I cannot believe it’s been so long since I posted to this blog. I feel so neglectful. I did think about blogging a few times and then decided against it. Mostly, I’ve just been way too busy and way too tired. Work has been very stressful with lots of unwarranted and unwanted projects that just add to my daily craziness.
Generally speaking, the month of December flew by. However, the closer it got to the Christmas break the more it seemed to screech to a grind; that last week was brutal. I was in a foul mood most of that week and then it finally hit me that my upcoming (paid) vacation would be my first since 2007. Seriously, other than a day here or there (not paid), I have been in school, working, or in school AND working since the summer of 2007. That’s every spring break, every summer, every break between semesters. Most times I was finishing up my finals one day and starting work the next, or leaving my job on a Friday and starting a new semester on Monday. Insane.
Well, I had a good run…5 solid years of working/studying/studying/working and it finally caught up to me. So, I wasn’t too hard on myself this last week when I was done and I mean DONE with work for 2012. I practically ran out of the office on Dec. 21—I hope my plants held on to the water I gave them because I still have another five glorious days off.
Another thing that’s been stressful is what every former law student will come to know as “transitioning into repayment status.” I cannot tell you how my stomach knots up every time I go to the mailbox lately and there’s ANOTHER letter from fedloan, DirectLoans and the latest, SallieMae. It seems like a I get a letter every other day. One letter says one thing and then next say something totally different. I have called fedloan and DirectLoans multiple times since October; I should have them on speed dial. This latest, SallieMae just joined the party this week and now I’m all confused.
As I sort through all these letters from all these companies I keep reminding myself that I am a lawyer, an educated person, I should be able to make heads and/or tails of these notices, but yet, the thought of dealing with this mess makes me cringe. All I want to know is how much, HOW MUCH do I pay and to whom, that’s all. But, it’s not that easy.
Some loans are with this servicer, other loans are with that servicer. I also qualify for Loan Forgiveness credits because I work for a public entity and turns out only ONE servicer handles that, so I needed to move (consolidate) the loans to the one servicer that will track my public service credits. Standard loan repayment would be equal to approximately 25% of my monthly GROSS income, so that was definitely not happening. I applied for a modified payment plan and then I had both that application and the consolidation going at the same time…with two different servicers. Meanwhile, I kept getting notices that my payments were coming due (for the standard repayment) and I kept calling them to say, “Hey, I can’t pay this…where in the process is my paperwork?” I keep getting assurances that it’s proceeding and issuing a “forbearance” is quick and easy, so they keep telling me that I’m ok. And still I’m getting notices in the mail and via email that my payment is past due. I check my online account which confirms “forbearance” and get the distinct impression that the left hand has no flippin’ idea what the right hand is doing. This does not inspire great confidence on my part. If this sounds confusing, it is. If it sounds stressful, it is.
Then SallieMae came on the scene and supposedly is handling all of the above for me and my (reasonable) payments won’t start until March—at least according to my phone call to them yesterday. TODAY, I get notice in the mail that says something completely different. Sigh…my stomach hurts.
My only advice to those who eventually arrive at this point: Get a notepad and document, document, document every time you call one of these places, the date, time, who you spoke with and what they said. It’s the only lifeline I have in this crazy nightmare.
If I could get all this straightened out my life would be so much better. I hate this not knowing what my finances are from month to month. I just want to have all this settle down and get to paying off these loans. I know I will probably be paying on these loans for a long time…at least 10 years, but I’m fine with that. I don’t care about being in student loan debt, to me it was worth it. I have no regrets.
SallieMae and I are going to be good friends for a long, long time.
I still have to let off a little more steam before the new year officially arrives though, so I’m planning a board game night with some of my friends for New Year’s eve. Nothing elaborate, just good friends, good food and then…GOOD NIGHT! Needless to say, SallieMae is NOT invited.
Happy 2012–Here’s to returning the favor to the federal government and beginning my loan repayment. Cheers!
Today is July 1 which means that in exactly 23 days I’ll be sitting for the Texas Bar Exam. Let’s just stop for a minute to let that sink in….
I spent eleven hours studying yesterday and as I drifted off to sleep it hit me that when I woke up time would start pouring though the hourglass even faster. This is my last “full” week of Barbri, but really it’s just two days, the 4th of July, and then an all day simulated MBE on Thursday followed by two days analyzing that exam online. Next week I have two class days and I’m done; then I will be on my own for the last 13 days leading up to the exam.
What can I say? It’s been real and it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been real fun. Actually, I take that back…this last Friday evening was fun. Three of my Barbri friends and I got together for an MBE flash card study party. We really did study and we also had a nice meal and shared a couple bottles of wine. We were way overdue for some down time because we’ve all been burning the candle at both ends and we knew that once July hit, the bar would consume our lives for that month. But…at the same time, none of us wanted to give up an evening of studying something so we compromised and did the flashcards. It turned out to be a great night of relaxing and studying together. Everyone was really happy about the time we spent and what we got done.
