Most often what attracts us to different things – people, places, jobs – is a common bond. For me, I definitely share a common bond with the work that I want to do as an attorney. As the daughter of a biracial couple, I found myself naturally drawn to civil rights work. After all, it was civil rights litigation that allowed people like me to enjoy the freedoms that we now do. I find myself drawn to careers of fighting for the under-championed cause – not because I enjoy the fight but because I know the fight is worth it.
This common bond or shared interest definitely fuels my fire. I want to work through the hard parts or long hours because my identity is tied to those I want to help. And yet, there is a cost to that common bond. You’re not only dealing with your own issues – you’re also taking on the issues of others.
My two summer jobs during law school have both dealt with racial justice and civil rights. Both summers also had their fair share of tragedy for the Black community. It is an incredible privilege to have participated in civil rights work, and yet, it was flat out exhausting at times. Work wasn’t just about thinking about reforms and the best ways to do justice. In the background was the hurt of wondering how members of my family might be treated one day and the feeling of security slipping away.
So why do it? Why work in an area that is so closely tied to who I am? It’s not just about having the extra passion to get through the day. I could probably find another motivation to do my job. For me, it comes down to a combination of stubbornness and impatience. If I am unhappy with parts of the world we live in, I’m not going to wait for the change. I’m going to find a way to make the dream a reality.
And with perhaps foolish naïveté, I march on. The hard days aren’t any easier, and the hard days will come. But realizing why I want to do this work gives me the freedom to actually do the work. Part of the work is recognizing that I do share a common bond with the issues. Sometimes that means taking a little extra time to sit with things and to actively carve out space to process what’s happening around me. Sure, that adds another step to the process, but it’s worth it.
If there’s something that lights your fire – some common bond – don’t be afraid to make that your career. We need more people at the table who can shed light on reality. When you chase those passions, remember that work won’t just be a job. It’ll be a part of you, so make the time to take care of yourself. Let’s make change happen, and not wait for it to unfold.
Amber Strickland is a 3L from Centreville, Virginia. After spending her undergraduate years enjoying small town America in the cornfields of Ohio, she joined the fight to end bonded labor in India while interning with International Justice Mission. When not reading for class, she can be found procrasti-baking or cooking.