Friday, February 2, 2007

The Crossroads

I have been here before, at the crossroads. Trying to decide which way to go. The choices are tough and nothing is clear or distinct. I need to make sure that my next big decision is derived from courage, not desperation. Here's the deal...

The running theme in my life is that I really want to help people. Every choice I have made in my career has been with that in mind. First, I wanted to be an oncologist, but decided that I hated doctors and wanted no part of their world. Then, I thought plant pathology, so I could help farmers make the right choices for their crops. Turns out if you are in that field, you work more with fungus than with plants or even farmers. Damn it. I was told that I have a talent for science. So I tried to stay within that area because of other people and what they thought I was good at. My dissertation project in grad school had a downstream environmental application, so I figured I could "make a difference" that way. At the time, I didn't quite realize how very far downstream the difference would be. In basic research, you just don't see your work make a significant impact on the world at large in your lifetime, usually (there are notable exceptions of course). And I never got any thrill at all from my success in science. Publishing papers, getting grants funded, being a recognized expert in the field--none of that did a thing for me. I still came home feeling useless at the end of the day.

I left science behind with the hope that I could apply it in the practice of law. I thought about the money and the power I could have being a p@t.ent att0rn.ey. A part of me thought that money would make it all worth it. In science there is no money. I didn't want money for a big house or lots of toys, I wanted to make money so I could give it away. My dream is to start a trust for grad students in need of financial assistance for medical issues. I received a small amount from the grad school to help offset the cost of therapy (it was not covered by my student health insurance unless I saw one of the idiots at the health center). I wanted to give back. I wanted to help others who found themselves in need, like I once was. A bit corny I will admit, but I am serious about this. I thought being able to give would make it all worth it.

Not getting that summer job blew this whole plan out of the water. It's clear that I am not going to be a high powered woman in the la world. Now, I am second guessing all of it. All of my past choices are clearly based on my desire to make a positive impact, to help those who need it, to point others in the right direction, to fight the good fight for someone who has no more energy to do it themselves. Let's face it, if I became a big player, I would still be making an impact from an arm's length away. Will that be enough? Experience says no.

Then it hit me. Disability l@w. Interesting, albeit frustrating, work that would allow me to help someone, even if its one person at a time. I can tell this may be worth looking into, because I get a little hop in my step just thinking about it. So I ran this by my blind l@w stoodent friend, A. A thought this was an awesome plan and then she gave me the greatest of compliments. She told me that I would be great working in this field. She told me that my personality is well suited to the type of clients I would manage, and that I am good at relating to people who are struggling. I do my best when I am advocating for someone else. I fight harder than I ever would for just myself. For her to tell me this, as a person with a disability, was HUGE for me.

Now, here's the really hard part--walking away, for real this time, from science. Am I exploring this option out of desperation or courage? This is going to take some time and some deep thought. Bring out the wine, it's time to do some thinkin'.


Dianne/Flutter said...

Could fate handle it? Put in resumes for both and see what transpires?

Good luck with this decision, choosing the type of law you want to practice is hard. Especially if you have so many different interests.

Aurelia said...

Hmmm, the only thing I'm wondering about is, maybe you should interview/do lunch with a few lahyers who are working in the field. (I'd say this about any area of la, BTW, not just this one.)
It's just that they could give you some perspective a few years out on what it's like. I know there are a few lahyers who read this, and your alumni must have some contacts. Didn't someone else tell you to go take some people out to lunch?
The good thing is that this area doesn't preclude you from using your science background, because having met a few guys doing disability law, they quite often end up wading through medical reports & assessments for Worker's Comp, or insurance companies, or labour boards, and they can get awfully complicated. No, not your exact area of science, but still, you have a heck of a leg up on the other side in a trial, cause your prep time would be considerably reduced, right?
Anyway, drink some wine...everything will become clearer after that, right? haha

SaraV said...

You know, the dean of your Lah Skuhl has done work in that field - he's a co-partner on our Dis@bility Discrimin@tion data project.

The only thing I'd say is that public interest lah pays for cr@p. Because PWD (peeple with dis@bilities, in the field's lingo) don't rate so high on society's monetary scale

BerryBird said...

I think that little hop in your step feeling is worth paying attention to, Nicole. I would encourage you to explore your options in this new area. Don't think of it as turning your back on science, but rather following your heart. There is no shame in that. It sounds like a very rewarding field with the potential to help a lot of people--and real people, too, not abstract downstream people.

Veronika said...

I think this means that you're multi talented! My advice would be to follow your heart and do what makes you happy inside.

Emilija said...

I walked away from a career in research psychology- okay, it wasn't all my decision, I'd kind of ruined it for myself as my illness got out of control. But once I greived, I've never looked back. I think that a person can help others doing many things. I think that as long as you are doing what you love, and you are basically a good person, you will help people. It doesn't matter what you do, you will help people just by being you.

Dino aka Katy said...

i think you should apply for all that you may be interested and leave the rest up for faith. Just see what happends.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I agree with Berry Bird that you should listen to the hop in your step and also with flutter that you could hand it to fate or to the Gods.

Sometimes when you do that, you learn your own true feelings.

And I agree with Berry Bird that you aren't necessarily walking away from science. It could be a life-long avocation, a hobby, another way to help people (volunteer at a science center or nature center once a month or however often suits you etc--lots and lots of options. Or , at some point, you may return to it. Decisions are not necessarily permanent.

I keep swinging back and forth between science and art, science and writing--all my life. I worked as a naturalist and science educator for more years that I care to recall and right now I'm a writer--and what do I write about? Science and nature, among other things.

Best wishes, whatever you decide!!!!

Barbara said...

What a wonderful career! The disabled need passionate people advocating for them.