A Lesson From My Mom: Why You Need To Allow Yourself To Be A Beginner

The night before I started kindergarten I came crying into my mothers bedroom with a piece of paper in my hands. Like any good mom, she immediately asked what was wrong. Through my tears I told her that I didn't want to go to kindergarten, that I wasn't ready.

My mom, trying to be patient (keep in mind, I cried a lot as a child), asked me why did I think I wasn't ready to go to kindergarten. I cried "Mommy, they're going to make me write research papers and I can't even spell my name!" And she laughed at me.

Now, I know you're asking yourselves what the hell this has to do with bar prep. Here's what my mother told me during bar prep:

"I'm going to tell you the same thing now that I told you when you cried the night before kindergarten because you thought you were going to have write research papers like your siblings: No one expects you to know how to write a paper if you can hardly spell your name. Same with the bar: No one can expect you to get all the answers right when you are still learning the law. It takes time, just like kindergarten did."

Her words cut through my bar exam panic and stopped my tears. My mom was telling me it was OK to be a beginner.

Throughout law school, I'm sure you all have had numerous successes. Some small, some large. But you didn't start off successful. The bad part is that we forget that we all had to start somewhere.

The same thing happens in the beginning of bar prep which is quickly approaching for many of you. When you start doing practice questions or submitting essays to be graded, you might have a bit of a shock. Most people are lucky to score between 40-50% on multiple choice questions in the beginning. Most people review their essays to discover that they missed over half of the issues.

But it's OK.

Like I had to learn when I was five and then again at 27 when I was studying for the bar exam: you cannot be an expert when you haven't allowed yourself to be a beginner.

You WILL be frustrated. And you WILL feel some doubt. But believe me that's more than normal; it's expected. Anyone who tells you that they never doubted their ability to pass the exam, or tells you that they aced every question, or that they were always confident are just trying to mess with your mind. Don't let them in.

For weeks I saw my grades hovering between 50-60%. Six weeks before the bar, I saw a drop in my scores which is what prompted this conversation I had with my mom. After I listened to her and I began to relax, I started to see a change. I may not have been scoring 90%, or even 80%, but I was remembering things and slowly my scores started to climb.

Two weeks before the bar, my scores skyrocketed. And, obviously something worked, I passed the bar. But, my mom was right. I hate to admit it, but she was. I had to let myself be a beginner again. I had to learn that my successes in law school were irrelevant when it came to the bar. I had to learn that studying for the bar exam isn't like studying for a law school exam. I had to start over. And I had to be OK with it.

So it is time to let go of thinking your going into bar prep a genius. It's time to let yourself make mistakes. It's time to open yourself up to learning in a whole new way. It's time to listen to my mom.

Allow yourself to be a beginner and just keep trying because this is going to take time. Give yourself the time. And don't get discouraged. Just keep trying. That's all anyone can ask of you is to try. And if you need another pep talk, I'm sure my mother will be happy to answer anyone's emails.

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