Being Brave

Updated to Add April 11, 2016: I PASSED! I passed, I passed, I passed. No way I could’ve pulled it off without my family and without Themis Bar Review. Legit.

Original Post February 23, 2016:

I’ll cut to the chase: I’ve realized that no matter what failures I experience in my professional life, it could never touch the fear of Max’s premature birth, the anxiety of a high risk pregnancy, or intensity of Eleanor’s very fast birth. Reflection on my children, their births, and their natures allowed me to feel brave. Brave enough to face my fears of being incapable and unintelligent.

Failure does not make me less valuable as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, employee – person. Character is creature of perseverance, not success. Full stop.

Long Form: I saw a blog a while ago that was aimed at helping women who had “lost themselves to motherhood.” I immediately felt guilty that I didn’t feel that way at all. Am I a horrible mother? I don’t feel “lost to motherhood” at all – does that mean I’m not invested enough in my children? In the wise philosophy of T. Swift I quickly allowed myself to shake it off. I know why I haven’t lost myself to motherhood – it’s because I found myself in motherhood. No, I don’t mean to imply that my entire state of being is validated because I’ve had two children – it’s that my children have made me brave enough to be truly comfortable with who I am.

When I came across this post I was standing on the precipice of what can best be described as a really intimidating but entirely administrative task in nature. I started studying for this exam back in October in the midst of buying and starting the process of renovating our home – plus you know – the two small children, marathon training, and my full time job. It felt beyond intimidating, but upon reflection I realized my life was never going to feel “slow.” It was time to jump off the side of the pool – for a second time. I failed the Bar Exam when I took it in February of 2012. I was 6 months pregnant with our first child, uninsured, and utterly broke. My head was not in the clearest place. All of that aside, I tried my hardest. I did. I did the best I could with what I had to work with. Still failed. That feeling sucks. No pretty or poetic words can soften that. It sucked. I was unfamiliar with putting in that amount of work and effort and still failing. Just 30ish hours after receiving news of my failure I went into premature labor. My husband was at his father’s funeral across the country. Everything had fallen apart.

One of my greatest struggles in life has been battling my self-doubt. I wasn’t as smart as my friends, so I tried to be cool. I’m not particularly cool. I made (make) an ass out of myself a lot. If I’m not the smart girl and I’m not the cool girl, who was I? Failing the Bar Exam amplified these feeling to about the 100th degree, but I’m nothing if not stubborn so onward I marched as a new mom and a law school grad who couldn’t practice law. While I was equal parts humbled and annoyed, with my husband and my family’s support, life turned itself around. That said, not a day has gone by since the moment I didn’t see my name on that Pass List that I haven’t thought about the Bar Exam. I knew I’d have to face that son of a bitch again. I’m too stubborn not to.

I’ve often joked that Max is my Zen master. He is a bundle of feelings and empathy. He is ever present in the moment but often lost to what he is feeling. It’s hard, but damn it’s beautiful. He will touch people, impact them, and guide them. He is my rock in the storm. I started to realize that nothing could ever frighten me more than his premature birth. Touring the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit hours before his birth, without his father by my side, created the biggest feeling I’ve ever felt. I don’t know what to call it exactly, but no other level of fear or intimidation I’ve ever experienced could touch it. He has taught me that overwhelming feelings are hard but beautiful. I need to be present. I need to live presently in my feelings, express them, mourn them, love them, allow them to be a part of me.

If Max is my master of patience and empathy, Eleanor is bravery personified. Both of my births were unmediated, but I fully contend that the first one felt nothing like the second. That amount of pain shouldn’t be allowed to exist on an earthly plain. After a pregnancy that felt like a 9 month long red-wine-hangover, that girl tore out of me, on her whim, in just two hours time. Then she screamed when any non-family member attempted to touch her and immediately set about the task of nursing – which she did rather successfully with really very little guidance or input from me. At a year old her general demeanor is laid back, but make no mistake, her spirit radiates tenacity. She is not to be ignored.

These two little beings came from me and from the man I’ve chosen to spend my life with. If these qualities are a part of them, they must be a part of us, a part of me.

I must face hard feelings, like insecurities about my intelligence and abilities. I must forgive myself for being intimidated. I must be fully present in my fears in order to face them. I must be tenacious in my efforts to better my life. I must not ignore myself.

These lessons are so much bigger than the Bar Exam. Sure, as a test it’s intimidating as hell but I’ve likely blown it way out of proportion in my mind. It’s an exam based in memorization – not a strong point of mine. But with Eleanor’s example and Max’s perspective in hand I tried again.

I don’t know if I passed yet. I suspect it’ll be narrow either way. Either way, I’m proud.