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Facebook is a necessary part of finals

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I just finished my seventh semester of finals and the first half of my 3L year.  Finals don’t get any easier.  And surprisingly, even if I don’t have a lot of finals, I am still very stressed.  I had two finals this fall, both of which were my entire grade.  I also decided, for the first time during finals, to work at my job for a few hours a week.  Strange enough, just working 1 or 2 days for a few hours was too much – don’t do it.  A good reminder to recent J.D.’s studying for the bar in February – don’t work, just study.  Don’t work, just study.

This final’s session I noticed something I never noticed before.  Nobody cares how hard your finals are - with the exception of law school classmates; but their expression of caring is in the form of empathy (and in some cases, suppressed schadenfreude).  Is it unrealistic to expect people to understand how hard it is to take law school finals?   To ask those that care about me (and those that don’t) to put themselves in my shoes to appreciate what happens physically and mentally?

Here is a smudge of what happens to me during finals.

Physically:  I can’t remember when I last showered, had a hot meal or wore jeans.  The idea of working out is absurd.  The thought of drinking normal amounts of caffeine, equally as absurd.  The idea of wearing pajamas all day is comforting, along with the idea of getting every meal delivered.

Mentally:  This exam is my entire grade and my grade affects my GPA which affects my rank which affects (theoretically) my chances of getting a job which is very slim in this economy and I have less than a year before I have to start paying back my six-figure loan.

Of course these thoughts zip through my head (more or less) in a nanosecond (because it the same worries each semester); I can only assume (hope?) every law student has similar thoughts ruminating in the section of their brain only available for such thoughts during finals. 

Then there are the thoughts I say outloud; below are statements I’ve said one or two times to someone during finals season.

Law school finals are:

  • Taking an entire semester of material and getting tested on it once for your entire grade;
  • The only time in life when four hours feels like 30 minutes;
  • An opportunity for a professor to ask about everything he wants you to know and only gives you half the time you need to answer;
  • Essay exams where you can’t b.s. your way through it, because if you don’t address issues they are looking for then you don’t get points; and
  • So time intensive that you don’t have time to think what to write before you write it.

And this is what I think other people think when I tell them about law school finals.

  • You are the one who decided to go to law school (buck up).
  • Complain now, but you’ll be making big money after law school.
  • I’ve taken finals before, I know they are hard.
  • I’m sure it isn’t as bad as she says.
  • Sounds like someone is overexaggerating.
  • This conversation is doing nothing for me.

Maybe the comparison is like explaining to someone the trauma of the labor and delivery of your first child.  Put yourself in my stirrups. 

I mentioned to someone today how I was really glad finals were over and my last exam was the hardest I’ve taken in law school.  She responded by saying “oh, that is tough” – with the same level of sympathy as if I had said I was making a pie crust from scratch for the first time.  It didn’t feel good to talk about how crummy I felt and I didn’t feel better by her response.  I would have been better off not saying anything.  Then I thought about it; she is a really nice person and she was trying to be sympathetic.  What more should I expect?

This is where Facebook comes in.  I have decided that Facebook is an essential part of my finals regime.  This semester I finally understood why.  A small part is because it is a fast, convenient and usually humorous way to give my brain a break.  But more because I thrive on the sense of community I have with my classmates who post about how they are studying and surviving finals.  I understand what they are going through and when they comment on my posts it gives me a sense that they can read my mind or are walking in the same shoes.  Perhaps it eludes a sense of assurance that I have not gone completely out of my mind when I see others struggling with the same issues.  It is also a neat way for friends to support each other; they post a video or a picture that will make their friend smile or simply write a good luck post on their friend’s wall.

I know some students take a sabbatical from Facebook during finals because it is too much of a distraction, but I think it is great in small doses.  You can’t study every minute of the day anyway; take some time to smile or laugh and give your brain a break.

I realize this post comes long after finals are done, and is perhaps too specific to law school.  I wanted to write about the experience because I felt many people could relate to going through a challenging time in their life and how important it is to find a community of support.  No one will be in your exact situation, but you will know when you’ve found the group you are looking for.

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