By: Moyo Sadiq
I was so angry, sad, heartbroken and disappointed in myself for failing the Foundations of Canadian Law Exam that I wrote during the May 2019 diet of the NCA Exams. I was literally broken and it told on everyone around me. I cocooned myself in self-pity and isolated myself, I cried, oh yes, many times. I remember receiving the NCA Failure Report and crying some more. Instead of opening my mind to learn from my mistakes, I was in a bitter place, I started reading every word and interpreted it as an insult. Words like ‘rambling’, ‘disjointed’, ‘hard to follow’ that were used in the Failure Report ticked me off, I asked myself rhetorical questions like ”With all I wrote in such a tense environment, why would the marker feel I was rambling?”, “why would the Examiner say my answers were disjointed and hard to follow?”. This just pushed me deeper into this bitter room of seclusion, I had people around who wanted to help me but I was having none of that. I was very hard on myself.
I had to remind myself that I was guilty of what I advise people on. I tell people in this situation to ‘shake it off and bounce back’. I told myself that I was refusing to take the advice that I dish out. It took conscious efforts to get out of this frenzy. It took me almost two full months to understand, appreciate and comprehend the NCA Failure Report; it was verbose and I needed to remove the anger to find the good in it, learn from my mistakes and work on improving areas of weakness. It was in October that I finally understood the message in the report as it had seemed too critical and not constructive to me until I rid myself of the disappointment I felt for failing.
It got to a point that I knew that I needed a “resetting slap” (slang for blunt, bitter and harsh discussion, not an actual physical slap) to set me back on the path I wanted to be, I had a few people who gave good resetting slaps but I opted for Lawretta as she had been through this journey and knew exactly how I felt. Boy! At a point I started mumbling under my breath that I had chosen the wrong person, she gave me a two-week long “reset”, I was mad and angry at how blunt and harsh I felt she was at that time but I needed it and it worked like magic. Like I always say, ‘know thyself’, if you need tough love sometimes, get it. I know I did and I was smart enough to get it. The two weeks made me feel like a rebellious student in a Further Math or Physics class. She made me question what I felt I knew and reevaluate. She showed me other perspectives. She would call and ask me to teach her on each topic in the syllabus and I would tell her she should be the one teaching and she would say, “you know that is not my style. Let’s begin, hypothetically, I’m clueless about Foundations of Canadian Law and you will teach me every topic in the syllabus.” I wanted to cry. I pinched myself for reaching out to her. While teaching this supposedly clueless “reset slapper” she would correct me if I goofed or ask me random questions on why something was the way it was, Oh Lord! I rolled my eyes one too many times.
In all, it all paid off, after the tough love, on the final day, she softened up and admitted to me that I was being tough on myself, she sensed that I was still angry and upset for failing the first time and I didn’t need to go back to the hall holding on to such anger. She stated that from how I taught her, I knew most of the important principles and she felt I was ready. I liked this soft part. I went to the hall feeling good because I had read too much for my liking.
I went into the Exam and I saw the questions, unlike the first time where I was totally clueless and confused because the questions seemed so vague, this time I was not clueless but I was not as confident as I would like to be. I started with the questions I knew and moved to the ones I didn’t feel super confident about. I am used to being 85% confident of my performance in an Exam but the Foundations of Canadian Law Exam had a way of stripping me of all the confidence I have. Time up and I wrote till we were asked to drop our pens, then the worry began, here we go again, “Did I write enough?”, “I think I forgot this point”, “Did I write legibly enough?”, “I should have dwelt on this instead of this”, “I wasted too much time on minor issues”, “I should have done this and that”, I started to second guess myself. On getting to the washroom, I heard discussions on how some were trick questions and how the real issue was this and not the trickery of this and I was a little elated that at least I got the question right and heard another that I seemed to have missed, I ended up being so confused emotionally and physically and mentally drained. I even cried at a point when I got home, it was all so overwhelming, I decided that I needed to maintain my sanity for the next 10 to 12 weeks when the results would be released, but I can categorically tell you that not a single day passed without my thinking of it, the first two weeks post-exam and the last two weeks before the results were released were the toughest, it almost affected the Christmas holidays.
I knew that the result would be released the Friday before the January 2020 diet, I just sensed it, I stayed home all day and laid in bed, ill from worry and tension. When I saw a message that results were out, the heart racing, sudden sweating, and tummy ache all flooded in, I looked really sick. I typed my password about three times and it didn’t work, I reset the password and finally gained access to my NCA portal and saw a freaking PASS. I fell from the chair and my spouse tried to pick me up. I refused to get up as I was unable to, I was too weak, too relieved, too happy, a bunch of emotions all at once. I silently thanked God as my husband called my parents and siblings, I could hear screaming and joy and so much joyful noise. The impact of the people around me was a lot and I thank and respect them for going through this journey with me. They all confessed on how worried they were about me. They saw how much toll it had on me.
I got calls from friends who failed and had to write an exam soon for the January 2020 diet. This was painful and I had to just encourage them knowing fully well that “it’s easier said than done” but with an exam barely two weeks from when they saw their result, they needed to just prioritize. It is harder to reseat than just seating the first time because your mind starts to play tricks on you. So, just take your time, pace yourself. The jab that failure gives can be fatal if you allow it. Do not let it have too much hold, before you shake it off (again, easier said than done).
Please reach out to trusted people and don’t ever hold the pain in. Let it out and get someone who understands you to encourage you. For many in this process, the last examination they wrote was many years ago and it can be overwhelming starting over. I understand, but don’t give up.
The journey is certainly not for the faint-hearted as it has been a roller-coaster. I am so glad that my NCA Journey is successfully completed. I have indeed grown in this journey. Unto the next stage, two seven-hour long Bar Exams. Whew!