Where to next?

I've been sitting on this post for a few weeks now. It's the reasons I've been silent over here for a while. Okay, one of many reason. (The other reasons are I'm about to move -- yes, again -- and I have to find time to pack when I'm not dealing with the holiday rush of working in retail. So you see, I'm lucky to have survived Black Friday, and I am very sleepy almost always.)

Let's start here: Change is happening. Big, major changes in literally every aspect of my life. As previously mentioned, I'm moving. I'll be living with four roommates downtown, and I'm so excited to get to know them and explore the city more. And now the big one... In a little over a month, I'm leaving my full-time management position job in retail to go back to school for something that has been dancing in the back of my mind for six years.

I'm studying to become a paralegal.

This has been a long time coming. It's funny, the other day Facebook reminded me (with that little "On this day X years ago" feature) that when I started my freshman year of college, right out of the gate I was thinking about changing my major law studies so I could become a paralegal after graduation. When I was younger, my dad used to always say that if I didn't do something in law, he wasted a lot of time waging arguments with me. In fact, I remember playing lawyer as a kid -- I used my parents' old (dead) cell phone and would pace around in our basement, pretending to be debating the terms of this or that while in a bathrobe carrying a toy dog Beanie Baby. Because that's what I thought lawyers did: wear robes, carry dogs, and have fancy black cell phones they could click closed in annoyance when things didn't go their way.

Of course my childhood vision of what being a lawyer would be like isn't exactly accurate. Needless to say, 7-year-old Erica had no idea what a paralegal did -- or even that paralegals existed. But the more I learn about the profession, the more I love it. The more it makes sense for me, in a weirdly perfect way. I can write, I can work to make a difference. I will be doing research and tracking down resources and references to assist in cases. I will be aiding lawyers at every step; once I learn and gain experience, I will be able to do nearly everything a lawyer does (expect for actually litigate in front of a judge, etc). But you know what? If I decide that I want to become a lawyer later on after being in the field and working with mentors, I'll take the Bar Exam so I can fully practice.

This past year, I've struggled with my path forward. It's hard reconciling what I feel I am good at, with what I want to do, with what I can practically do, and what will make a difference or make me feel significant in the world. Gilgamesh crisis, and all that.

I don't know what made me start looking into paralegal studies again. Out of no where, the idea of becoming a paralegal started nagging at me once more. This time I wasn't wearing a bathrobe, or carrying a toy dog, and I don't have a Motorola flip phone to open dramatically, but I answered the call anyway. In late September/early October, I began doing research again, and after I knew what it would take to get where I wanted to go, I sat on it. I wasn't ready to make a move yet. Change is always scary, especially Big Change like Career Choices, and -- much like Aaron Burr -- I was afraid to do anything until I knew every answer to every question I had or could possibly have.

Then the election happened. The results rolled in, and I didn't get more than two hours of sleep. I was angry; I was invigorated. I wanted something better, and I was finally ready. The next morning, at about 7AM, I submitted my application to school. "Paralegal Studies: Litigation." Shortly after, I registered for my first semester of classes.

If there's one good thing that came from that Tuesday it's that it lit a fire under my ass. I know now what I want to do, and I am not going to wait around to do it. Nothing is guaranteed, and I am prepared to fight to make things better. I was already swinging for weeks, I just needed to step into the ring and really make my hits count. In some way, the sadness and fear I felt in the long hours that election night gave me a clarity of mind to finally go for it. I'll figure out the answers to my questions along the way.

So, here's the goal, and here's what I'm doing about it:

I want to work in a civil rights attorney's office. I want to make a difference for those oppressed or silenced. I will be attending a three-semester American Bar-approved program, and finding an internship (and hopefully part-time job as a legal aide/legal secretary) along the way. After I complete the graduate certificate program, I'm throwing myself fully into the field. I hope it will take me far. I hope I will make a difference.

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