Sunday, December 27, 2020

I Failed The Bar Exam... By 3 Points

 Hey everyone. If you've been following along, you've probably been wondering when I'd be back after taking a hiatus to study for the bar exam. After the exam, I took a week off to visit my parents in Ohio, and when I got back to Georgia my work was nuts. I wrote a few book review posts that I'm waiting for permissions on, but before I could get things back up and running, I got my results back. I wish this post had a happier outcome, but here we are. I've kept a pretty low profile on my person social media accounts, but I wanted to be open about my experience on here. So here are my thoughts...

Last Monday I got an email from the Georgia Bar saying I had a message in my application portal. I figured it wasn't going to be anything important since they told us results would be released in "late December" (last Monday was the 14th), and Georgia ALWAYS posts scores on Fridays (they even say this on their website). However, when I opened my portal, the subject of the message was "Bar Exam Results." My heart was pounding out of my chest as I opened the message. I scrolled down to the first line and read: 

"I regret to advise you that you did not achieve a passing score on the October 2020 Georgia Bar Examination."

I was stunned. I didn't even react. I had told myself time and again that this was a possibility due to the multitude of issues that revolved around this administration of the exam. I had also been working full-time during the 6 months leading up to the exam. Most bar advisors will tell you that it's not recommended to work during bar prep, but I couldn't just go 6 months without an income. As I tried to rationalize all of this in my head, I read on:

"A total score of 270 is required to pass the examination..., and your total score is 267."

This was what broke me. The multiple choice section was worth 200 points and had 100 questions, so if I had gotten 2 more right, I would have passed. There were 3 essays that were graded on a 6-point scale (so 18 points total), and the essay score is then scaled to be out of 100 points. If I had written one more intelligent thing on any of my essays, I would have passed. If I had taken the exam in Alabama, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, or South Carolina where the passing scores are lower than Georgia's passing score, I would have passed.

I was still stunned until I typed out a text message to my fiancé: "I failed the bar by 3 points." Once the emotions behind this reality hit me, I couldn't stop crying. I've failed tests before, I've had semesters in law school where my grades were the worst I've ever gotten in my life, and I've experienced hurt and loss in many areas of my life, but this was probably the worst pain I've ever felt. After 3 years of law school, 6 months of studying for a bar exam that had been overshadowed with uncertainty during a pandemic, and plenty of student loan debt, I failed. If I decided to take the February Bar Exam, it would be at least an entire calendar year from my graduation that I'd be able to put my law degree to any use. 

Meanwhile, my fiancé passed the exam, all of my close friends passed, and all of my fiancé's friends passed. I felt so hurt, humiliated, and unworthy. I couldn't look at social media posts because my feeds were inundated with people who got to celebrate being able to be attorneys. I couldn't text my friends because I didn't want to ruin their happiness. I was so happy for my fiancé, but I couldn't stop myself from crying. For the record, he deserves a gold medal because he did everything under the sun to make me feel better, took all of his congratulatory phone calls outside (on a day that was pretty chilly), and didn't post anything to social media. The pass list was published publicly, so if my deafening silence on social media wasn't enough of a tip-off, my failure was out there for the world to see. I felt so alone and so ashamed. 

I cried harder than I ever had in my life and ended up giving myself an awful headache on top of everything. I didn't want to talk to anyone because I knew anything anyone said would be met with responses fueled by all the anger and hurt I was feeling. "People like Michelle Obama, Hilary Clinton, and JFK didn't pass the bar the first time"? I'm not a Kennedy, didn't go to an Ivy League school, and don't have endless family money to fall back on. "You'll do better next time"? I was told by everyone that I'd pass THIS TIME and look how that worked out. "You were so close"? Not close enough. I probably single-handedly kept Chipotle in business through the pandemic, but I didn't want to eat. I dozed off for a few hours from the sheer exhaustion of it all. When I woke up, I still felt pretty miserable. I remembered seeing a blog post from The Legal Duchess's blog when she failed the previous summer's bar exam, so I read that to try to make sense of everything (here's the post if you're interested). After reading it over, I looked for other insights into this misery. It turns out, failing the bar comes with a lot of the same pain for everyone. Over the summer, I followed a lot of people on Twitter that were taking what has fondly been referred to as "barpocalypse" at the same time I was. I found a little comfort in knowing I wasn't alone. Plenty of people also missed a passing score by just a few points.

