My office sits in the middle of Seaver College where a few thousand students will take final exams this week. Just up the hill in the world I inhabited for the past nine years are hundreds of law students sitting for final exams this week, too. Meanwhile, my youngest daughter is facing final exams in her study abroad experience six thousand miles away.
But I’m happy as can be. Been there, done that, as cool people used to say (and obviously I still do).
Well, there is the tiniest bit of guilt at the lack of cumulative examinations in my own life. No, my bad, I think that was just a little indigestion. I’m good now.
It has been interesting to compare the way the bulk of undergraduate students and law students cope with the stresses of finals season. One set apparently prefers letting stress go through singing loudly and/or funny Internet videos while the other likes to curl up in a fetal position and cry. I’ll let you guess which is which.
My job is and has been to offer kind smiles in the general direction of the test-takers wherever they happen to be. It is good work that seems to be appreciated.
I guess this reflects life in general. Sometimes you face testing. Sometimes you are off the hook. When the latter applies, encourage the former. It has been my experience that you will appreciate it when it is your turn to be tested.
It is final exam season at Pepperdine University School of Law, and you can cut the tension with a knife (except we are a weapons-free campus, so I suggest doing your best with a spork). I am almost embarrassed to admit that I kind of like the feeling of stress in the air because it reminds me of the fluttery feelings associated with the big game or big performance, but there is a particular weirdness to law school final exam stress brought on by a forced curve, a brilliant set of students, and a solitary grade for an entire course. Admittedly, that kind of stress feels more like an unexpected phone call from your doctor than a piano recital.
As a law student, I discovered that worrying about finals was not particularly helpful, although I sure gave it a good try. The better approach consists of a good strategy, discipline, and the many hours that follow.
My law school days came later than most and happened to coincide with my youngest daughter’s matriculation to middle school. It was nice to go school shopping for pencils together. I remember a day when my daughter received an uncharacteristic poor grade on a school assignment, and in my best attempt at being “dad,” I asked if she had truly done her best. When she said that she had, I told her not to worry about it: that her very best was all anyone could expect, and that’s all she has to give anyway. I was proud of my good advice—and then went back to sulking about my prospects of doing poorly in law school.
Thankfully, two seconds later, it occurred to me that I should heed my own advice: Give it my very best, and be satisfied. For the most part, I did, and I was.
Fear is the enemy of life, and fear of failure is troublesome because popular definitions of success are such that so much is out of our control. But what if success and failure were based on doing your very best with what you have been given?
I’m spreading that word in a law school, on social media, and in my own little brain: Reach for the stars. Take what you get. Learn from it. Reach for the stars again.