May 12, 2006

The black hole exam event

I have a new theory. Every day you have a final -- it's like a black hole. Sort of. Just work with me here.

Say you've got an afternoon exam. Then the morning before is a long and boring time sink. You sleep in. You shower. You work out. And then, you trudge through notes, outlines, supplement, and the book, simultaneously hoping that you'll see something you need to know and, of course, hoping that you are so prepared that you won't. You don't want to tire out your brain before the exam, so this ends up being a half-hearted attempt at learning, resulting in more papercuts than anything. You wish you were so confident that you could just say, "fuck it" and go out to brunch with friends (which is probably what you should do.) Because you know you are just going to get a B anyways, no matter how well you know this shit. So the morning slowly ticks by and you'll never get that time back.

If, on the other hand, you have a morning exam, you enter a world of pain upon awakening. It's as if there's a certain amount of annoyance and anguish you must experience before the exam phase, and the only question is whether it will be agonizingly stretched out over several hours or piercing in its quick and dirty attack. Early, after a long night of studying and fitful sleep--the day star, it burns. Not enough sleep and you're groggy, but it doesn't dull the insult of the early exam morning. Bumbling, you rush to shower, drink caffeine and set up your computer for the exam.

Regardless of the start of your day, the exam is basically the same: Long and furious typing, a need to pee that is too long ignored, a feeling that you got stuff wrong upon exit, a realization that you just typed 3 paragraphs on the wrong stuff during and the in-the-moment decision of whether to delete that "work" or leave it as evidence of something, anything. Time flies while your brain fatigues from the herculean effort to convey information you've learned while NOT conveying what you haven't learned. Time, it's just gone.

And then, there's recovery. You can't talk straight for the first hour or so post exam. It's convenient that this is the time period where you are expected to operate a motor vehicle to return home. Then, you enter the blissful post-finals stratum. A time of indulgence. For me, that's wine or beer and food plus laughter and stories. But I know people who skip the food. I know people who go to the movies. I know people who shop. Regardless, this stratum is identified because it is a time of forgetting. You won't get those hours back either. They are, in some ways the mirror image of the morning hours. But they seem so much better spent.

The next thing you know, it's the day after. You vaguely remember the pain and annoyance of the morning. You know you took an exam. And you're fairly certain you ate, relaxed and hung out because you feel better and slept better than you had in days.

Sometimes I think law school is really just a trick to get you to approach 20 or so of these time, body, and brain smashing events to help you build up stamina for the big one, where you stretch it out over a full two or three days. Some people, by the end, they've found shortcuts through the morning layer. But not me. I'm still going through all the motions, just like a 1L, I've just got tougher skin and I know what to expect. Mamma Mia the bar is gonna suck.

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