Vado Porro

Running from the Law: Sink or Swim

"I took the bar exam. I can do this." I said to myself quietly as I stared out at the inky black water, with two foot swells crashing into shore.  The buoys seemed impossibly far away, and I had to swim around two of them.  The sun had just barely come up over the horizon and the water looked cold.  I stood with a group of a hundred other women on the beach, waiting for the starting gun to sound.  For a lot of us, it was our first triathlon. 

The swim was a lot like the multi-state section of the bar exam.  In fact, I felt almost exactly like I did when I took the multi-state.  I felt like I was going to drown.  I felt like I was going to get eaten by a giant, scary sea monster.  I felt like I was swimming in a very deep pit of algae.  I felt like I was being forced back to shore as I struggled just to get out. 

The multi-state exam that I took in July was grueling at best and horrifying at worst.  I passed through entire sections of questions in which not only did I not know the answer, I wasn't sure what subject was being tested.  And even though I had been warned that I would feel like the multi-state ran over me like a train, I still wasn't prepared enough.  As I inhaled salt water on that chilly Sunday morning, I felt similarly ill-prepared.

The surf crashed over my head as I fought against it, just trying to reach that first orange buoy so that I could swim alongside the shore rather than into the waves.  It was only 450 yards, but it was the longest 450 yards of my life.  As I struggled to get past the surf, I gave up on everything I had trained myself to do and did whatever it took to get through it.  I doggie-paddled.  I elementary backstroked.  Eventually, somehow, I made it to the first buoy.  I expected to feel relief, but instead my stomach was filled with dread.  That second buoy was so much further away than it had looked from the shore.  I was not even half way done, and I felt so tired.  

When you are open water swimming, or taking the multi-state, you eventually reach the halfway point.  Instead of thinking "halfway there!" you will be thinking, "that was so much work I cannot possibly finish this!"

I forced myself to focus on my training and reminded myself over and over again that I would get through this. Before I knew it, I was at the second buoy and turning in to the shore.  The waves were at my back for the final stretch and I managed to catch up with a few more swimmers in yellow caps, which led to a not-totally-embarrassing end to a totally embarrassing swim.  The rest of the triathlon was a relief and I finished the whole thing with a smile on my face.  

I think that anything that we do that is a challenge, be it a triathlon or a two-day-exam that determines whether you will be a lawyer, and how you handle these situations all adds up in the end.  The thing about the swim portion of a triathlon, and the multi-state, is that it embodies everything we learned in law school. You have to sink or swim.  You have to fight against your instincts.  You have to, at some point, suck it up and power through. I know that in the future, when I am in tough situations, I can build on the strength that I have developed so far, and it will carry me through.  

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