1. Talk about the bar exam to other people who just took the same bar exam.
2. Look up the correct answers to the essay questions.
3. Remember there is more bar exam tomorrow.
4. Eat too much junk food.
Very rarely do I ever have any good advice to offer anybody. Like ever. Usually the only time I am even qualified to offer up any sort of advice is after I have made some stupid mistake about 100 times. And even then my advice is typically “don’t do that; it’s stupid.” But that is not the case today! I have good advice (unless you don’t have health insurance, then just quit reading here; you wont think the advice is any good).
So I have had to deal with a bunch of insurance stuff lately and I ended up getting out my policy and actually reading it. When reading it, I discovered something amazing: my insurance covers “alternative medicine.” And buried in the description of alternative medicine was massages.
So I just got back from a massage and I feel great! I had never had a medical massage before, but the guy who did it was fantastic. Normally I don’t really like massages. I find it really uncomfortable to have a stranger stroke me while burning incense and playing Enya in the background. But this was nothing like that! I didn’t even have to get naked. I told the massage therapist that I have been studying for the bar and he worked on all the trigger points and knots in my back. I feel like a huge amount of pressure has been relieved! And the best part, I’m supposed to come back on Monday for another one. And even better than the best part (is that possible?), it only cost me $11 out of pocket. And this isn’t a humble brag here.
My point is that I have pretty middle of the road insurance. There was no “Lexus Plan” for me and yet it was still hidden in my policy! So if you are stressed, have 45 minutes to spare and don’t have anybody to give you a massage, take a few minutes to check your insurance policy and see what you can get!
Also, I hope this is not Gwyneth Paltrow like advice (now that I’ve claimed this be “good advice,” I feel like I need to qualify it!). I understand that a lot of people don’t have health insurance and so if that is the case for you, I am sorry that my advice sucks.
1.Start an online bar prep program.
2. Stop working one week away from the bar exam (few minutes = all day):
Most of the time, when I am feeling negative emotions, I try to make jokes. I don’t know if those jokes are funny or not, but they tend to be a good coping mechanism for me. I think sometimes this maybe makes me seem somewhat callous or shallow. For example, when my father attempted suicide, the only friend I could stand talking to was the one who would let me joke about it. It was just easier. It’s hard in those situations. Nobody ever knows what to say and many times good intentions make things worse. There’s never a “right thing” to do or say.
And maybe I am shallow in a way. I don’t mean shallow in that all I care about is shoes and money (although I do like both of those things very much!), but in that I’m not great at dealing with emotions. I am not deep. I am not good at analyzing my feelings and what they might mean on a deeper level. It’s not that I haven’t “gone there” before; it’s just that I never really feel much different when I only know the “what” that I’m feeling versus also knowing the “why.” And honestly, sometimes knowing the “why” just makes me feel worse. I don’t know if this attitude is healthy, but I imagine that like most of the things I do, it probably isn’t.
And so today, I started doing what I always do. My appointment with the MS specialist is tomorrow and I am very nervous, but instead of confronting that fear, I did what I always do and started making jokes. “I’m sure the lesions are just from studying too hard,” I joked to my mother over the phone. She responded with silence and then said:
“Aren’t you scared?”
Of course I am scared, but I couldn’t tell her that. I don’t know why. I don’t’ know why I couldn’t admit it because the truth is that I am scared about a lot of things right now. I am scared that I am going to go to that appointment tomorrow and the doctor is going to confirm that I have multiple sclerosis. He is going to encourage me to take drugs that are very expensive and that will put me right back where I started financially: down a 10 foot hole with no shovel to dig myself out. I am afraid I am going to lose everything. I am afraid that my boyfriend will decide it is too much. I am scared that I will slowly lose the ability to do the things I enjoy. I am scared that this news is going to be bad and it is going to mean a lot of bad things. I am scared that on top of this, I am not going to pass the bar. I am scared that I will prove people right in that I didn’t belong here; that this was all “just very silly.” I am scared that I am never going to find a job. And I am scared that my best option may be to start working at Starbucks because at least they have health insurance and I am scared that I won’t even be good at that because I don’t drink coffee. I am scared that I am going to lose everything five feet before the finish line.
And people say you aren’t supposed to freak yourself out about these things until you know for sure, but I think those people only say that because they are scared, too. So the truth is I am scared. Life is scary and the harder you try and the more you invest in yourself and others, the more you stand to lose. And that is scary.
