By Dvora Walker, Age 26
Yes, the title of this blog post is a line from an Indigo Girls song. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. But it really is so spot on in my case. Let me start from the beginning.
I fell in love with Gender and Women’s Studies in college. I remember hours spent curled up in a ball on an armchair in the library, eating up feminist theory. These brilliant theorists- Gayle Rubin, Audre Lorde, Judith Butler- articulated and validated all the beliefs I had secretly held. My cheeks turned pink with excitement as I spit out paper after paper on gender roles and social justice and intersectionality.After college, I continued along the same path. I secured an internship at the Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youth, and put the theory I loved into practice. Eventually though, I realized that a graduate degree would be helpful in advancing my advocacy. So I decided to pursue law school— and that’s where I got stuck.
For those of you who haven’t been to law school, it’s an exciting place! But I also found myself surrounded by many people without a social justice focus, for the first time in years. Remember, I had studied Gender and Women’s Studies in college and then interned at an LGBTQ-focused nonprofit. I began to question what I wanted to get out of law school. Maybe a fresh start was what I needed. Maybe insurance or corporate law would be a good fit for me.
I had always proudly identified as a bleeding heart (what can I say) but I started to feel like public service work just wasn’t for me. After all, the majority of my fellow law students weren’t interested in public service work and they seemed to have a good handle on their goals and aspirations. I looked around me for my inspiration and I forgot about my own, truest self.
The good news is that I did come back to myself, eventually. It happened over time. It started with an internship handling employment discrimination cases, followed by involvement in my school’s asylum and human rights program, and then an internship focused on LGBTQ rights. Each experience that I had, I loved. My commitment to the causes was genuine and my excitement for the work carried me through. I didn’t have to “fake it.” I really was thrilled to be involved in work that I believed was important.
It wasn’t until my third year of law school, while I was in the midst of a fellowship at a nonprofit dedicated to achieving equal rights for women, that I concluded that I was just not destined to be the “typical” law student. I realized that I really am a bleeding heart and I always will be. And, honestly, I love that. I love that feminist theory and work gets me energized. I am not about to try to stand in the way of that.
I am realizing, though, that the type of work I enjoy can take far more forms than I had previously recognized. Yes, I need to do some type of work where the end goal is helping people. But I don’t need to totally stick myself into a box. For example, I love asylum work, which I never would have seen myself pursuing in undergrad. I also think policy work is fascinating and I didn’t even fully know what policy work entailed a couple years ago.
I don’t mean for this post to suggest that everyone needs to pursue social justice work or that you can never switch to a more traditional path. But it is intended to say that you have to listen to yourself and not others. I had always known what I really loved, and now I realize that I should have trusted in that. Now I see, the doors are wide open but, even so, it’s important to me that I stay true to my core.