So far there has been little about my law school experience that has been anything like the way most people do it. Most people don't start law school at thirty-nine years old with three children and a husband at home. Most people don't get diagnosed with breast cancer half-way through law school. Most people don't attend class bald and sick from chemo. Most people aren't lucky enough to land their perfect dream job before they even graduate from law school. And most people don't fail the bar exam. I, however, have now done all of those things.
When I first read the results online at the end of last week, I was in shock for a few minutes. I had to read the sentence over a few times and I felt a physical sinking of my stomach, my heart, and every other organ in my body as the news washed over me and began to sink in. When I left the exam last July I didn't feel as if I had aced it, but I certainly didn't feel as if I had failed it. I was (and still am) devastated. I immediately thought of the ramifications of this failure: I would lose my beloved dream job, I wouldn't have any way to pay my loans, I would have to prepare for and take it again.
As the shock of the initial news began to wear off, I felt (and still feel) a deep sadness and frustration. I worked so hard this summer and I did everything I was supposed to do...how could this happen? I was (and still am) embarrassed and humiliated at the thought of all the people I let down with my failure: my husband and kids who went through it all with me, my parents, my family and friends, the people who had enough confidence in me to hire me before I graduated, the people in my unit at work, and myself. While I always knew failure was a possibility, this was not the way I had planned it all out in my head.
One of the things I hated about having breast cancer (one of many!) was that I never wanted to be the poster girl for cancer. And yet when you are bald and sick, that's exactly what you are. I hated that role, and I was so happy when my hair grew back and when people I met didn't know about it unless I told them about it. This time I get to be the poster girl for a bar exam failer. At least I don't have visible signs this time, but I am still reluctant to have to take on a role that I would never have chosen on my own.
I wasn't sure how to share this information, but in keeping with my recent tradition of over-sharing the difficult parts of my life, I decided that maybe the best thing to do was to just own this and put it out there. I know I'm not the last person who is going to go through this, so maybe if I just go ahead and write about the experience here it will be cathartic for me and maybe someone else will find it and know that they are not alone.
So now I'm just trying to figure out the best way to bounce. The next step, just like with a cancer diagnosis, is to figure out what to do next. Not being one to take to my bed and pull the covers over my head, in between crying bouts I have updated my resume, cleaned out my desk at work, and signed up for the February test. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I keep telling myself that this could be worse. At least it's not a cancer diagnosis! Failing the bar isn't going to kill me, even if it does feel like I want the earth to open up and swallow me right now.
I keep comforting myself with a growing list of people who failed the bar and who have all gone on to be successful and to do some great things: Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, both Daleys (father and son), several fantastic attorneys who I know personally, John Kennedy, and one of my favorite law school professors, just to name a few. That is not such bad company.