The next day, I pretty much took the day to myself. I turned my phone off for the day, got take out from my favorite places, ran some errands with my fiancé, and watched Netflix. The day after that, I finally responded to the messages on my phone, re-applied for the bar exam in February, signed back up for bar prep, and resigned from my job. After a week of self-reflection and coming to terms with everything, I want to give some advice to anyone who's in my shoes or knows somebody who is.

If You Didn't Pass The Bar...

This sucks. There's no way around it. The first few hours are going to hurt like hell, and if you're like me, nothing is going to make it feel better. The best thing you can do right away is to just let yourself feel everything and react accordingly (scream-cry into a pillow, go for a long walk alone, etc.). Take the time you need to process everything. If you need to be alone, give yourself that space. You don't owe anyone anything, and that includes texts and calls. It's okay to be "selfish." If you need to talk to a friend, family member, or a therapist, do that. We all process grief in different ways, and right now is a time to do whatever you need. Feeling hurt is completely warranted, and you should let yourself feel it. Once the initial shock wears off, be nice to yourself. Take a bubble bath, eat a whole tub of ice cream, binge a show, or whatever it is that makes you feel better. You may not be feeling great, but you can at least enjoy a little "me-time." You don't need to be back in action right away, and people will generally understand the need for time off. When you start feeling like yourself again, think about whether you want to try again, how you can do better, and what your game plan will be going forward. Above all, remember that the bar exam is not indicative of your intelligence, your worth as a person, or your abilities as an attorney. Two of my favorite phrases that popped up through this past summer were "if attorneys practiced law like they studied for the bar, they'd all get sued for malpractice" and "any attorney who got called out for incompetent practice of law, by definition, passed the bar." No matter what, you are a worthy person, and I am rooting for you. If you need to talk, feel free to shoot me an email, leave a comment, or message me through social media.


If Someone You Know Didn't Pass The Bar...

Is there anything worse than someone you care about feeling bad and not being able to do anything about it? Yes. Being that hurt person is worse. Please don't make that burden heavier by pushing yourself or your disappointment onto them. If you know someone who failed the bar, the absolute best thing you can do for them is to meet them where they are. If they don't want to talk, do not blow up their phone. Send a text saying you love them, are there for them when they're ready, ask if there is anything you can do, and leave it at that. They'll respond when they're ready. If they do want to talk, make every effort to be there for them and just listen. The bar exam is brutal, and so much hinges on passing it. Missing that mark hurts, and people process hurt in their own way. Don't smother someone who is working on picking up the pieces. The only caveat to letting people grieve in their own way is if you are genuinely concerned for someone's safety. The legal field is notorious for damaging mental health, so if you are worried about someone, find out what local resources are available. The national suicide hotline is 800-273-8255.

Failing the bar is tough, but it is not the end of the world. Tomorrow will come, and better things are ahead. As for me, I'm going to go back to studying, re-take the bar in February, and hope that 2021 is filled with better things than I can even envision right now. If you want to talk, I'm always here for you!


Make today the best page yet,

Paige

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

10 Essentials for Getting Into Shape

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Happy first day of fall, y'all! Whether you've been soaking up the last rays of summer or already lost count of the number of Pumpkin Spice Lattes you've ordered, we're all gearing up for a unique fall experience this year. Personally, I'm gearing up for the bar exam in two weeks (yikes!). Normally, I'd be anticipating getting my results in the next month, but since the exam got pushed back, I'll be taking it at that time instead. In a normal year, bar applicants take the summer "off" to study full-time, but with all the delays, I needed to get a job in order to pay my bills. Balancing studying for the biggest exam of my life and working full-time has not been easy. One thing that has gotten me through these stressful times has been exercise.

As Elle Woods said "Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don't shoot their husbands." From March through most of June I didn't do the best job of keeping up with my health, and it showed. I was depressed about not getting to have a law school graduation, I was anxious about what the bar exam would look like, I ate whatever junk food I felt like eating without concern for how it made me feel, and I dulled the pain with more wine than I normally drink. I finally got on the scale one day and realized I weighed more than I ever have in my life. I needed a change.

