Context

  • Still watching Grey’s, now into the ninth season just after the plane crash. They brought in this new herd of interns probably hoping to keep the series going smoothly with a new cast, probably what ER did, but I don’t think it works. I just really do not care about these new characters. They’re for the most part not compelling or interesting.
  • I just finished Matt McCarthy’s “The Real Doctor Will See You Now” and I loved it. I felt there could have been more to tell about that year of training and living that got buried in trying to keep a narrative going. I understand that personal nonfiction requires an ongoing story in order to make it readable, but in this case it overwhelmed the general idea. At least I thought so.
  • I bought another new book, this one the most recent book of 10 LSATs available, and I plan to start doing those sometime this coming week. I have two games and the three other sections left to go in the last test of my old book of old tests first.
  • My LSAT progress is still disappointing. I’m averaging low 160s still, so I’m plateaued and it’s frustrating as hell. I just want my scores to improve already! I’m consistently scoring 95% or better on the reading comprehension and logic games parts, but the analytical reasoning just isn’t good enough. I’m still reviewing my Logic Games Bible and reading other things online as I come across them and reading answer explanations on Manhattan Prep for each question, but so far it’s not quite good enough. I’m not sure if I need to do more and if I keep doing it, it will eventually just click and sink in, or if I need to go another route. Advice?
  • I’ve spent the last two weeks trapped inside and it’s making me a little nuts. I was sick for the whole week two weeks ago with headaches, exhaustion, and light sensitivity, so even though the weather was great, the kids and I were stuck inside. For this past week it’s been over 90 by noon every day with a bazillion percent humidity, so we’ve been outside all morning until naptime, then trapped in here all afternoon and evening.
  • Only three weeks til our big trip! and I turn thirty… Excited to go be somewhere new with little responsibility and to have the kids spend some time with their grandparents, who are coming to the house to watch them.
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More steps forward

Yesterday evening the boys and I walked over to a neighbor’s house to check out their in-home daycare. I’m considering sending them there for the week immediately before the LSAT so I can study intensively without distraction.

This is big step for me because it’s the beginning of a real commitment to taking the LSAT this December instead of chickening out and waiting until next February or even June. I’m making a financial commitment to this neighbor (about $350 for two kids under three for five full weekdays) and letting more people in my immediate life know about my plans, thus upping the accountability.

The daycare seemed like a great fit, even if the kids are going to be there for just a week. They’ll have fun and the lady who runs it seems great. But I’m still scared. Committing to this means committing not only to this administration of the LSAT, but, because the sole reason I’m doing it is to spend a week studying intensely with no distractions, I need to make this additional (and technically not required) investment worth it. There’s pressure now to get as much out of this free time as possible, not waste a single second (or penny) being distracted or practicing inefficiently.

Yet more fear. Part of me wonders if I’m this freaked out about just the LSAT, how will I fare in actual law school, where every day will entail classwork or prepping for tests, all of which will seem as significant as this one? How will I do when I’m not just giving up my evenings with my children, but weekends and some weekdays (though they will be in school full-time when/if I do go to school) and the stakes, the need for success to prove that this isn’t some horrible selfish thing, are so much higher?

Panic

I’ve reached a point now where I’m starting to get more and more questions right per “game.” There have been a few games now that I’ve scored perfectly on, and several others where I’ve missed only one or two.

The ones I fail miserably at, though, are standing out most in my mind. There’s celebration when I “win,” but it’s nothing compared to the panic when I “lose.”

I’m seized immediately by fear that I’m too stupid for this. That I’m wasting not only my time, but my family’s time as well. All the time and energy I’m putting into this project is time and energy I am necessarily not spending with them. That little voice in the back of my mind nags that I’m a selfish fool, so If I’m going to do this, I had better do it well. “Failures” like this make me doubt that I can.

It’s ridiculous, I know, that such small failures (if they can even really be called that) cause me such dramatic doubt, but they do. I’m horribly insecure about my intellect. I’ve been a slightly-above-mediocre student my whole life (top half of everything except math and gym), though I’ve always known that if I had put in more effort I could’ve been a top student.

Or so I’ve always let myself believe. I don’t think I ever didn’t really try that hard because I was afraid that if I tried and failed it would prove I really was as mediocre as my actual performance indicated, but that I didn’t put in the extra effort because I am lazy. I will admit that: I am lazy, and it more than likely is the root of my mediocrity.

But what if I’m wrong about that? WHAT IF I’m not mediocre because I’m lazy, but because I really am mediocre or less?

