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Saturday, March 30, 2013

I’ve been thinking a lot about what will be happening with me this summer and it has been very unsettling. I’ve actually been pretty unsettled for several months now.

I got laid off from my job at the end of November, and I haven’t worked for a paycheck since then. That all by itself is unsettling. I haven’t been unemployed in that way since I was in high school. I’ve always had an income.

Now I have no income except for a paltry unemployment check, and I’m living on student loans and a tax refund. By my reckoning, if I’m very, very frugal, and there are no costly unplanned expenses, that money will last until October, and then it’s done. If I don’t have an income by then, I’m pretty much screwed.

Fear: How will I pay my bills?

I’m also about to graduate from law school. Now that’s exciting! And I’m 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 can’t 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 “why am I doing this to myself?” 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 I’ve heard is “it wasn’t that bad.” I don’t know what to make of my brother’s story, because he won’t even tell it to me until after I’ve taken mine.

Fear: What if I don’t pass?

I’ve always been this very stoic person. I don’t like to admit when I’m sick, or down, or worried, or anything negative. I refuse to whine. (Well, except to my boyfriend, but that’s a different blog.) Got a problem? Don’t dwell on it. Find a solution and deal with it. Pick yourself up by the bootstraps and move on. That’s me. I’m always the strong one, the one everybody else leans on when they lack their own strength.

Except that now, I’m feeling like my strength and my stoicism are going to run for the hills. I don’t like that feeling and I’m 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 don’t like it. I want it to go away. So as usual, when I’m facing some negative feeling that I don’t like, I reach into my reserve memory and try to find solutions I’ve used in the past. But I don’t 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.

Don’t misunderstand. I don’t want to say that I’ve never feared anything in my life. I’ve been afraid many times – starting law school, my children’s illnesses, potential car accidents, big spiders, deep water that I can’t see through – 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. It’s long-lasting, and the other side of it could have – will have – 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 Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel, Dune


Ahhhh…. Choices…..

Looking with cold logic at those choices, I can eliminate the first one immediately. Come now… that really isn’t even a choice. That’s a cop-out. Unless you’re facing an angry bear or something, I suppose, but even then it isn’t really a choice, because you aren’t going to outrun an angry bear. That’s when you have to face it and be smart.

So, what’s smart?

Well, first, there would be planning. I have a plan, sort of. Finish classes and graduate May 19. Deal – somehow, maybe through deferment – 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 I’ve 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, I’m not really sure where to start on this one, so if anyone has any great experience on how they overcame these two lovely traits, please… 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, “What am I doing? It’s not too late, I can always get up and walk out and not look back.” But I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t. 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 I’ll be done.

Something to look forward to, besides fear.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    great post, I can definitely identify from when I graduated with my bfa, the unemployment numbers were scary and reading the news just made it all feel even more doom and gloom (this was in 2009) I actually got my first paycheck from my now job 2 weeks before my first payment was due on my school loans. It was all pretty scary, but for the most part I just tried not to dwell on the fear - yes I was afraid I wouldn't find a job, but fear alone wasn't going to find me a job. So I did a lot of hard work, took a job I didn't really want, but it was good enough, and later transfered to a job I did want with the same company. Part of that for me was just life with a fine arts degree, I knew that when I signed up :) So hopefully it might be more smooth for legal career.

    As for the procrastination and laziness... personally I kept a Denny's application on my desk at home. Because if I didn't keep myself disciplined, that's where I was going to end up.
    1840 days ago
    Great blog - I would guess that just taking the time to write it put some of it into perspective for you. I've found that asking the question "What's the worst that could happen?" Is usually is followed by "Well, that certainly would suck, but it's not something I can't handle." And I'm sure that's true for you. Just know you will handle whatever comes, when it comes.

    I'll bet that what you see as laziness and procrastination is just another manifestation of the fear/jitters you are letting take over your brain. Knock it off! emoticon

    (Who knew there were so many other Dune/Herbert fans out there?)
    1843 days ago
  • LIZZYP609
    sigh...wish i had something wise and profound to encourage you. I don't.
    What I do have is that if anyone can face this and "punch fear in the face" it is you. Remember while you are doing this by yourself you are not alone. You have a whole spark community that supports and loves you!

    I am also lazy and a procrastinator. I have made it an art from. Every year I tell myself I will do better. Some years are better than others. Over all, I think I am doing better...sometimes.
    1844 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/2/2013 11:06:32 AM
    On procrastination: someone told me that since I'm so good at procrastination, why don't I just put off starting my usual procrastination tactics until later.

