Week one of my 5th set of law school finals has concluded and I'm alive.
My first final was for a class that left me in a crying bloody heap of madness after three and half months of intellectual torture. Never in my life have I felt so dumb (and that includes the time I hit a button in my car when I was bored during a slowly moving traffic jam on state street because I didn't know what it was, only to find out it was the trunk button, which then flew open and stayed that way for the next hour as I couldn't pull over). This was a smaller class (only about 20 people in it) and it was full of people whose names you have to say with a British accent because any other way doesn't adequately describe who they are. These are people who will all end up solving all of the world's problems by 2015 using nothing more than scotch tape and a five function calculator. It matters in law school to some degree who ends up taking the same classes as you because each class is graded on a curve and whether your class is full of the leaders of tomorrow or the partiers of today, the middle grade is set in stone at the exact same place and exactly half can be above that and half below it. And then that grade is taken and added to your gpa which is then ranked against the other 149 gpa's in the 3L class which then determines whether or not your dreams are actually a possibility. And each semester there is a chance to rise or fall, and it all comes down to what happens during these two weeks of finals, sometimes in classes like the one I've just described. And we all felt that on Tuesday morning. Two hours of typing took place in one of the most highly pressurized settings I've ever seen until time was called and 20 shaky people who had just spent every waking second (which happens to be about 18-20 hours a day lately) frantically struggling to grasp incredibly complicated concepts at least slightly better than the others in class, who, both fortunately and unfortunately, are each other's best friends, walked out of the room trying to feel accomplished but probably feeling something more like defeated despite having really done something quite impressive and having really learned a lot.
Then we walked outside, made sure the sun had come up, punched walls, did push ups and whatever else we needed to (for one friend of mine this involved walking to nearby gas station and buying a bag of beef jerky. To each his or her own) to get out the anxious adrenaline that seems to be controlling most of us lately, only to climb back into our holes to prepare for the next one. My next one happened to come less than 48 hours later. Thankfully I had Corey to help me study for that one and the two of us shut ourselves into a small study room (that started looking more like a dorm room after a while) and frantically typed dozens of pages of notes and absorbed every detail we could from about 7:00 AM to past midnight for two days to prepare for our early morning Thursday exam. This one was three hours of typing.
I woke up before the exam pretty early and took a "comfort" shower. Let's just take a quick detour here for some nice blog fodder: I recently found out that showering experiences are very different for the genders. There are two types of showers I take: 1. Comfort shower, and 2. Utility shower. There are no other options. The first is to clean my spirit, so to speak, and requires no effort on my part. The second, however, is a lot of hard work and serves only the purpose of getting me physically clean. My female friends recently informed me that women are not able to take noncommittal comfort showers the same way men can. That is, I can take my comfort shower, climb out, do a 12 second dry off with a towel, throw on a set of clothes, and bounce out the door looking good as new. Apparently for women the shower recovery time is a force to be reckoned with because (so I'm told) woman hair takes somewhere between 7 and 36 weeks to dry (calculated by assuming an automatic 7 and then increasing it by one week for each additional inch beyond one, and then capped at 36). This combined with an array of other problems, mostly involving makeup, is the actual unspoken source of contention between the genders in any conversation in which any of the following phrases are heard: "of course you don't understand! You're a man!"; "you have no idea what it's like!"; "psh! You would say that you heartless [fill-in-the-blank]"; and my personal favorite, "YOU have a baby and then come and tell me I'm being emotional!"
So after my comfort shower I put on my shirt and tie (I dress for success for every final. I have one friend who thinks something is wrong with me because of this as she chooses to dress down as much as possible for test day. Coincidentally this is the beef jerky friend described above). The final happened and I spent the rest of my day getting bombarded with emails and phone calls from frantic 1L's who had less than 24 hours until their contracts final for a class which I am the TA for (for my second and (sadly) final year). I heard the panic and desperation in their voices and emails and I did what I could to provide the last minute support, partly because I remember exactly how that fear of the unknown feels (largely because I still feel it to some degree, although a different one, today). I remember how a totally mysterious process and highly pressurized 1L semester can feel, which seems at the time to be the process and semester that really does determine whether your dreams are possible, for the very first time. I remember coming to school day after day and wondering whether I was really smart enough to be with all of those people who seemed to have it all figured out.
It's strange that the experience never really gets familiar. Each semester my friends and I decide about a month before finals how we're going to tackle the beast this go around. It never really goes exactly according to plan. Too many last minute parties. Too many last minute problems. Too much temptation on Thanksgiving to act like a normal person and just want to hang out with family rather than lock ourselves away in a room at grandma's house for three days while the rest do what they're supposed to do on holidays: spend time together and make memories. And so there is a little give and take and nothing given or taken on either end really seems that satisfying because all of it is either too much or too little, but in any event it's not really ever good enough.
But amid all of the discouragement and, often, exhaustion, there is always that group of friends who don't think something is wrong with me for sometimes being at the library on a Friday night at 11:15 because the only way they know I'm there is because they are too. There is always that group of friends who is willing to explain something to me over and over again to help me understand, even though they have their own work to do. Always that group of friends who are a source of comfort when I catch them out of the corner of my eye during one of these 3 hour typing contests. Friends that remind me every time we're together why they appreciate me and, in being who they are, in turn remind me why I appreciate them. They drop whatever important thing they have going on to drive me to the hospital when I break my hand, even if it's 5:00 in the morning. They humor me by putting on a homemade 9-headed monster costume and marching around the school growling, just because I ask them to. They throw me birthday parties and get genuinely excited when something good happens in my life. And no matter how stressed and tired I sometimes get, all I have to do is think about these people to remember one of the biggest reasons why this is all so worth it.
~It Just Gets Stranger
Week one of my 5th set of law school finals has concluded and I'm alive.