And because I simply cannot leave this post on such a negative note, I have included a list of other things that scare me:
1. Horses because I had a kindergarten teacher who only had eight fingers after a horse took the other two (something she probably should not have shared with her class);
2. Dying by guillotine because of this stupid movie I watched when I was eight years old that has haunted me ever since.
3. Centipedes. They are so gross and if one ever crawled on me, I’d probably die (and it’d likely be by guillotine).
4. Backseat attackers. I am so afraid of getting attacked by a man who has crawled into the backseat of my car that I have to check it every time I get in the car. It’s so silly, but one time I was driving alone on a long road trip and I forgot to check and I remembered about ten minutes after I got back on the freeway after I started seeing weird shadows and I got so scared I had to pull over to the next gas station just to double check that I was alone.
5. Eating spoiled food. I just can’t eat food that has expired even if it looks and smells fine and everybody else is eating it. I just can’t do it; I’m too afraid.
Since my last post mentioned things you should not say to your friends who are studying for the bar, I thought I would follow-up with five things that would be very nice to say to a friend the next time he or she mentions being stressed about the upcoming bar exam:
1. You are the smartest person I know. If you don’t pass, it will because the bar examiner is jealous of you.
2. You look really thin.* Are you eating enough?
3. I am going to bring you some ice-cream. I will be over in 15 minutes and I will give it to you on the porch/front door so you don’t have to worry about cleaning your place.
4. Stress acne? What are you talking about? That little thing on your face. I didn’t even notice it.
5. I know this is hard and if you don’t pass the first time, I know you will be disappointed and maybe even embarrassed, but it will be okay. I will be there for you either way and I will never judge you. If this were easy, everybody would do it. Keep pushing. It will be worth it. And go eat a cupcake, you look so thin!
*If you are talking to a friend who does not want to be considered “thin,” replace it with the adjective that they would like to be. This isn’t a time for truthfulness, it’s a time for puffery and motherly-like confidence boosting. You can make them go running/work out with you when it’s over if you feel bad.
I just read a great post over at Belly up to the Bar that lists ten things you should never say to someone who is studying for the bar exam. You can read the whole post here, but some of my favorites included:
- “So and so is so stupid and he passed the bar.”
- It’s just multiple choice, right? When in doubt, just pick ‘D.’ All of the above. You’ll be fine.”
- “I just rolled into the SAT cold and got a 1020. Don’t sweat it.”
I hate those comments because they completely trivialize how awful this is and add an entire new level of stress by making you feel like your friends are going to think you are even more stupid than just stupid if you can’t pass the bar when even “stupid” people can do it. That was a whole lot of stupid in one sentence!
I wanted to add one more comment that has been driving me nuts. I’ve been really stressed about the fact that I am having a hard time learning all of this material at the pace the bar prep program suggests. I feel really behind not because I am wasting too much time (although perhaps I should not be procrastinating with a blog), but because I simply cannot learn the entire subject of criminal procedure (which I never even took in law school) in one day. I’m just not that smart, okay. So I guess I take back what I said above and if I do pass the bar on the first time, you can tell your friends that “Smiling Sparkler is stupid and she passed the bar.”
Whenever I express this stress, one of the most frequent responses I get is “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” I am a little biased here, but that is absolutely untrue. I have run six marathons now, so I have have scientific evidence to dispute this statement, which I have listed below.
1. I never cried when training for a marathon. Not once. I’ve cried at least three times while studying for the bar, two of which were entire sob sessions spent in a lavender bubble bath listening to Adele.
2. When you train for a marathon, you gradually increase your distance, but you always run at a comfortable pace. It is a complete lie to say the “bar exam is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” It’s the opposite. IT’S A MARATHON THAT YOU HAVE TO SPRINT!
3. Marathons are healthy. Studying for the bar has probably taken six months off of my life.
4. Marathons are very social (Don’t believe me? Google marathon running groups). Studying for the bar is one of the most anti-social things I’ve ever done. Sometimes I can’t remember the last time that I showered because all I do is wake up, go to my office, and watch these stupid videos. I can’t even be around my law school friends right now because their stress is contagious and sends me right back to number 1 on the list.
5. Marathons are fun. They are full of positive energy that is contagious to even the people standing on the sidelines. You feel good about yourself once you’ve finished regardless of whether you were first or last. You can’t fail a marathon. The bar exam is none of those things.