coming up or something? yeah? well, join the club." practically speaking, this means that we're all inadvertently contributing to each other's stress/strife/anxiety levels. and although we're all in the same boat, it feels a little lonely since the only folks who know what this is like are in the wrong position to help make it better.
in normal communication with people in the world, when one talks to someone who expresses feelings of stress, there seem to be two automatic responses: (1) "don't worry -- you'll be fine!", or (infuriatingly) (2) "well, think of [some person/situation/time that you really don't care about]. it could be worse!"
look, folks in the world, i know you're trying to help by telling me i'll be okay or that things could be worse. and objectively, rationally, i KNOW that i'll be okay and that things could be worse. but this is the same as telling someone who's just lost someone that s/he loves that the deceased is "in a better place." it's not about the deceased being better off -- this is grief! grief belongs to the griever. whether the deceased is better or worse is really kind of irrelevant.
see what i'm getting at? stress/strife/anxiety(/grief, by association) is NOT objective or rational. these things are at the core of what makes us imperfect humans -- it's the fear that what we want to happen just might not happen the way we want it to. and that's a little terrifying. when folks say, "don't worry, you'll pass the bar exam," or "at least you're not also trying to do X, Y, and Z and pass the bar exam!" or "at least so-and-so is in a better place," although the intent of these things is good, the result has a dangerous tendency to belittle or devalue the very real feelings of stress/strife/anxiety(/grief, by association) that people go through.
what would i rather you say? i dunno... maybe just acknowledge that this is a really big deal and that my stress is warranted. i think that would be enough. i don't want pity -- i don't think i'm some sort of victim, nor am i unaware that this is something i chose to do. i just don't want to have to defend myself in my anxiety.
again, this is not the worst experience of my life, nor should it be. but i just put in three years of blood, sweat, and tears (well, maybe not the blood, but definitely the sweat and tears) to earn my law degree. why? because i want to be a lawyer. and if i don't pass this stupid bar exam, i don't get a license and i don't get to practice law. so, really, thinking of things in my life/world/experience, this IS a big freaking deal! this is a major hurdle in my chosen career. it's the biggest hurdle to date in my professional life. will there be bigger ones down the line? probably, but those are irrelevant at this point.
so yes, i'm stressed out. and yes, i know that i'm not going to sprout horns or go blind if i fail the bar exam. and yes, i realize that things could be a lot worse. but my elevated stress level is 100% justified and real. and this, too, shall pass.
that's all for now.