Tuesday, July 26, 2011

NY Bar Exam: Nothing in the Dark...

Today is Day 1 of the New York Bar Exam.

On Sunday night, the night before I left for my NYC hotel where I'm staying while I take the test, BF came over to my apartment and watched a few episodes of The Twilight Zone while I finished reviewing some practice essays.  I decided in advance to allow myself to experience panic, anxiety, and inadequacy until midnight, when I would push those feelings away and begin to build that sense of capability and confidence that I know I will need in order to stay calm today.

Anyway, I sat with BF on the sofa once I was finished to catch the end of an episode I'd already seen once before, but which had utterly different meaning to me this time around.  It's called "Nothing in the Dark."  There's a full plot synopsis behind that link, but as a quick summary:  an old woman has shut herself up in her apartment, paralyzed by fear of Death (capitalized, because she has seen death in human form a few times before, as she's grown older).  She won't leave her apartment or let anyone in because she is afraid that Death will take her away, and she desperately doesn't want to die.

Then, a policeman played by the young and dreamy Robert Redford gets shot outside her door.  She reluctantly lets him in to render aid, talks to him, confides in him.  The reveal at the end is that Robert Redford IS Death.  The old woman reels back in horror as Death lays harmlessly on the woman's sofa.  She stars at him in disbelief when Robert Redford sits up and asks the woman gently, "Am I really so bad?"

The episode brought tears to my eyes.  It wasn't just the old woman plaintively pleading with Death that she doesn't want to die.  It was her ultimate realization that death had to come.  She couldn't stop it, and it wasn't even Death that frightened her.  It was whatever came afterwards.  Death she could handle.  Death she understood.  The big reveal was not that Death tricked his way inside her apartment---the bigger reveal was that Death wasn't her ultimate fear in the first place.

Skip to 6:24 for the essence, or watch the whole second half for more context.

"The running's over.  It's time to rest."

"You see?  No shock.  No engulfment.  No tearing asunder.  What you feared would come like an explosion is like a whisper.  What you thought was the end is the beginning."

Well, there's the metaphor, right?  Not to be melodramatic about the death/exam comparison, but the Bar Exam is coming for me.  I can't stop it anyway, even if I wanted to.  But I don't want to.   I can do this.  Like the old woman, I admit that I'm afraid.  But I also admit that I understand a decent chunk of this material.  It's time to let go of the sometimes-crippling anxiety I've felt for the last week, the anxiety that kept me shut up in the darkest space in my brain.  As Rod Serling notes at the end of this episode, there's nothing in the dark that's not there in the light.

It's time to just take this damn thing and be done.

If this exam tries to make me cry, I will just imagine a beautiful, young, glowing Robert Redford confidently telling me, "We have already begun."

Good luck to the other exam takers!  We can do this.  

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