Pipe Dreams of Prestige

Once upon a time, I was going to go to law school. But… then I turned around and moved to Hawaii instead.

At the time, I didn’t realize why I was doing what I was doing. I just knew that it was time for a change, time to leave, and time to have the chance to reinvent myself. (But that’s another story entirely).

No matter the excuses, I think deep down I knew myself well enough to know that law school, although a great opportunity for me to learn and make a difference, would potentially be way more money, time, and effort than it was ultimately worth. I would have loved it in many ways – reading, learning, writing, discussing, feeling like I was a part of something bigger – but all of that wouldn’t have been enough.

I never wanted to admit that to anyone, because I didn’t want to be seen as a quitter. But truthfully, I did quit. I quit for reasons that are valid.

It’s still a sort of pipe dream of mine, to be able to see myself as a lawyer, and to be able to tell people that I went to law school. To be looked up to and respected. To be seen and heard as someone smart, strong, sophisticated, and dedicated.

But is it truly worth it to go through the years of hard work and sleepless nights, and allow myself to drown in debt for the idea of prestige and recognition? Perhaps for some people, but not for me.

If I had followed through with my plan I would have come out the other side with a degree all right, but in debt, tired, excited, only to probably take a position from which I could pay off my loans, instead of one of the lower-paying jobs that I would be truly passionate about. In my idealistic mind I wanted to fight for human rights, or represent victims of domestic violence or abused children, fighting for those who didn’t feel they had a voice.

I wanted to help those who didn’t feel they could help themselves.

But here’s the thing – I learned that I can do that in different ways. In the jobs I’ve had since giving up this dream, I know I have touched lives in more positive ways than I had previously imagined. For the past couple of years I worked with autistic kiddos, and seeing their faces and the progress they have made every day, for example, brings me so much more joy than I expect being a lawyer ever would. And I didn’t need an advanced degree to do it.

I definitely didn’t know that when I moved to Hawaii. I moved for various reasons, but mainly following a gut feeling that I needed something, and once I got to that island, I knew I wasn’t ready to leave. So I stayed. For two and a half more years.

And somewhere along the way I realized that I didn’t need law to feel important or to make a difference in the lives of others. And that I definitely didn’t need prestige to be happy with who I was.

Moving to an island and eventually letting go of the idea of law school has been one of the most important decisions of my life. I honestly still haven’t admitted to a lot of people that I’m no longer planning to pursue law. But there’s the truth.

So what am I doing instead? Still figuring that out. But at least I know who I am and what my priorities are – and ultimately what I don’t need in my life.

I learned that I don’t need to fit into someone else’s idea of successful or important to be heard. I am strong and I can still be a voice. My voice.

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