    Instead of starting the procrastination tactics, just start the thing I'm avoiding by gathering my materials, or putting on my gym clothes, or brushing my teeth, or anything that is one step towards what I want to get done. Then, put procrastination off a little longer by choosing another little step...soon I get in a groove and things start flying.

    Another technique: imagine yourself at the goal post. Now go backwards, what step did you take right before? Then imagine yourself taking the step right before that one and keep going until you are to today. Now, you have a 'movie' you can play of yourself doing what you want to get done.
    1845 days ago
  • PSMITH3841
    I wish I had some witty repartee to ease your mind. The only help I can offer.....the guest room will be ready for that vacation, Philly or Beach, let me know.....spending time with my family.....now, that's something you should fear!!!!!!! emoticon emoticon
    1845 days ago
    You've had so many good comments and you already know so much about yourself, I don't have much to add. Just, that I am always in awe of the person you are and I really appreciate you sharing. I have faith in you and I'm so excited to see how you handle this next year. I hope I can be a support for you, just one link in your big network of cheerleaders.
    1846 days ago
    I'm very, very proud of you of all that you've accomplished. This time next year, you'll be reviewing your old blogs and come across this one and say to yourself, "I did it."

    1846 days ago

    You are one of the strongest "bootstrap" people I know, so jump. What choice do you really have anyway? I have three lawyers in the family and they all said that the bar exam was long but fine. One has practiced in three...maybe four states.

    You will do what you have to do because its what you've always done. I have complete faith in you and that it will be rough and you'll be fine. You chose this path and you've challenged yourself. I think you're just on relief or let-down mode now that you've finished this leg of the journey. Mulling and dwelling on what lies ahead seems natural to me, but I know you'll be great!

