Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Five Years Ago Yesterday

Five years ago yesterday, at 7:15 am, I shot up in bed, my heart pounding and my stomach a tight ball of fear.

I jumped out of bed, stumbling on the blankets that had tangled around my legs during my sweaty anxiety dreams, and grabbed my Wills notes from my desk, frantically scattering pages until I found the one I was looking for.

New York Will execution requirements. Two witnesses. A notary. Everyone in the same room.

The following day was the first day of the New York Bar Exam. Monday was supposed to be a rest day. It said so right there on the bar review schedule. A day to let our brains absorb all the law we had been cramming into them for ten weeks.

But I didn't want to leave my room. I hadn't been farther than two feet away from my study materials in almost three months, and the idea of leaving to meet friends for the early movie and dinner that I had planned was not at all appealing. I wanted to stay with my notes and my books where it was safe. Where I could look something up if I forgot it.

But the schedule said to take some time off, and the schedule was gospel. So I shoved my review notebook into my bag went to meet my friends.

But I couldn't settle. Despite my friends' best efforts to talk about anything but the impending test, during dinner I was listing elements of torts in my head. During the movie I was trying to remember the difference between robbery and theft. And by the time I left my friends, my deliberately placid veneer had started to melt, leaving behind a wild-eyed mass of terror and nerves.

I meant to go home, but instead I found myself at David's apartment, twenty blocks away. He wasn't there, so I let myself in and sat down on the couch, careful to keep my head still. Sure that any sudden moves would cause all the information packed in there to fall out and scatter all over the floor.

When he got home, he found me sitting in silence. He asked me what was wrong and for the first time I said the words that I hadn't yet allowed myself to even think.

"What if I fail?"

I waited for him to assure me that I wouldn't fail. That I wouldn't end up in this exact same place six months from now. But he didn't. Instead he simply said,

"You're ready."

And then he sent me home.

I got into bed, sure that I wouldn't sleep. But as I pulled the covers up I felt the exhaustion that I had fed with caffeine, anxiety and adrenaline for nearly ten weeks take hold.

And for the first time since the first day of bar review I wasn't furiously listing elements of crimes or the rules of evidentiary proceedings. As I drifted off to sleep, my mind was blissfully empty but for one single word.

Tomorrow.

45 comments:

  1. Tell me you passed! What a way to end it!

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  2. I cannot imagine the stress of take the bar exam, but I felt it all here! Definitely why I was never cut out for that! I love "Sure that any sudden moves would cause all the information packed in there to fall out and scatter all over the floor." This is kind of how I feel everyday, ha!

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    1. It was definitely the most stressful time in my life so far. Those ten weeks of studying and two days of taking the actual test are like nothing else I have ever, and likely will ever, experience.

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  3. There is nothing like those days leading up to the bar. It was freaking torture. The index cards the false pretenses and theft and trespass to chattel. UGH. So glad we got through that.

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    1. Yep, pure torture. And I still have no freaking clue what trespass to chattel is.

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  4. I'm with Considerer up there: did you pass??!

    I love the idea of looking back a year ago. It must seem so long ago now. I loved this post, all the anxieties of my test taking came flooding back--or is that just pre-GRE anxiety? (sometimes it's hard to tell). Anyway, well done.

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    1. I did! It was actually five years ago that I took the test, but every year on the day before the exam is given in New York, I remember the test and the days leading up to it like they were yesterday.

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  5. Oh my gosh, I'm so glad to know you passed. Up until recently, I was a pre-med student, so I know just what you mean when you cram all that information in your head; you keep doing insane things hoping to "protect" it. Great post, though, and congratulations on passing your exam!

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    1. I was afraid that if I so much as turned my head wrong all the information would come spilling out and then I would fail for sure.

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  6. So glad you passed! This stressed me out just reading it, so lovely job putting that emotion into the writing. I'm going to go smoke a cigarette now.

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    1. Haha, there were so many times that summer when I wish that I was a smoker just to calm down because I was so high strung.

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  7. i so get this. how could you possibly relax after working so hard and for so long, with the test just hours away!! so stressful! i'm always amazed at people who can turn it off.