I’m really proud of us four because we’ve all made it to nearly every single Barbri class. I think we have each missed only one, which is pretty darned good considering it’s so many weeks long. My assessment is that YES it’s a pain to drag yourself there everyday, 6 days a week, for approximately 7 weeks, but it is much more difficult to self-motivate and watch these lectures on video. It’s good to have the option to see the video in a pinch when you have to miss class or to go back and catch notes that you missed in the live lecture, but in general, going TO the facility and being there in class makes it bearable.
I know that lots of places don’t have live Barbri lecturers. I was really lucky taking it here in Austin that we had live lecturers for every single class. It made a world of difference. Many folks go to a venue and watch the videos together, which might make you think, “Why go to a place to watch a video when I can see that same video here at home?” I hear you… and in that case it might be a harder sell for me to encourage you to GO anyway, but that’s what I’m saying. In a nutshell, here’s why: Misery Loves Company.
Since starting law school my circle of friends consists of more and more people “like me”—other law students, attorneys, judges. It’s like finding a community of people where everyone just “gets it.” It’s comfortable and safe and everything makes sense. During my bar prep, friends within this circle have treated me with kid gloves. Really, it’s kind of weird—in a good way. Reminds me of how everyone was so nice when I was pregnant with my sons. There have been emails and phone calls asking how I’m doing, asking if I need anything, offers of quiet places to study…just people going out of their way to encourage and be there for me in whatever capacity I need. It’s because they remember how completely wiped out and scared and overwhelmed they were and they empathize.
In my experience I have discovered that when it comes to law school there are three categories of people:
- (1) Those that have been there/done that—-they “get it” (See above)
- (2) Those that don’t really understand the craziness of law school (and then the bar), but that’s fine; they are glad you enjoy what you’re doing and they encourage you to “do your thing,” and
- (3) Those that don’t get what you’re doing, make no effort to get what you’re doing AND do everything in their power to be a hindrance to what you’re doing.
It is this last category of people from whom you need to stay away. They will sabotage your life. It’s hard enough to get through law school with these people constantly undermining your success, but when bar prepping and you have just a finite amount of time and energy, these people will suck you dry of both. This is why those friends you make going to the Barbri lectures will be your lifeblood; they will not only feel your pain, they are right there with you…and there’s strength in numbers.
This is why when you start law school at some point you will hear about X amount of students who will get divorced during the process or break up with their significant other etc. Law school is destructive to relationships because you are on another planet and suddenly you are not the same person anymore. If those around you aren’t willing to let you metamorphose and still love you after the transition, you’ve got a category 3 person in your life and studying for the bar exam is only going to make things worse.
Luckily, most everyone in my life is in category 1 and 2 above, and so I try and stay far away from the category 3 people. Especially right now when I hear myself saying, “I don’t have time for this” it seems like all the time. And it’s hard to explain to people that you’re not saying you don’t have time for that person, just that you don’t have time to give them intense shock therapy so that they can move from a category 3 person back to human being status. If they haven’t “gotten it” by the time you get ready to study for the bar, you’ll just have to put your head down and plow right through them and figure out how to clean up the mess later. Seriously.
Like my bar prep professor is fond of saying: “The bar exam is the closest most of us will get to climbing Mt. Everest” and I am convinced that this is true. The thing is: Nobody but you has to “get” why it is you are taking on this monumental task— but it’s unfair and wrong for them to make a difficult situation impossible.
Just like it says in the old Tracy Lawrence song you find out who your friends are, I’m thinking the same goes for the bar exam. That’s my take on it anyway.
I’ve gotten a lot of work done this week and logged in 53.5 hours. I’m going to use July 4th for an organization day. The plan is to put all my outlines into notebooks—one for each day of the bar exam and get the rest of my study materials together. Also, I’m going to start audio recording my rule statements onto files that I can add to my mp3 player and burn onto CDs for when I drive. Much of July is going to be spent memorizing as soon as Barbri is done, so I want to be ready.
But too, I have to save room on the 4th to be grateful for the fact that I am an AMERICAN and thankful also for the men and women in our military, past, present and future, without whom none of the freedoms I have spent the last four years learning about would even exist. (A special thank you to Marlon Pugh who will come home from Afghanistan any day now!!)
I also promised my boys that we’d keep with our July 4th tradition of 1) watching the annual Nathan’s Hotdog Eating Contest (Go Joey Chestnut!!!) and 2) watching Jaws. You can’t have the 4th of July without Jaws!!! Lastly, we’ll get to enjoy the annual fireworks spectacular in my neighborhood where all that’s required of me is to put a lawn chair on my front yard. That’s what I’m talkin’ about! (Who am I kidding? I’ll for sure have an outline or two out there with me to review while waiting for the show.)
Thank you to all my category 1 and 2 people…this craziness will all be over soon and I will stop being so high maintenance, I promise!