But first, let me give a warm welcome to the new Cilley followers. Welcome! If you have blogs I will go check them out. If you don't, what's wrong with you? Having a blog where you can blather on about anything to a captive audience and they just have to take it? They're there for YOUR amusement? It's awesome! Like a hot dog!*
Seriously, welcome :)
So, the Olympics start tonight and I am very excited. I LOVE the Olympics, and I even have a touching story as to why that is. I always thought the Olympics were awesome (like a hot dog), but I only watched the figure skating in the winter games and the gymnastics in the summer games and that was it.
And then came the Summer Olympics of 1996.
Let me set the scene. I had just graduated from law school, and I was sitting for my first bar exam. (Not the kind with alcoholic beverages. Those would come later. Not that I wouldn't ace that kind of bar exam.) There was also an extended heat wave in Seattle. And I was losing my mind.
Because after a zillion years and a zillion dollars in school throughout your entire life, it all comes down to this one two and a half day exam. If you pass, you've fulfilled your dream and will go on to great things, probably in a short Ally McBeal kind of skirt. If you fail, your life is over. Might as well slit your wrists with a number two pencil and a scantron sheet right then and there. Not that you know whether you've passed or failed for several MONTHS, but stick with me.
So, all of this amazing pressure that my entire life has come down to this and whether I've studied enough and maybe that week off during the bar review to spend a week in California really wasn't a good idea just like my mother warned me. I'm staying in a hotel maybe two blocks or so away from the testing center, so I don't have to worry about traffic or anything. But that means that to get to the testing center I have to walk outside. Where there's a heat wave. Which maybe wouldn't be so bad except that inside the testing center there is air conditioning. And it's roughly minus five degrees fahrenheit in there. One or the other could be dealt with, but going between the two sucked. I think half of us came down with the flu from the wild and frequent temperature changes.
On to the first testing day. Let me explain how the Washington bar exam works. Unlike many other states where the bulk of it is multiple choice on scantron sheets, Washington's exam -- at least in 1996 -- is all essay. ALL essay. All TWO AND A HALF FREAKIN' DAYS is essay. And, it gets better. You are being tested on the law. ALL of the law. As in, roughly 30 different topics of the law, plus a half day of ethics. You have to know it all, because there is no rhyme or reason to what topics will show up on the exam. You might think there should be, but there is not. I'm guessing they draw topics out of a hat, quite frankly.
Now, also realize that you don't actually get to study all 30 different topics in law school. You can not take a class on each of them; with the required courses, and only three years in which to do it, it is impossible. Well, maybe you could, but at roughly a trillion dollars per credit unless you're a Rockefeller in good with the family you couldn't afford to. What you end up doing is taking a bar review course, with all the possible topics crammed into six weeks. But again, realize that some areas of law are really freakin huge. You're going back hundreds of years and you may have noticed we are a litigious society so also over hundreds of cases.
This may be why I can't remember shit these days. My brain is full.
Anyhow, day one of the exam. One four hour session in the morning, one four hour session in the afternoon. No computers then, by the way. Well, there may have been a typewriter room, but for most of us it is all written by hand. My hand does not fall off, but I do still have permanent nerve damage (I kid you not) in the tip of the middle finger of my right hand.
I get back to the hotel, convinced I've failed and my life is ruined and that I'm coming down with the flu and that I need to cram even more for the second day of the exam. But first, I must eat. I order room service and turn on the TV.
And there are the Olympics. It's the final night of the women's gymnastics team competition. The U.S. has a shot at gold. If you weren't living under a rock at the time, you might remember Kerri Strug. She's the little gal where it all comes down to her and her two final vaults. On her first vault, she lands wrong and injures her ankle. Can barely put any weight on it. Yet she goes and does her second vault, pounding down towards it on both feet (she is small but mighty) and does her vault and sticks the landing ON ONE FOOT. Crowd goes wild, Bela goes wild, carries Kerri off and the women take the team gold for the first time EVER.
Suddenly, it hits me. Me, and my little test, all of it. I am ABSOLUTELY FREAKIN INSIGNIFICANT in the grand scheme of things. Here are people who have likely worked literally their entire lives for this one moment. If something goes wrong, or even if it all goes right and they still do not take the gold, or any medal at all, their next chance will not come for four years, if at all. Remember all those games counties have boycotted? For those athletes, no chance whatsoever.
I realize that if I don't know this crap by now, I just won't know it. And if I do not pass, I can take the exam again in a few months. So, I sit back and I watch the rest of the Olympics. And I watch the Olympic coverage every night since then when I can. I check in on the website to see how everyone is doing, read their stories, check out the medal count. If they work their whole lives for this one moment, the least I can do is watch them do it. To thank them for putting things into perspective for me. It's a perspective I still rely on to this day. So tune in tonight, even if you just watch the opening ceremonies and the parade of nations. See if it doesn't make all your problems seem manageable. See if you can't medal in your own life. Who better to do it?
By the way, I passed the exam.
*Eddie Izzard reference. He's awesome like a hot dog! Like socks!