As a heavily overweight child, I struggled to participate in any physical activity like running. The mile run in middle and high school was a miserable experience. Pretty ironic considering years later I became a half-marathon addict and have run numerous half marathons, 5ks and 8ks.
But, the truth is, even as far back as when I was five years old, I remember wanting to be a runner. My brothers could run faster than I could run, and I wanted to be able to keep up. In fifth grade, I entered a one-mile race hoping I could finally be a runner. Unfortunately, without proper guidance on how to build my endurance, I ended up walking most of the race, coming in last, and feeling like a failure.
Years later, my older brother got into running and invited me to go running with him. When I felt like quitting, my brother encouraged me to slow down, catch my breath, and keep going. I built my endurance that summer until I could run four miles without stopping on the high school track.
I could run the miles while on a flat track, but running through our hilly neighborhood was a different story. I would get a third of the way up a hill and stop. I didn’t think I could run the whole way. Until one day, a friend coached me through it. “You might not love the hill, but love what the hill can do for you,” she said. “Your glutes will look incredible. Look at my glutes!” she patted her sixty-year-old behind. “This is your butt on hills!”
I began reciting a mantra to myself. I love hills. I love hills. I love hills. I repeated that mantra to myself until I finally, finally reached the top. I never felt more elated. I conquered what I didn’t think I could do.
It’s been almost fifteen years since I successfully ran that first hill all the way to the top, but one thing I learned that hasn’t changed is that facing challenges, whether it’s running hills or taking the bar exam is all about attitude. Here’s why you should fall in love with the bar exam the way I fell in love with running hills.
The Bar Teaches You How To Handle Challenging Situations
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishing something difficult. The bar is challenging. It will push you to limits you didn’t know you had. How many hours can you study hearsay? How many ways can you remember the rules of torts versus crimes? How long did it take you to master when to apply the UCC to contracts?
When I studied for the July 2019 bar exam, I had a full-time job, a husband, and a one-year-old. I found ways to study while I nursed my toddler, while we went for walks, and while we played trucks on the floor. I had to get really creative in how I managed everything.
Now, I’m still married (thank goodness for a supportive husband!), my one-year old just turned three, I have a new baby, my own law practice, and I’m taking classes to earn my L.L.M. in food law and agriculture. When I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, I remember that I was able to pass the bar under similarly challenging circumstances, and I’ve been able to apply similar studying strategies I used in the bar to my coursework now.
It Reassures You That You Can Do Hard Things
When I decided to take the bar exam in 2019 with everything on my plate already, I honestly wasn’t sure I could really handle it. But, I passed. I will always be grateful to the bar exam for showing me that I can accomplish what once seemed impossible.
In August this year, I gave birth to my second child, my daughter. I gave birth to her at home, without medication, in the middle of a pandemic. Every time during my pregnancy I felt like I wasn’t up to the challenge ahead of me, I remembered that I initially doubted my ability to pass the bar while working and raising a toddler, but I did it.
Thanks to the confidence I gleaned from passing the bar, I had a healthy, active pregnancy and now have the most gorgeous, rambunctious, confident baby girl. There will always be challenges in my life. Balancing LL.M. coursework with my young family while building a law practice is daunting at times, but taking the bar reassured me that I can do hard things.
It’s All About Attitude
I can say from experience there is a marked difference between my ability to run hills when I thought to myself that I hated hills versus when I decided to embrace them and chant to myself that I loved them. My times were much faster when I decided to make the most of my experience and fall in love with hills.
The same can be said of the bar exam. If you embrace the challenge, if you embrace that it’s hard, that it’s difficult, that it’s pushing you and forcing you out of your comfort zone and love the process, a really beautiful transformation can happen. You just may find that you can achieve more than you thought, that you’re stronger than you realized.