    You never know which path will work until you start down it. Look at me, I dumped grad school for this job and now I own stock in it and it's so much fun! I'm making way more money than I need and I'm having a blast! You just need a vacation...in August. We will sit under trees that will dwarf us and we will feel how small we are, we'll go to the ocean and let the vastness carry us away. You will be fine my friend.
    1846 days ago
  • JO88BAKO
    Have faith. You can do it. Happy Easter!
    1847 days ago
    Okay, you want a good bar exam story? Here's one. I graduated from McGill Law, in Montreal, but where I really wanted to be was Vermont. There were a couple of obstacles. One, I wasn't a US citizen at the time. Two, Quebec is/was under a French Civil Law system, and Vermont, of course, is a common law jurisdiction. One thing at a time. I persuaded a Vermont lawyer to sponsor me for a green card, and went to work in her office. At the end of the 6-month clerkship, I applied to take the bar exam, and was turned down, because I had not graduated from an ABA-approved school. So I did what any fledgling lawyer would do: I sued the Board of Bar Examiners. Original jurisdiction against the BBE is in the state Supreme Court, so that's where I argued my very first case, pointing out that the BBE had discretion and had failed to exercise it. The Court agreed, and ordered the BBE to use discretion. In so doing, they said that if indeed the two legal systems were not all that different, as I claimed, I should be able to pass the bar exam, in 1 try. At the time, the pass rate on the Vermont bar exam was 47%. This did not really inspire confidence, because I knew the two legal systems were hugely different, despite what I was claiming. Tort? We didn't have torts in Civil Law. Precedent? Not anywhere near as important as Code. And let's not even talk about Constitutional Law. So. I borrowed the Bar Review materials from a friend, took 3 months off work, and sat down to learn US law, systematically. I found it kind of fascinating. I took copious notes, drew pictures, went running every day to think about it, and more or less memorized the material. The bar exam in Vermont was three days long, a multistate part, an instate multiple choice part, and an instate essay part. The first two days were a breeze. I knew so little about US law, except what I'd read in the Bar Review materials, that the questions didn't confuse me. I didn't have to choose between two or three possible answers, because all I knew was one. But the third day was a real showstopper. There was a question about a guy who had decided to open a crematorium in his garage. You were asked to represent the town in an injunction, and write the pleading. This mystified me. The Civil Law has no concept of nuisance, and somehow I had not paid attention to that in the Bar Review materials, so that meant I had no concept of nuisance. I could not figure out what to do. Eventually, I wrote my pleading based on a rather novel interpretation of the city's derived police power to ensure peace, order and good government. I threw in a bit about zoning. It didn't feel quite right. Afterwards, talking to the other folks who had taken the exam, I was horrified to discover that it was a slam-dunk question for most of them, so obviously about nuisance that no other answer was possible. I thought I would be sick. But eventually I settled down to wait, which was a 3-month process. One morning in August, I was lying on my bed reading, with all the windows open, when the postman pulled up to the mailbox. He got out of his car and shouted up to me: "Hey! Linda! You got the bar exam results!" And he waited. I wanted him to go away, because my life, which had been on hold, was about to fall apart. But he just stood there grinning while I opened the envelope. I had, of course, passed, with flying colors on the Multistate and instate multiple choice, and a very respectable score on the essay test. I guess the police power argument had passed muster. The postman was the first person to hug me and congratulate me. So the moral of this story, LMB, is that all you can do is knuckle down, study, take lots of breaks for exercise, and just dive in when exam day rolls around. If you know your stuff (or even if you don't, like me!) your survival instinct will take your hand and walk you through it. Best of luck! --Linda
    1847 days ago
    I wish I had words of wisdom but you sound just like me. Just keep your last few lines in the forefront of your mind and you will be OK.
    1847 days ago
    I don't know of any way to eradicate those fears other than just doing what you said....one step in front of the other and taking each step at at time until you are thru it all. That is what I did with nursing school and nursing school was a cake walk compared to what you are doing, I'm sure, but it was the most stressful thing I have ever done in my life. I was so sure I had flunked the state boards that I drove straight from taking the state board exam to the bookstore to buy more books to study for it once again. LMAO When my certificate of pass came in the mail, I almost freaking fainted. And then it was on to the job hunt, which was also scary, as I felt completely unprepared for any of it. But somehow, these things actually DO have a tendency to resolve on their own if you just put your mind on 'numb' and keep taking those plodding steps, but it sure ain't fun while you're doing it. It took me close to five to seven years before I truly even felt comfortable even calling myself a nurse or working as one.....geez. There is nothing easy about any of it, for sure. But I have the ultimate faith that you will persevere and overcome each hurdle as it comes and come out a winner on the other side. You are one tough cookie.
    1847 days ago
    Things tend to work themselves out. You sound like a smart, thoughtful lady with her head on straight! For every story of a bad bar exam, there are more of when it goes juuuust fine. :) Good luck with all of your goals!
    1847 days ago
    1) Anxiety - on a purely practical side, take lots of Stress Complex vitamins. They will help with some of the physical discomfort. I never had anxiety issues in my life until my 40's when my father was ill and broke at the same time. Used to wake up and the second my consciousness rose to the surface I would think of something worrisome and be flushed and wide awake. Disney Channel distracted me enough to let me doze for another hour or so before I had to get up. Lack of sleep simply makes anxiety worse.

    2) Procrastination - repeat after me (and FlyLady, of course): I can do anything for 15 minutes, I can do anything for 15 minutes, I can do anything for 15 minutes... OK, maybe some days it's actually only 7 minutes, but I can do anything for at least a few minutes at a time. Set a timer for 15 minutes out of every 60. Forty-five of those minutes you are doing the non-dreaded things you need to do, and fifteen of them you are wearing your big-girl panties and getting it done. When you're done you skip off happily until the next go-round. If you need to do 5-minute spurts, then so be it. Don't make it a big deal and it won't be.
    1847 days ago
    PS: I loved Dune and that line "Fear is the mind-killer" is great!
    1847 days ago
    "Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” In essence: Take the first step assuming the rest will be there, even if you have doubts and fears. Believe that as long as you keep going, you will arrive.
    His faith undoubtedly was tested. Certainly, the “whole staircase” had not yet come into view when he took the first steps. In spite of the challenges, Dr. King pressed forward believing in something for which there was no proof; maintaining trust in the unseen that his dreams would come to fruition."
    - Lysa Allman-Baldwin (http://www.unity.org/resources/art
    1847 days ago
    been there. nothing helps , at least nothing helped me . I lived all the days with the stupid fear until the exams passed. there's just one thing you can do , study . and ignore all your fears. even if it's very unpleasant you can live with your fear. Frank Herbert was a genius emoticon
    1847 days ago
    emoticon It could also be False Evidence Appearing Real.
    I am so sorry that you are going through so much, and I am SURE that you will find a Safe Path - Or make a Trail to get through to the Other Side!
    1847 days ago
    1847 days ago
    Just be positive. Things have ways of working themselves out.Try not to stress to much it is detrimental to your health. Good luck.
    1847 days ago
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