Championships

It’s late July. The sun lingers in the sky well past dinnertime. My favorite summer fruits are in season. My mom is cooking sweet yellow corn on the barbeque, almost every night. Kids everywhere are starting to fear the onset of the school year, and savoring the freedom of summer nights.

I am sitting alone in a hotel room in Ontario, CA.

It’s the night before the final day of the California Bar Exam. It’s the night before the first day of the rest of my life.

Every year when I was a kid, I spent the last weekend of July at Swim Championships. Two grueling days of sunscreen, screaming parents and the smell of chlorine. We’d go to bed early and get up at 5a.m. We’d swim five events in the morning and then pace around until mid afternoon when the eight fastest times would be posted and “finals” would begin.

In the meantime, the older girls would braid my hair and make friendship bracelets. Erin Mckeown and I would make a trip to the snack bar every half hour. We’d eat skittles and try to evade my mom, who was in constant hot pursuit of me with a chocolate power bar and a tube of bull frog sunblock.

A year ago an adult friend of mine texted me when she saw a mom on a San Francisco city bus pleading with her skinny daughter to eat a chocolate power bar: “It reminded me of every summer of our childhood”

Swim Championships were part social extravaganza, part 48 hour torture session.

My feelings year to year were split between euphoric triumph and crushing devastation.

My experience of the California Bar Exam reminds me of those July weekends of my childhood. The same anxious, upset stomach feeling every morning. The same reflection on my performance every night.

Each time the proctor says “begin,” I hear the low beep of the starting signal and can feel myself dive off the block.

Every night when I talk to my mom she asks, “What are you eating?” and “Are you getting enough protein?” If she thought she could get away with it, she’d show up in Ontario with a chocolate power bar.

The similarities of the two events, so different in nature and objective, so distant in time, is both bizarre and comforting. It reminds me that life is changing but my essence is the same. It reminds me that everything is connected.

It reminds me that I will get through this. That some day, the California bar exam will be nothing but a vivid memory of my past.