Dispatches from Exam Land

Income Tax.  Final Exam.  Yesterday.  9 am.

Per usual, got up around 6.  Fed & walked the dog.  Meditated a bit on all the tax-related thoughts swarming my brain (exam-specific ‘monkey mind’ if you will).

Packed a snack bag of bananas & peanut butter.  Water bottle.  And embarked on my half-mile journey to school, again per usual, on foot (helps me feel alive, think, and conserve gas not to mention parking money).

Surprise: at no point did I feel I needed coffee.  And oh, did I mention I’d been up late the night before playing music with friends?  I felt well-rested though in all regards.  Still felt tired in a sense, as the whole exam land seems to induce a sense of fatigue that is neither rational nor healthy, and I didn’t go to bed super-early.  But, my soul felt fed.  And somehow, the specter of caffein presented something more analogous to a threat to my system than a harbinger of greatness.  It felt unnecessary.  It felt like I would be going over and beyond the place I needed to be in order to take this test to my fullest, authentic ability (more on ‘authentic ability’ in a future post…).


So how did I do?  Won’t have any idea for weeks.  But let me tell you where I started from and why no coffee = awesome.  At the outset of my first year, (am finishing my second year of law school now), I had just detoxed from an eight year Adderall habit.  Yes, eight years.  Of a steadily increasing tolerance that gave me a lot of energy, that’s for damn sure, and a means to focus that I’d previously never known.

In short, I loved my Adderall.  And I’m glad I took it because it gave me a baseline for evaluating how strong my ability to concentrate and produce can be.  I also now understand the underbelly to focus though, when it becomes manic, or when it becomes something you are unable to turn off.  This is in general, and when it happens as a byproduct of drugs.  Because the truth (to me) is, regardless of whether it’s a substance aiding your focus/sapping your ability to chill, when you reach a certain space of “focus” you may need the ability to pull away, or ratchet down.  Now it’s hard enough when “natural” stress has gotten you there, but when you’ve got a substance inducing it, or exacerbating it, this task can become even more of a project, even more of a demon you don’t want to face.  And then things like coffee, or on the other end, even harder drugs, become all the more necessary.

So my decision to leave Adderall before law school rather than after was a hard one.  I knew I’d be shooting myself in the foot in some sense, but a voice also told me I would become stronger for having engaged in this battle without it.  What I’ve found is that by not being on it, I’ve had to work really hard to find my On switch, but I’ve also not handicapped myself from finding an Off switch.  In that sense, leaving Adderall has enabled me to find balance.

I’m not saying getting good grades would not be easier with Adderall.  God knows.  I yearn for that shit sometimes.  But I’m learning how to take that yearning for more and convert it into affirmation that what I have already and who I am at this moment is enough.

We’ll see how grades turn out.  But more than that, I can tell you right now how I feel — great.  That’s because regardless of what my exams say, I KNOW my ability to tap in as well as tap out are strong.  And this seems like a pretty sweet indicator of growth, which is what I am in school to facilitate in the first place.  And learning the law is something I want on top of that, not in exchange.


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