How I Ended Up Here (Or Finding My Path), Part 3

So I’ve been writing (slowly) about my journey from confused M.B.A. grad to corporate worker who was in a rut looking at thirty.  Then I left you hanging. For like a month. Or more.

Then this week, the Facebook timeline reminded me that it was 10 years ago this month that I changed the path I was on. And when I saw that, I sat back in my chair. Wow. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since I started down a new path. And so of course, that spurred me to finish this story.

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In was in late 2006 when I started the process of changing my path. As I wrote in Part 2, I had been in a rut for a few years. And then turning 30 in 2006 made me start thinking about where I was in comparison to where I wanted to be.

I considered several options, but in the end, I came back to my college dream of going to law school. Since I had the flexibility, I decided if I was going to go to law school, I wanted to go full-time and make a clean break from my corporate life. So in the fall of 2006, I took the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and started my admissions applications with the goal of starting law school in the fall of 2007.

In the spring of 2007, I opted to go to the Dickinson School of Law at Penn State. While not my first choice (I was wait-listed at my first choice), Penn State Law had several things I liked. In addition to giving me some financial aid, Penn State Law also had great clinical programs (I ended up working in the Children’s Advocacy Clinic) and had a good focus on pro bono service and working with communities in needs. (Not surprisingly, I graduated with a public interest award and scholarship.)

So after accepting a spot in the Dickinson School of Law class of 2010, I submitted my notice to my former workplace in May 2007. My last day at my former company was May 31, 2007. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to my co-workers and friends. And I did question myself several times as to whether I was doing the right thing. But once I started down this new path, I was determined to see it through.

Starting law school at age 31 was a bit daunting. I was classified as a “non-traditional” student (the typical age of a traditional law student is 24 or 25). Being over 30, I worried about fitting in and also about getting back into an academic routine after being out of school so long. But once I got there, I found a nice balance between those students coming straight from college or only one or two years removed from college and those, like me, who had been out in the workforce for more than 5 years. And while I wasn’t academically at the top of my class, I held my own.

Three years of law school, while tough at times, went by faster than I thought. And soon enough, it was May 2010. After graduating, I did a traditional clerkship with a state trial judge, and started down my legal path.

Despite some setbacks and some tough times, I’ve ended up where I wanted. My focus in law school was on environmental law, with a particular interest in animal law. And today, my practice focuses on protecting and conserving wildlife, and I really enjoy my work.

I admit, over the past 10 years it’s been tough at times. Since I had particular ideas about what I wanted to do with my law degree, I didn’t settle for just anything. So there was a time in the last 7 years where I was unemployed. I also had some personal challenges (I lost my dad to cancer in the last semester of my third year of law school). So there were times when I lost focus and questioned my life and choices (sometimes I questioned them a lot).

But ultimately, I stuck with it, worked hard, and it worked out. And even though there were some bumps and bruises along the way (that’s a story for another day), my 40s have started off better than I imagined. And now here I am in 2017 looking back on the past 10 years.

So here’s my advice to you, or the moral of this 3-part story, or however you want to view it:

Regardless of where you are, you can do it. You can follow your dreams.

I can’t say that it will be all rainbows because in order to get a rainbow there has to be some rain. It will be tough at times. I doubted myself several times through these last 10 years, starting with when I quit a good job with benefits to go be a poor student without benefits and a giant amount of law school debt. But I can say that I am happier now than I was this time 10 years ago because I finally listened to that inner voice that I realized had been shouting at me for a while (and now that voice is happy).

So if your inner voice is shouting at you, remember, it’s never too late—

  • Sometimes you just need to let your dreams marinate for a while before you’re ready.
  • Sometimes you need time to figure out how to manifest your dreams into reality.
  • Sometimes you have to go down the wrong path before you find the one that fits you.

Whatever the reason, don’t give up on your dream(s). And don’t ever let anyone tell you that your dreams are stupid or not worth pursuing. You are the only one who lives your life. No one else can. So do what’s right for you.

As someone who did jump from one path to another to pursue her dreams, I can say that for me, it was totally worth it.

Have you followed one of your dreams? Or are you contemplating a change? Tell me about it in the comments below. 

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