The Things We Wait For
Every semester for the last two years I’ve printed the 1L xxxx School of Law course schedule and kept it tucked inside a notebook hidden in my purse. I’ve been carrying it around as if the schedule were my own, praying that one day it would be.
In a life which I’ve devoted the better part of to raising a family, my hopes to pursue a law degree has been a secret desire buried twenty years beneath the daily conundrum of kids’ science projects, football practices, mortgage payments, the ups and downs of my husband’s business, and my own nine to five job. When you spend that much time folding laundry and refereeing sibling rivalry attempting law school seems more like a pipe dream and less than a reality. Perhaps even more restrictive of this law school fantasy of mine was that bachelor’s degree I lacked but required if my aspirations were to become anything more than an unsettled yearning in my chest.
Truth be told, I liked to tell myself I was just waiting – waiting for the kids to grow up, waiting for my husband’s business to be stable, just waiting for a “better time” to concentrate on me and not my kids, or my husband, or my job. Waiting for my turn took me close to two decades. It took that long before I realized my turn would never come until I actually believed my dreams were just as deserving as those belonging to the people whose needs I always put ahead of my own. Of course, that wasn’t as easy as it sounds.
Halfway into my junior year of high school I gave birth to my first son, a premature milestone in my life that would set the tone for the ten years that followed. By 19 years old I added an ex-husband to my growing list of bad decisions. Not long after I discovered I was pregnant with my second son, months before I could legally buy alcohol, not that that deterred me much. By my 23rd birthday I was a single mom, again.
Eventually I reconciled with my youngest son’s father, now my current husband, but not until after he dragged our family through several years of a crystal meth induced chaos. All of that every bit of the nightmare you can imagine. It’s a wonder any of us made it through those years alive, with only the bad memories to remind us just how close we’d come to losing everything, and each other. I made so many mistakes. Some days I still feel like I’m seeking redemption for half of them. In hindsight, I still marvel at how easy it is for someone to veer off the right path and then, once you’re astray, how hard it is to find your way back.
By the time I came to my senses I was neck deep in family life and a career that was only supposed to be an interim job. Somewhere along the way in my quest to keep my family happy and help my husband’s business thrive I lost sight of who I was and what I wanted, separate from being a mother, a wife, and the big sister with all the answers…but, oh, how I longed to find myself again.
So, in 2009, at 34 I took a deep breath, a leap of faith, and went back to school to finish what I started four kids ago.
Needless to say, it’s been a rough three years since. I have managed to get pretty close to perfecting the ultimate balancing act, one that required juggling my school assignments with checking my children’s, shuttling my daughters to the mall while they quizzed me on macroeconomic terms, and meeting deadlines for that project at work and the research paper due in class five hours later. Early on I learned to carry my study materials with me at all times because you’d be surprised how much you can read on an elevator or while waiting for your sons to wrap up their lacrosse practice.
To say I’ve spent these last few years in a constant state of tired is an understatement. I’m exhausted, but I’ve also never felt more complete. I’ve been told the key to happiness is someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for. I’ve been fortunate to never be short on the first two, but it’s only recently I’ve been blessed to experience the latter of the three. Changing the trajectory of my life’s initial path hasn’t been easy, but with every hurdle I cross I’m filled with an incredible feeling of achievement. Those moments are priceless and proof the rewards are worth all of my efforts.
Maybe the most valuable lesson I learned while working on my undergraduate degree was that where there’s a will there’s a way. My life story thus far is an example of just that.
Now I know, now I finally believe that my value extends well beyond who I am as a mother, a wife, the big sister, and an Executive Assistant. I’m also talented, charming, intelligent and funny. I am an articulate writer and an extraordinary storyteller. There is power in my words and heart in my stories. I am the perpetual student, an eager learner of life experiences and academics alike.
I’m strategic and resourceful; possess a sharp eye for detail and an impressive knack for problem solving. As a CASA of Travis County and a former foster care parent, I am a passionate advocate for disadvantaged children. I am certain that my skill set, strengths, and talents combined with a law degree will help me reach a greater audience, hence, allowing me to help people that need it most. Time and again I’ve been tested in this life and on each occasion I have summoned the resilience to push through and forward, leaving no one behind. I am a leader.
And contrary to one of my greatest fears, my life is far from over.
I know the path to becoming a lawyer at my age, while working and going to school with a family in tote, is a daunting feat. I dare not think of the barriers too long lest I’m tempted to throw in the towel when I’m only a quarter of the way through. Often the goal line seems so far and the journey to it a slow crawl. At least once a day I find myself reciting a personal mantra, “I need to want my goals enough to endure the hardest parts of my journey to achieve them all.” And I do. I do, I do, I do.
I’m fully aware of the tremendous effort and sacrifices it will take on my part to ensure my success in law school, but rest assured my resolve is strong and my conviction steadfast. I have an amazing support system made up of encouraging family and friends and I have my faith. I’ve come this far and I have no intention of relenting now.
As a woman minority and a former teen mom, it means the world to me to know that I didn’t hit the glass ceiling, that I was more than a statistic, and that I have the opportunity to fully utilize my talents and share them with people who can benefit and learn from them. I’m only asking for what I’ve worked so hard far, what I deserve – just a shot, a chance to prove to myself and to the world that I do have what it takes, that I’m that girl, the woman who, in my boldest moments, I’ve imagined I could be.
I have invested so much time and efforts helping other people pave their roads to success, for once I’d like to walk that road myself. I don’t know if a law degree will ensure my job security or promise me riches, but I want the education and credentials so I can explore that for myself. I want my children to know that even when the odds are stacked against them, perseverance and heart will carry them farther than they ever imagined. I want to know I taught them that. Most of all I want to feel the pride that comes along with knowing you finished what you started, even if it does take twenty years to do it.
They say it’s never too late to be what you might have been. In my heart I believe it, and it is that belief that gives me the gumption to try.
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