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    1. I couldn't turn it off the day before, and I actually kept jolting awake in a panic for about two weeks once the test was over.

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  8. And you remember everything down to the exact time. I've never done something as big as a bar exam *shivers in dread** but I know exactly how you feel!

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    1. I will never forget that day, or the two days of the test, as long as I live. They are burned into my brain forever.

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  9. Samantha, this was a great read. The line, "During the movie I was trying to remember the difference between robbery and theft" made me laugh.

    Congratulations - I'm glad you passed!

    Karen

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    1. Thanks! Seriously, can you even believe robbery and theft are two different crimes? How stupid is that?

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  10. Oh, God, the memories. I was nauseated for 2.5 straight months. I think I called my dad crying every single night. I remember wailing so much over the idea of failing that everyone around me was bored to aggravation with my dramatic sobbing. I knew they were bored and irritated, but I couldn't stop talking about it. My anxiety consumed me and it's amazing that anyone stuck with me through it. I can't ever leave the state, because if I ever have to take another Bar exam, I'm going to end up a divorced, ulcer-ridden mess. The words "NY BOLE" still make me shudder.

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    1. I used to spontaneously cry all the time, and David would just hand over the tissues, and keep doing whatever he was doing. If I have to move, it can only be to a state that gives reciprocity with NY because I am never, ever, doing it again.

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  11. I've heard about the agonies of the Bar, and you describe it JUST how I imagine! Glad you made it through. :)

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  12. Do you know what you've done to me? Tonight I'm going to have that dream again, the one where I discover I have to final next day for a course that I bothered to attend. I hate that dream.

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    1. Ironically enough, I rarely have that dream. Mine is usually that I am going on a trip but forgot to pack.

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  13. Well, thanks. You just gave me PTSD! :p

    Mine was, holy cow, 13 years ago! I swore that I failed it. During a mid-essay break of walking around outside to stretch my legs, I heard some co-testers talking about their answers for certain parts and had a moment of pure panic, realizing that I didn't bring up any of those salient points! I was sure I failed. Positive.

    I passed. Somehow.

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    1. I swore I failed too! My MBE was so hard, I was sure I got every single question wrong.

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  14. That does sound like torture, I don't know if I could go through it!

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  15. Great post. I remember that feeling well.

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  16. I now officially have no regrets about not attending law school. None.

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  17. Glad it went well! I think the bar exam might be even worse than a PhD thesis defense.

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  18. Drew me in from the beginning! And congrats! (I saw you passed in a comment)

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  19. Yikes! That must have been just incredible, a full-time job of studying!

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  20. Shudder. I took the NY bar in a ballroom off the Bowery where the best lighting was from CHRISTMAS LIGHTS wrapped around the structural poles, and they wouldn't open the blinds because friends might be standing out there holding the elements of reckless manslaughter on posters.

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    1. Seriously, New York criminal law is the most screwed up body of law in the entire country. I couldn't tell you the elements of reckless manslaughter to save my life. During the afternoon of the second day when I took the bar, the PA system started to malfunction, so every minute or two for four hours there was a high pitched screech that reverberated through the entire lower floor of the Javitz Center. It was like Chinese water torture.

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  21. You nailed this! And the bar! I can't imagine this level or stress or pressure. My stomach was in knots reading this and I already knew the ending. Great writing!

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  22. The ending was great, and you perfectly conveyed the sensation of holding your head still so the knowledge wouldn't fall out. Glad to hear you passed. Now, how much of that info do you actually use in your work?

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    1. I'm a trusts and estates lawyer, so I use approximately one of the twenty-three subjects that I had to memorize for the bar exam. I promptly forgot everything else.

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  23. I remember going through the same thing 15 years ago. Except I took the NJ bar exam, which doesn't have nearly as many topics as NY. This took me back!

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  24. Amazingly told. Loved the vivid details of a sort of inside view of your brain. And of COURSE you passed. ;)

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  25. I love your last line Sam and I'm in awe of your focus and dedication. Great job! Both with passing the test and with writing about it here. I could feel the nervous energy while I read it. :)

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  26. Taking the bar sounds like one of the most stressful things in the entire universe.

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  27. Good girl -- both in passing the exam and writing a palpably tense post about your anxiety.

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