For the last 14 weeks, I dedicated myself to getting back into shape. While nothing happens overnight, I started feeling so much better about myself very quickly. I was on a better schedule, I was fueling my body better, and I was consistently in a better mood. Gradually, the mirror and scale started to reflect my progress as well. As of right now, I lost 12 lbs, I have a more toned physique, and I feel great!

Without further ado, here are my 10 essentials for getting into shape*:

1. Beachbody On Demand
Exercise and diet are the two biggest factors when trying to lose weight and get into shape, so the first thing I did was sign up for a Beachbody On Demand subscription. I had seen a bunch of ads on social media about it, and figured I'd at least check it out. There was a 14-day trial period, so if worst came to worst, I'd just cancel the subscription. After 14 weeks, I'm so glad I found this program! There are so many different workout plans to choose from, there are food recommendations, and it costs about the same as a take-out order each month! The workout programs include yoga, HIIT, barre, dance classes, running, weight training, and more. The famous Insanity workouts, 80 Day Obsession, and 21 Day Fix are all offered through Beachbody. Depending on your fitness level, you can pick which workouts are right for you. I opted for the T25 program since it was at an intermediate level and wouldn't take up too much time in my mornings (each workout is only 25 minutes). Every program comes with a calendar so you can check off boxes when you complete each workout. This is a great way to hold yourself accountable and to keep track of your progress! I also love all the recipes they offer as well! My personal favorite is the chicken piccata recipe (I served it over pasta because carbs are life lol)! They also offer superfood shakes in a bunch of flavors (and with vegan options) which keep you fueled and on track for the day! There's actually a few great sales going on right now too: you can get the nutrition program for FREE with the purchase of the superfood shakes (check it out here if you're interested), or you can get a super discount when you get the workout program and shakes together (as well as the nutrition program for free on top of it all)! Finally, when you sign up for Beachbody On Demand, you get a personal fitness coach. This person can help you decide on a workout program, figure out a diet plan that will work for you, set fitness goals, and motivate you to do your best! My coach is so awesome that I decided to become a coach myself (feel free to shoot me an email at thebestpaigeinthebook@gmail.com if you want to talk more about the program)! Overall, this is a great program and worth every penny!

2. Fitness Trackers
I got my Fitbit for Christmas two years ago, and I LOVE it! Once I finally got serious about using it this year, I realized how much it helped me stay on track. I use the Fitbit Alta since I like the slimmer design. The device itself measures your steps, your distance, how many calories you burn, your heart rate, your sleep, how often you move throughout the day, and the number of times you exercise in a week. Fitbit also has an app that connects to the tracker where you can log your calorie intake, how much water you've drank in a day, and keep track of weight goals. Fitness doesn't happen over night, so having smaller daily goals is a great way to work towards long-term goals as well as stay motivated! Fitbit also makes smartwatches if you're looking for a more high-tech option. The Charge 4 is another popular pick (and it's currently on sale!), and they also have children's designs to get the whole family moving! I've heard great things about Apple watches if you're looking for a tracker with more features and/ or that will connect with your other devices. There are also generic fitness trackers if you're looking for a cheaper option. Overall, I really recommend using a fitness tracker in order to help keep yourself on track!

3. Food Tracking Apps
A big part of getting into shape is what we fuel our bodies with. Food gives us the energy to be the awesome people that we are day in and day out. However, foods that are calorie-dense and nutritionally limited can leave us feeling tired and unmotivated pretty quickly. Those kinds of foods can also keep us from appreciating the person in the mirror. There are all kinds of diets out there (keto, Atkins, vegan, etc), but the simplest way to use your diet to help you get into shape is by eating at a caloric deficit. This means that you're consuming less calories than you're burning off in a day. You can run for miles and do crunches for days, but if you're eating too many calories then you probably won't get the results you want. A simple way to keep track of your calorie intake is through a food-tracking app. I personally like the Fitbit app since it's linked to my tracker and all of my other fitness metrics (you can use the app without buying an actual Fitbit as well). MyFitnessPal is another great option, and it can even sync to your iPhone's health app. When I first started measuring my caloric intake, I was shocked at how many calories I was actually consuming each day. Since then I've learned which foods help me to feel full without chewing up my daily calorie quota. I'm also able to plan around things like getting take out so that I'm still within my calorie range at the end of the day. Being aware of what you're fueling your body with is a great step towards getting in shape!

4. Goli Gummies