I graduated in December 2008 as a history major with no plans. Some of you may be too young to remember Lehman Brothers and the stock market crash, but let’s just say it was a really, really good time to graduate without “skills.” My first job became asking people for money on the street (in monthly donations, even better!). I then took an unpaid internship on Capitol Hill, living rent-free with family and tutoring the LSAT to make money. All that college tuition really felt worthwhile.
Fortunately, the internship led to an administrative position, then a promotion to legislative staff. It had taken me two years to get there, and I was one of the lucky ones. But two years after that, I wasn’t happy. My dream had never been to work on the Hill. In fact, I’d never really had a dream. I knew that I wanted to work, that I wanted to work in public service, and that I liked working on macro-level social issues. I learned a lot on the Hill and experienced incredible things (e.g. witnessing John Kerry call another senator, “dude”), but I also learned that even though I could see a path working in the Senate, it was not the path for me.
So again, I was at a crossroads with no plans. As I’d grown weary of that job, I’d increasingly fantasized about life as an artist. When my boyfriend wanted to start a two-year masters program, I quit my job, moved, and became the unemployed artist. Friends called me brave, but frankly, I was just brazen (and privileged; I had savings to support me and a family that could keep me from ending up homeless).
The fantasy quickly deflated. I produced a lot of art, and I made incredible friends as a barista at a local café. But I also constantly felt ashamed of how little I was accomplishing, how little money I was making (read: none), and how little I was interacting with the world.
I hit bottom when my mom reminded me of how my brother had taught himself calculus in high school and gotten a 5 on the AP BC calculus test. I was 26, I had no direction in life, and I hadn’t even taught myself calculus.
I did some soul searching and realized that I had always been passionate about women’s rights, and that I’d always loved analyzing arguments. So even though I still didn’t know what I wanted my career to be, I set myself in a direction, which was going to law school and figuring it out.
I still don’t know what I want to do. But I know that I don’t want to work on the Hill, that I don’t want to be an artist full-time, and that I really like deadlines, intellectual challenges, and salaried positions. So I’ll keep setting myself in a direction that makes sense, and I’ll keep course-correcting as needed. If all goes well, I have about forty years of my professional life left to figure it all out.
Casey Trombley-Shapiro Jonas is a 2L who learned to be nice growing up in Edina, MN; to be open going to college in Berkeley, CA; and to play the game working in Washington, DC. She hopes to litigate the great civil rights issues of the day, especially if she can help push women forward. Or at least, that’s what she thinks she wants to do. In the meantime, she enjoys eating the food her husband cooks her and running around Charlottesville, and is expecting Baby Trombley-Shapiro Jonas this May.