So I’m nervous for that reason (in addition to others) about this whole endeavor, and any setback feeds that insecurity. When I “fail” I feel like I’m “caught” pretending to be something I’m not, where the thing I am not is “smart” and the thing I’m “caught” at is being “stupid.” A wolf in sheep’s clothing, who, to mix metaphors, discovers the clothes never existed. (Does that make any sense? I’m not sure anymore.)

The big problem is now that the games are starting to click, I’m starting to expect more of myself. In the beginning I knew I would get most of the questions wrong because these things are hard for me, but now I know I can get them right. When I go back to the explanations of the ones I get wrong, more often than not now the right answer is obvious. This was not always the case, and that progress both thrills and frightens me. If they’re so obvious, why am I getting them wrong? If I’m going to get these things wrong, then why am I doing all this work and making these sacrifices (and putting them on my family as well)?

And now I’m into the logical reasoning. This is harder for me than I thought it would be. In the initial practice test, I did fine on it. Not a stellar score, but better than 60%, so I didn’t worry much. Now that I know more about them but haven’t worked as extensively with this new understanding, I think I’m overapplying too much of my new arsenal of help and sinking my own ship. As I progress through more and more of these questions, I think I’ll be able to scale back what I bring to each question and not overwhelm myself into failure. It happened with the “games” so I think it can happen here.

Honestly, though, I’m not entirely sure. As I said, I’ve never really put this much effort into anything like this before. I didn’t have to; since I could do well enough to suit myself without it, why bother? So I didn’t. The one other thing I studied for, though not nearly to the extent to which I’m studying for this, was the math portion of the GRE, which I did horribly on twice, though my final score was satisfactory.

But that didn’t work, so how much can this? Stupid question, since evidence from the “games” is that it can work very well for me. But I’ve never really done this before, so I’m nervous.

Hell, I’m scared.

Visiting

click image for source

My mom was in town for a professional conference last week, so we decided to meet for dinner when she’d finished all her sessions one day. Since I got to my mom’s hotel about half an hour before mom finished her last session, I got brave and walked a couple blocks to one of the three local law schools.

It’s located near downtown, which is a little scary for me inasmuch as I’m terrible at driving in that area, but the pretty building and nice landscaping made it more acceptable. It is immediately noticeable that the campus tries to set itself apart from its urban surroundings. Whereas the rest of the neighborhood is (or at least seems to be) concrete and glass, the school has neatly manicured lawns and pretty gardening (as much as this can really be seen in March) .The green areas come off as though they’re trying a little too hard to be pretty to compensate for their scarcity, though they do help add a bit of charm to the otherwise grey environment of the campus.

Standing outside the building, I was intimidated. It’s nowhere near a top school (ranked nearly 150th), but it has the air of small-scale prestige.  A large glass front, while not seeming to be the front because it more or less faces the center of campus and not a street, gives a sense of modernity, which is tempered by beige stone that softens the appearance a bit. Still, it’s intimidating.

I stood in front of the doors for a few moments debating whether to run away, checking my clock every few seconds, hoping that I couldn’t go in because time wouldn’t let me and I’d need to get back to Mom’s hotel. No such luck. There was plenty of time and the doors were unlocked. So I walked in, pretending that I’m the sort of super awesome person who would never spit gum into a lawn or onto a sidewalk and so just needed the nearest trashcan to spit my old gum into and what do you know?! I just happened to be near the law school, so I’ll wander in here to spit out my gum, not to check out the place and risk being seen by someone who may question my presence.

I’m just not ready to answer that question in person (I rambled horribly the first time I was asked in person and even worse when asked online). I’m not prepared to risk being taken on a tour or to meet people who could decide my future. I feel like there’s a risk that someone I meet on campus could remember me (how?! I don’t know) when/if my application comes through and recall what a bumbling fool I was when I was creeping around campus.

I looked around to make sure there was no one around, saw a custodian who didn’t seem to care I was there, then spit out my gum in a trashcan by the door. I was there long enough before quickly walking out to see what I think was the back of the library and the front doors of the moot court room.

I have been very comfortable with public speaking since I started waitressing when I was 16 and then worked in classrooms for the next ten years. I have no fear of speaking in front of crowds, but that room could make me throw up. I didn’t even go in it. The doors were locked (I assume) and the lights were off, but I was intimidated. Very intimidated, and I’m not even sure why. The thought that I could be graded on how well I can think and speak in that space is frightening, but with a few years to contemplate it and most of a year/semester(?) to actually work on it, I’m sure I could be fine.

I got the feeling in my few moments on this campus that while it’s not prestigious, it is a place where I could succeed, even if its low rank means some of my goals might be harder to meet.

This local school was small but imposing, and everything I expected in the first-step-on-campus experience of a law school.

