Iíve been thinking a lot about what will be happening with me this summer and it has been very unsettling. Iíve actually been pretty unsettled for several months now.
I got laid off from my job at the end of November, and I havenít worked for a paycheck since then. That all by itself is unsettling. I havenít been unemployed in that way since I was in high school. Iíve always had an income.
Now I have no income except for a paltry unemployment check, and Iím living on student loans and a tax refund. By my reckoning, if Iím very, very frugal, and there are no costly unplanned expenses, that money will last until October, and then itís done. If I donít have an income by then, Iím pretty much screwed.
Fear: How will I pay my bills?
Iím also about to graduate from law school. Now thatís exciting! And Iím very, very happy to be done! But that happiness is tempered by two things: (1) above-mentioned student loans coming due, and (2) taking the bar exam.
I have four student loans. One of them is tiny and accrues no interest. One of them is big, but accrues no interest. The other two are big and they accrue interest. The statement on one of those big interest-accruing loans is over $600 a month. One loan, $600 payment. Ummm, what about the other three?
Fear: What if I canít pay them?
That brings me to the bar exam. I could recount a hundred stories from well-meaning lawyers who all have their own stories to tell. They vary from the grotesque, to the sad, to the nightmarish, to the ďwhy am I doing this to myself?Ē Some are really, really bad, others are so-so. I can tell you though, that not one of them has been happy. The most positive bar exam story Iíve heard is ďit wasnít that bad.Ē I donít know what to make of my brotherís story, because he wonít even tell it to me until after Iíve taken mine.
Fear: What if I donít pass?
Iíve always been this very stoic person. I donít like to admit when Iím sick, or down, or worried, or anything negative. I refuse to whine. (Well, except to my boyfriend, but thatís a different blog.) Got a problem? Donít dwell on it. Find a solution and deal with it. Pick yourself up by the bootstraps and move on. Thatís me. Iím always the strong one, the one everybody else leans on when they lack their own strength.
Except that now, Iím feeling like my strength and my stoicism are going to run for the hills. I donít like that feeling and Iím trying to combat it, with less and less success it seems. I wake up at 4 am and lie there stewing. Once I get up I usually feel better, but this has been repeating itself almost every night for months.
Never would I admit that this was fear. Never. Until now. I donít like it. I want it to go away. So as usual, when Iím facing some negative feeling that I donít like, I reach into my reserve memory and try to find solutions Iíve used in the past. But I donít remember ever having to combat fear like this.
So, lacking any memory of deep-seated fear, I must do the other thing I usually do to problem-solve: break it down into little, manageable steps and deal with it one step at a time.
Donít misunderstand. I donít want to say that Iíve never feared anything in my life. Iíve been afraid many times Ė starting law school, my childrenís illnesses, potential car accidents, big spiders, deep water that I canít see through Ė but those fears are fleeting. They get your adrenaline pumping, and as soon as the source of the fear goes, the fear goes with it.
This is different. Itís long-lasting, and the other side of it could have Ė will have Ė a profound impact on my life. How I handle it now will make a huge difference in the measure of that impact.
Two things are present in my thinking about this:
The Litany of Fear~~
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
~~ from Frank Herbertís classic sci-fi novel, Dune
Looking with cold logic at those choices, I can eliminate the first one immediately. Come nowÖ that really isnít even a choice. Thatís a cop-out. Unless youíre facing an angry bear or something, I suppose, but even then it isnít really a choice, because you arenít going to outrun an angry bear. Thatís when you have to face it and be smart.
So, whatís smart?
Well, first, there would be planning. I have a plan, sort of. Finish classes and graduate May 19. Deal Ė somehow, maybe through deferment Ė with the student loans. Study for the bar exam. Keep up my good eating and workout habits while studying. Try not to think about how grueling all this is. Take the bar exam. Go on vacation and collapse. Wait till October for exam results. Find a job.
Second would be overcoming laziness and procrastination. This is all really distasteful and Iíve raised procrastinating on distasteful things to an art form. But laziness and procrastination are no longer going to cut it, and the sooner I face that the better. Unfortunately, Iím not really sure where to start on this one, so if anyone has any great experience on how they overcame these two lovely traits, pleaseÖ share.
Finally will be the look back. I will have let all this pass through me and it will be gone. Hopefully never to be repeated.
Speaking of looking back, I reviewed some of my blogs from four years ago, right before I started school, in the summer of 2009. I was pretty nervous then. I remember sitting in an early orientation class thinking, ďWhat am I doing? Itís not too late, I can always get up and walk out and not look back.Ē But I didnít. And Iím glad I didnít. How did I overcome it then? I just made myself put one foot in front of the other and let the whole experience just take me for the ride. I can do that again. And then Iíll be done.
Something to look forward to, besides fear.