Friday, July 20, 2007

An Open Letter to California Bar Exam Takers 2007

Dear Bar Exam Taker,

You probably don't know who I am. You probably don't care. You probably stumbled upon this blog through a Google search, hoping that someone, anyone would be as miserable, nervous or irritable as you are feeling now.

I cannot offer that comfort. I took the bar exam last year. I understand the feeling though. I know that feeling well. For months, irritability and sadness were my constant companions. I, too, searched blogs to see if someone, anyone was as miserable as I was. I, too, clung on to Richard Sakai's words of comfort, his stories of people in such terrible positions that they could not possibly pass, but they did.

Today, I offer my own story for comfort.

Like many of you, the California Bar Exam represented hope for the future. I came to California hoping to find a job, and a life away from the stifling atmosphere of Singapore. The year before had been hard. I did well for my postgraduate course, but after a year of closed doors and rejection letters, I was nowhere closer to finding a job. So, yes, the Bar Exam I hoped would change things.

A month before the bar exam, the laptop I was going to use for the bar exam crashed. I was unable to recover anything from it. What's worse, I had been training, until that point, to take my exam on the computer. I lost a day too, trying to get the computer to work, but to no avail. I honestly thought I was going to go mad that day. I remembered resisting the urge to throw the traitorous computer against the wall.

I sucked it up. I started training to hand-write this exam. But even that wasn't the worst thing that happened.

A week later, my wife called me up from Singapore. She told me my marriage was over. I fought hard, trying to change her mind, to make her at least give me time until after my exam to work things through. She didn't. She was adamant. One week before the exam, I was so exhausted that I gave up. She conceded me a three-month hiatus, but even then, I knew things were over.

And just like that, my reason for working so hard for the Bar Exam was taken away.

I passed the Bar Exam. I took that sucker by the horns, and gave it my best shot, then went back to Singapore in tears. By the time I knew the results, the three month hiatus was over and I was facing an impending divorce. I guess I could have flown back to California to find a job, but then, what would be the point?

It is not my intention to make this sound like an "Against All Odds" story. Rather, this is a story about perspective. Right now, the Bar Exam may feel like the most important thing in the world to you. Passing it is the culmination of your dream to be a lawyer. Nothing else should matter, right?

You see, life has this funny way of throwing curve balls at you. You cannot possibly anticipate the million and one things that will happen to make your life miserable during the Bar Exam. The secret, the REAL secret that the Bar Exam doesn't want you to know about, is that these things don't matter.

Ultimately, your life after the results of the Bar Exam, pass or fail, is your own. You are the one living your life. Not the State Bar Examiners. Not Richard Sakai. You.

To this day, when people ask me what my finest hour is, I tell them it's taking the Bar Exam. It isn't because I passed. It's because I made it through alive. It made me realise the depths of endurance I had. It showed me that I had friends who cared about me. It made me realise I was loved.

The Bar Exam is no monster that thrives on corpses of failed students. It's no mirror reflecting your worst fears back on you. It's there, and it's not. It's you. Only you. You give it meaning. You make it the monster. You turn it into the mirror.

All you need to do is reach out your hand, and reach right through. Then go on living.

Best of Luck,
Anthony Lim


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I'm taking the bar next week. Sounds like you had it rough and still made it. Maybe there is hope for me after all....

Anthony said...

Hey Anonymous,

Yeah, I had it tough. Made it. I have utmost confidence you will do better. Even if you don't, it's honestly no biggie.

RACHEL said...

Thank you for this. It makes me feel a lot better. I just posted a lengthy entry on my own blog about my experience with the Cali bar last week. I too had massive computer failure, but mine happened DURING the last performance test. Ouch. I'm pretty much holding my breath until November...

soulmoney said...

Hi Anthony,
Thank you so much for your letter. I seriously had NO perspective on not passing the bar until I read it. I really thought that I was exempt from failing the bar because of high grades in law school, etc., but no one is exempt. However, your experience with the bar only shows me that there is more to the bar than smarts. It's a marathon, and I am going to run it again in February. Wish me luck.

Gayle Baligod said...

i am waiting for the results of the phil bar exams which will be out on mar 20. i failed once. i thought id die, but then God was there all through out.Padre Pio was there. My family, friends and my boyfriend stood by me. i took it again and i am praying and hoping to pass it this time.

i love your letter. i want to thank you for writing this letter.