Challenges

I love this Paper House Luminary by Just Something I Made (click for source)

I knew when I started this project that there would be some challenges. Learning the LSAT is and will continue to be difficult. The law school application process, if the LSAT goes well enough, will be difficult. Actually doing law school if both those things go well will be a challenge probably like none I have had to tackle before.

One challenge I anticipated but didn’t fully realize the weight of is studying at home with two kids. I do most of my studying in the evenings when my husband is home to watch the kids. I have an office in our basement with a table and a folding chair and I sit down here and wade through my book slowly but surely. My husband and kids play upstairs or in the playroom in our basement.

I knew there would be some issues with the noise of the children playing and getting upset, but I didn’t realize just how unable I am to tune those out. I don’t know if that’s a natural maternal thing or if it’s just my anxious and nosy nature, but it is what it is. I cannot seem to concentrate well enough here, and trying to concentrate on learning to tune out certain sounds while trying to concentrate on trying to learn difficult material is just too much for me.

We live less than two blocks from the public library and I’d love to go there every night, but my husband doesn’t get home until 5 and we’re not done with dinner until after 6. The library closes at 6 Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, so on those days, studying must be done at home. I know I get less done and have to repeat things far more when this is the case.

Monday and Wednesday they’re open until 8, but for most of winter it’s just way too cold to walk outside (since the library is so close, driving is ridiculous) after dark unless there’s no alternative. It’s just not worth the pain of the cold hurting any exposed skin. Now that it’s starting to get nicer out, the library is a real option for me and I’m excited to see how much more quickly I’ll learn when I can focus for longer periods of time and am not distracted by constant unintentional scanning for sounds of distress.

So, while the studying is going well and I definitely feel like I’m doing better and learning something, it’s going slower than I thought. Spring will be great for my LSAT score, which is something I did not anticipate.

I should also mention that there is no way I could do this without my husband to take care of the kids while I study, especially with the risk that it may all be for nothing (if the LSAT does not go well enough). He’s totally supportive of my efforts and does whatever needs to be done to help me try to meet my goals. This is why my studying only occurs from the time he gets home until the kids go to bed. The time between the kids going to bed and us going to bed (~8p-1030p) is reserved for us to spend time together. Not only is this something we enjoy, we have learned in nearly a decade together (with over four years of that time long-distance) that it is something we need, both as a couple and individuals.

With all these restrictions and conditions this is starting to sound like one of those awful logic “games,” but I think it’s worth the work to make it work. More than anything, now that I’ve sat down to think it all out, I am grateful to be in a situation where I can even take on these challenges. To be able to devote this time and energy to studying and trying to pursue a career while being a mother to two small children and working (extremely) part-time is a privilege I do not intend to abuse.

Hesitation

In the last couple days I’ve noticed an increasing sense of fear in my approach to my law school dreams.

Am I doing the right thing? There are a lot of things I could be doing with my life. Sure, most of my educational and career choices have led down this path for nearly ten years now, but have they been misguided? A lot of what I’ve done feeds just as well into other careers, and certainly ones that require far less arduous effort and sacrifice.

Is this worth it? I can only go if I get huge scholarships, so the odds are extremely against it even happening. The studying is a sacrifice of time and effort that could be spent with my family and friends or on other things I’d enjoy more, like reading for fun, crocheting, gardening, and other things. With such a slim chance of success, and the sacrifice only paying off in that slim chance, it’s sometimes difficult to proceed.

I don’t know. But I just have to try. Even if I fail, I will always have tried my best, and in failure I’ll learn a great deal, not least of which is that this is not the path for me. If I don’t even try, then I’m letting fear and competition dictate my choices and my life, and that’s not something I’m willing to let happen. I have to be bigger than my fears of failure and humiliation. Sure, I might fail, but there’s no greater failure than not trying.

I know this, and they’re big, impressive, poster-worthy words, but I still find myself stalling, afraid to even start. I’ve read part of the introduction to the one book I’ve bought, and I’m stalling on buying the book I really need because it’s “too expensive” right now (I have the cash on hand for it, but would feel more comfortable spending it after we get paid). I’m not even reading the parts of the book I have right now because I have another book I’d like to finish first for no reason other than stalling on digging into the really tough stuff of the other book. And then there are the preptests in the book I have, but I’m afraid to see just how much work I need to do, just how bad my initial untimed first try at a full lsat preptest goes, that I won’t even let myself attempt it until I’ve read the introduction and some cursory tutorial paragraphs. Which I won’t read until I finish the other book I’ve got, because, you know, read things in order. It’s arbitrary and totally chickenshit, I know.

I will do this. I will at least try. That’s the least I owe myself.