A large part of my every day is spent reading blogs by women who have made their creative businesses their careers. Two of my sisters are graphic designers who work from home running their own businesses. They control their days, their products, and they don't have to show up at 8 am to a dingy office or go to weekly team meetings. Of course, I've seen them both pull of their computers late at night during vacations to put in a few more hours of work, or worry about transient streams of income. But in full, I admire both of them and the lives that have built based on creativity and art.
I will not ever be able to work at home. I will be 26 when I graduate from law school, and the entire point of law school is preparing you to work for other people. Some people "hang their own shingle" and start a firm, but most of us either head into the firm world, the non-profit world, or academia. My path is leading straight towards the non-profit world. I have spent the last five years doing everything in my power to become a kick-ass, progressive immigration lawyer. That has meant volunteer work, heading to Spanish classes in the evening after long days at school, living off student loans to work unpaid legal internships at immigration services providers, and even occasionally casually pouring over the Immigration and Nationality Statutes over dinner.
This fall I will have my first paying immigration job as a law clerk at a small immigration firm. That feels good. But it also involves working the 9-5+ life. And with the new delightful fact of life that I need to go to the doctor all the time, a 9-5 job seems even more unsustainable. Don't get me wrong, I am incredibly excited to get more immigration experience this fall. And as an added bonus, I'll be working with a close friend from law school who shares my passion for immigration and lets me practice my Spanish on her. But it feels demoralizing to have to fight so hard to get paid to provide a service that so many people need access to.
As the first quarter of my last year of law school draws to a close, I spend more and more of my time cold-emailing non-profits who might be willing to sponsor me for a fellowship application to fund my first years of practice in the public interest world. As I face the reality of fighting for funding to live a life while providing services to low-income immigrants, I keep coming back to the lives my sisters have built for themselves.
My dream job doesn't exist where I want it to, so I have to build it. Now, in each of these unpaid legal internships, each time I convince a mentor that I am committed to immigration work, each time I sit in court, or quiz myself on Spanish flashcards on the train home, I am building my brand. Each client I work with fills my heart and reminds me that this is what I want. What I want is to work at a holistic, progressive immigration services provider. Just because that doesn't exist yet doesn't mean it won't, doesn't mean I can't make it.
Wherever I work after law school will be for the purpose of learning to become the best immigration advocate I can, but now, after seeing so many women create lives and careers for themselves in the small business world, the fact that my dream job doesn't exist where I am needed doesn't scare me. I am building my dream life, and that means building my dream job. It might be five years or ten years away, but each client I work with reminds me why it's so needed, and my sisters remind me the value of living a life not defined by what "isn't possible."