Sunday, March 22, 2009

Part 5 – Florida Bar Day 2 – February 25th, 2009 – Afternoon Session:

Once I got to my seat for the FINAL session of the bar exam I again struck up a conversation with my “tablemate” and we actually exchanged emails with each other. We shared an extreme dislike for Ohio State and he seemed somewhat fond of UF athletics so hopefully he gets in touch and I can help him get into a game in “The Swamp” sometime soon. After a short conversation we both decided to put the earplugs in for one last round and pretty much tried to ignore the constant droning of the repeated “test instructions.” Right on cue the instructions ended early and we were stuck sitting there waiting in anxious silence for the last section of our test to finally begin so it could FINALLY end. Then, as usual, we were able to spring into action. One of my main concerns in this final section was to avoid the “smell the barn” syndrome so to speak. In other words I knew I was getting close and didn’t want to rush to the finish, or into the barn, and not give the test the focus and attention that it deserved in order to pass. I quickly reminded myself of all of the pain and suffering that I had gone through in preparation as well as the prior three sessions of this test and couldn’t smell the barn any more. As with the second section of day 1 the first 10 questions or so were extremely longer and definitely more difficult than I expected. I’m not sure if it was me still being in lunch mode or a tactic by the test makers to try to break me down, and take even more of my energy and make me quit on myself before I really even got into the main test. Regardless of what it was, I was onto the scheme and knew that all of the questions couldn’t be as hard as some of those were and moved on with my confidence intact.

My timing was very close to that of the earlier MBE session so I wasn’t going to have 30-45 extra minutes like I did during the practice tests and would have to pay more attention to my time management but I definitely had enough time to give adequate attention to each question. I took my first break right on cue at the 33 question mark and then settled back in, relaxed and watched the clock for a couple of minutes and was back into the questions. Of all of the sections of the exam this was the first one that I noticeably felt fatigue creeping in as I was answering each question. At the end of day one I knew I was expending a lot of energy but didn’t feel fatigued until after I walked out, but day two session two, the fatigue was going to factor in early and often. Just one more thing to think about and worry about while trying to take the most demanding exam I’ve ever taken – gotta love it.

I finished all of the questions that I didn’t skip to come back to and took my last restroom/mental break. As I sat back down I looked up at the red countdown clock and realized I only had 30 minutes left of this test and then this whole experience would be OVER for good – at least until the results come out. I went back to the beginning and went over the questions that I wasn’t 100% sure about but made an educated guess. I would say that 8 out of 10 times I re-visited a question I would still go with my initial instinct and answer choice, but due to either the length or difficulty of the question it was worth re-reading a few times and really focusing on so I could give it my best shot at picking the “best” answer. I finished my re-read questions with about 3 minutes to spare and finally felt my first big sigh of relief, knowing that this exam was finally over for me. I didn’t really care whether I passed or failed at that point, but was just happy that I had done my best, I hadn’t quit on myself, and I was DONE. I sat back in my chair and relaxed and watched a few people throughout the room rush to finish in time and then finally the proctor announced it was over!

The noise of everyone jumping up out of their chairs at once was almost louder than the start on day 1 and we were all on our way out. Some cheered as they left, hugged other classmates, some literally ran out, and I found one of my close friends and classmates Ray who was sitting a few tables up from me and we both walked out of the test together reveling in the fact that this ordeal was finally behind us. Even though the test was over, the only thing we could talk about was either the test, or waiting on the dreaded results – it’s a horrible cycle. As we exited we turned in our answer booklets and were then free from studying but not worry.

When I was leaving I didn’t feel like I had done amazingly well on the test but I knew all of the information that I was told to study, I wasn’t completely surprised/baffled by any one question, and I didn’t quit on myself and let the test win. So although I won’t know if it was a complete success until I get the results – I felt like the testing experience was a success. It was funny as we exited the testing area to see that a pretty wise entrepreneur who had set up and was selling beer immediately outside of the test! It was so very tempting, but I knew that it was probably way too expensive and that I was meeting my parents for dinner so I (wisely) decided to hold off.
Once I congratulated a few friends for making it all the way through I made my way outside and took my first breath of fresh air without the worry of studying for or taking the exam – it was a beautiful afternoon and it felt amazing! My parents were supposed to meet me in town after the exam and head out to dinner to celebrate and then take in a Florida Southern vs. University of Tampa basketball game. I walked back to the hotel I was staying in so I could get my phone out of my car and find out if my parents were in town yet. After getting in touch we had to locate each other in downtown Tampa traffic at 5 o clock. This turned out to be almost as stressful as the test but finally we located each other and I was in the car with my parents relaxing on the way to dinner.

