It’s the Oregon State Bar Exam, and I am required to pass it before I can practice law in Oregon. I am facing a decision, and it’s a tough one. I need to make a choice between making an attempt at passing the Bar Exam and spending a week on vacation with my family.
I am not sure I have ever mentioned this on the blog, but since it plays a central role in my decision I will share that I am living with a chronic pain condition. I was diagnosed about 3 years ago. Even now it is hard for me to talk about my condition without crying and feeling overwhelmed so I don’t talk about it. I try not to think about it. I try to pretend that it doesn’t exist and that as time goes on it will go away. To consider any other possibility is unbearable.
The blessing that has come from pain is that I have made some changes in my priorities. Before pain there were things I was focusing on in my life that weren’t that important to me. I was focusing on them because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I was trying to please everyone. I figured that I would follow my own heart later. I thought that I had all the time in the world.
The condition that I have can cause increasing pain over time. That was my experience for the first several months. I can’t remember much from that time. I can only remember some of my thoughts. I was lucky that things started to turn around. I was taking strong medication that seemed to be helping. Somehow I was still wandering through law school part time. Somehow, to the outside observer I was still able to hold things mostly together. Looking back I have no idea how that was possible. The condition may go away or it may get worse. There is really no good indicator for which way things will go, and even if the pain is gone for awhile, it can always come back.
I started making changes in my life. I started with my diet and committed to eating a low fat vegan diet. It helped some. I committed to resting and no longer reaching for the high standards that I used to set for myself. That helped some more. I committed to focusing on the positive things in my life and being thankful for every joyful moment. Things continued to improve.
Mr. Zoey and I decided to start a family. Having a child has been one of the greatest joys in my life. Every day my daughter opens my eyes to a world of hope and possibilities. The hardest part of being a parent so far hasn’t been the sleepless nights, or getting the hang of breastfeeding, it has been being away from my family.
I grew up within 5 minutes of both sets of grandparents and within 15 minutes of one of my aunts. I saw all my aunts, uncles and cousins at least once a year. My family played an enormous role in my childhood. I realize that as long as we live in Oregon, that baby Zoey won’t have that exact experience because our families live in other states. On top of that, I can’t travel. The pain flares back up to unbearable levels when I am in a car for more than 30 minutes or so. I haven’t gone anywhere near an airplane yet. That means I am somewhat stuck here. For us to see our family, they have to come to us.
When I was pregnant with baby Zoey my family started planning a trip out here. The trip would be a repeat of a trip that they took almost 3 years ago before I was diagnosed. We aren’t a vacationing family, so it’s a big deal and it takes some planning and coordinating. When we first talked about the trip I was under some delusion that I would be able to take the bar exam when baby Zoey was 3 weeks old. After I realized that was impossible, I hoped I would be able to take it when she was 6 months old. Now I am trying to decide if it is even worth entertaining the thought of taking it when she is 1.
There are lots of logistical reasons for not taking the bar when baby Zoey is 1. One of the big ones is that if I take the bar, my family won’t come out for our vacation at the coast. I have been trying to minimize this reason in my head because to my family this doesn’t seem like a big deal. To me it is a big deal. I want to see my family. I want to have a week with them at the coast without constant pain and worry. I want the kind of time with them that comes only in the moments when you aren’t having scheduled time with someone. I want the early morning walks and breakfasts at the table and dinners outside on the beach by the fire. I want time like that probably more than anything else right now. I want that so much more than I want a shot at an exam that I would probably fail right now anyway. It is hard for me to say this because I think that I am not making the decision that they want me to make.
The way that I see things is that the exam will always be there. It is offered twice a year like clockwork. There is no limit for when I take the exam. There is no limit for when I decide to begin my career. What I have learned is that time with people that you love is not always a guarantee. Being pain free is not a guarantee. The only moment that I have is right now. And right now, my pain is low enough that I can consider leaving town for a one week trip an hour away. That is huge for me. I haven’t been outside of this city in almost 3 years. I am ready to get out of town and get some fresh air with people that I love. I want my family to have relaxed time with my baby and I want my baby to be familiar and comfortable with my family. While some people may think that I will regret not taking the bar this summer, I am pretty sure that I won’t if it means time with family.
I have been in the worst pain I could imagine before and I never regretted not studying more for a test or not getting better grades. I have looked back and wished that I had spent more time with people. So maybe the decision was easier than I realized but sharing it is still hard.