I don’t think you can ever truly prepare for your first round of exams in law school. Of course, you can drill into your mind the countless cases you’ve read, the rules of Civil Procedure (Rule 14(a)(2)(d) is a personal favorite), and the fact that murder requires a killing. But, in my life, I have yet to enter a situation as overwhelming as Fall 1L exams. Before my weary eyes, I saw our school transform into a Spanish telenovela: tears (myself included), hysteria, misery, and exhaustion abound (if it weren’t for the daily doughnuts, I don’t know how I would have survived). My head felt like it was in a fog. I kvetched, lamented, and forsook up and down MacDougal Street. Few things gave me any real sense of pleasure outside of the occasional Seamless order and the prospect of assuming a vegetative state during winter break.
I wish this were not the reality of exam mode. Even in suffering through all the despair, however, I realized how lucky I was to have bitten the bullet here, at NYU Law. Apart from the free food (I crave the salchipapas constantly now), coffee, and massages, I realized that the only thing that got me through this trying period of self-deprecation and doubt, apart from my family, were the people in my class. The age-old adage “misery loves company,” I have found, rings true, but not in a way that I would have expected. It wasn’t that I was enjoying that people were miserable. Well, maybe a little….
BUT there was a certain comfort in knowing that my fellow classmates, like me, were stumped by what exactly WAS left of quasi in rem, what “chicken” really means, and when self-defense actually exonerated an individual. The sense of camaraderie of being buried deep in the trenches of legal thought and helping one another trudge through was what I found remarkable. Clearly, we didn’t get to NYU by being lackadaisical; we are a competitive breed. Yet I was pleasantly surprised to find that my peers not only offered an ear to my worries, but helped to build the confidence I needed to aid me in pushing beyond my own insecurities. In them, I found solace.
When the days finally came around to take the dreaded exam, I assumed the usual practices of a beleaguered law student: grabbing at my hair like a madman, ferocious knuckle-cracking, the burning temptation to walk out midway, and, of course, the strategically planned bathroom breaks. By the end of each one, I felt as if I had been hit by an 18-wheeler. It was a unique experience: simultaneously realizing just how much new knowledge I had taken possession of in the course of one semester and how little I really knew in spite of it. As we all rack our brains thinking of what we COULD have written and what grades we will receive, I think it is important to remember that we have achieved something marvelous already. We have survived our first semester of law school.
Maybe our eyesight has worsened, we have gained some weight, and our skin has turned a pallor that we only thought possible in the Twilight series. But, through it all, we persevered! As we enjoy the festivities of the holidays and the calm of the winter break, I think we have much to be proud of in ourselves and one another. While we may be terrified at the prospect of doing this all over again in May, the worst is over. We have overcome the “Erie swamp.”
Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year to all!