We decided to head to Channelside and once we finally managed to park I was getting the much needed hugs from Mom and Dad before we walked to dinner. Since it was a Wednesday night there really wasn’t much going on in the Channelside area but we decided to grab dinner at Bennigan’s and fortunately (and fittingly) it was happy hour so I was finally enjoying a much needed beer - or two. I don’t think I really realized how tired I was until I settled down into the booth at the restaurant and then it hit me all at once and I was just completely numb and in shock from the whole experience. Then we started talking about the whole thing and the adrenaline kicked in again and I was talking about all sorts of experiences I had gone through during the test. It was so great to relax and not have the test to worry about while also finally spending some time with my parents when I wasn’t completely stressed out. It really is very hard to put into words how happy and relaxed I was for the first time since I graduated on December 13.

Dinner was great and I swear I haven’t eaten that well since before I graduated and finally at least some of the pressure was off. Then we headed over to the University of Tampa for their 2nd matchup of the season. For those of you who do not follow the Sunshine State Conference, FSC and UT have been bitter rivals since well before I started working for FSC as a kid and through high school. The games are always the same – amazingly physical, poorly officiated, and ALWAYS close. The crowds also put up a solid battle and it always feels like you’re going through the game just like the athletes. So much so I even got into it with an official scorer on my way out of the gym for a drink at halftime. Long story short, the guy wasn’t doing his job, became part of a game, and one of his mistakes (which he refused to own up to or address) could have actually changed the game. This is completely unacceptable and from my experience working on a very similar crew with UF and the SEC I know how important it is to do your job and get it right. We exchanged pleasantries and I was on my way to get a diet coke and I am very pleased to announce that he had a much, much, better second half – which his all I wanted. The game was very exciting and definitely hard fought and fortunately Florida Southern won and clinched the regular season title!

The drive back to Lakeland went by quickly and fatigue was definitely setting in once I got to the house. When we got there I was finally able to take a load off and it took me a while to finally make my way into the bedroom but once I did I found these waiting for me:


The new irons I had been fitted for a few months back as a graduation/Christmas gift had come in TODAY – what timing! What a perfect ending to my day! This definitely made my day and I cannot wait to take them out to the course and test them out! Hopefully I will pass the bar and be able to spend more time golfing and enjoying myself and much less time studying and stressing out. After a couple of beers with Dad and watching some highlights of Tiger Woods’ return to the PGA Tour I was ready for bed and as you would imagine, it didn’t take very long at all for me to fall asleep.

The next morning I got up and headed out to the golf course with dad to get fitted for a new driver. Looks like I will be really getting into the golf with all of this new gear. The only problem is if I get all of this great new technologically advanced golf equipment, I’ll have nothing left to blame all of my bad shots on but myself. Looks like I’m going to have to practice before all of these tournaments I have coming up! After a lunch with Dad at The Heights once again Mom came home a little early from school to see me off and just like that I was on my road back to Jacksonville after my whirlwind trip to Lakeland for the bar.
My homecoming was great, and it was so good to see my wife, cat, and dogs again, this time with much less stress. I was finally home and this experience was finally over – at least until the results are released on April 13…

**Postscript – Leading into this post, my goal was to simply document my experiences and type out a couple of pages setting out some of my experiences during the bar exam – as I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, this post turned into something far more. I can honestly say this has been absolutely most difficult thing I have EVER written (and I have been faced with some very emotionally and mentally challenging “assignments”). The more I wrote the more these experiences and the anxiety rushed back into my mind – the fear, the enormous self doubt, the anxiety, the physiological symptoms and the stress were all flooding back to me like I was experiencing this for the very first time but I had to write it so I would remember and learn from this challenge regardless of how my results turn out. As challenging as it was, it was definitely worthwhile for me to reflect and learn from this experience – thank you for reading**

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