Since I graduated from law school in mid-May, each day has been the same. Eat. Attend bar review class. Eat. Study. Bubble in circles. Eat. Study more. Bubble more. Fall asleep reciting the elements of negotiability. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Having to memorize 35 pounds' worth of bar exam materials in two months is enough to alarm any newly minted graduate. But the tall tales and recycled horror stories have given the exam supernatural powers:
"Last year, several people left the exam in tears. They all failed."
"Did you hear about the guy who completed over 4,000 multiple choice practice problems? He failed."
And my personal favorite: "Every minute you don't spend studying, someone else is. That person will pass. You will fail."
And so it was with some trepidation that I confessed to a bar review compatriot that I missed a Saturday class in June. I was quick to legitimize a 72-hour "summer vacation" by reporting that "I did lots of torts on the plane." My friend's witty response proved the all-encompassing nature of bar study: "You 'did lots of torts on the plane'... and they let you out of the airport?"
While the bar exam is no laughing matter, humor is a good weapon against the stress and anxiety that accompanies it. But it wasn't until recently that I found that remembering purpose and keeping perspective are much stronger arrows in the bar exam candidate's quiver.
My father recently forwarded me an e-mail. It looked to be one of those chain-letter-type forwards - we've all gotten them - about the meaning of life, set to some somber melody or patriotic tune.
But this one was different, not just because it didn't threaten seven years of bad luck if I didn't forward it to nine people in 30 seconds. The PowerPoint attachment was titled "Perspective," and it quite literally put into perspective how blessed we are to live in a country where, among other things, the rule of law has meaning.
It reminded me of the day my constitutional law professor distributed pocket U.S. Constitutions to the class, instilling in us that we are nothing without our Constitution - and, perhaps more important, that our Constitution is nothing without us.
I also recalled the day another professor began the semester by telling us that after we had passed the bar, someone would come to us and ask us for our help. We should approach our legal education with that person in mind so when that day comes, we will be able to give him the best help possible.
After reading my father's e-mail, I realized that in slavishly adhering to the regimen of lectures, practice essays and flashcards, I had forgotten all about my pocket Constitution. I had failed to think about that unknown person who, maybe in one of his darkest hours, might be better off because of my counsel. I had lost purpose. I had lost perspective.
Maintaining a routine is crucial to winning a race, reaching any goal and, dare I say it, passing a three-day licensing exam. But remembering purpose and keeping perspective should motivate that routine, not fear and self-doubt. Especially during the times when we think we cannot spare a moment to take a break, we must step back to remember why the race, the goal or the exam is important. Only then can we regain control over wishes and desires and not let them take control over us.