Our Summer Series for Summer 16 comes to an end! This series highlights different Latina students and law grads as they embark in their summer jobs and/or bar prep all across the country. We hope to provide a variety of work experiences, options for a healthy work-life balance, and general motivation through different guest contributors to help you to take charge of your summer and professional goals! Today we hear from Nataly, a rising 1L, committed to immigrant and farmworker justice as she gears up for her first semester of law school while balancing the guilt that comes with bucking our traditions:
Earlier in the spring, I opened up an email from the school I would, unbeknowingly, be attending. I saw the sender, sighed, and figured it was an email declining my application for enrollment. Imagine my surprise when I saw a “Congratulations!” in the first sentence. I refreshed, went back and clicked on the email again, waited a couple minutes to see if a horrible “we’re sorry for our terrible administrative error” email had come in but it hadn’t.
That email didn’t come. Instead the realization set in and instead of pride, I had a looming sense of guilt set in. At the moment I simultaneously realized that this would be the law school I would commit to attending and that I had to figure out a way to make the let down for my parents easy. Forget financial support, I just wanted the emotional ok from my parents when I told them separately of my decision to move away for law school.
So when I opened up my congratulatory email, I carried around a weight inside of me. Going to law school isn’t cheap, easy, or any sort of simple. I have not one close, personal relationship to an attorney and most of my admission questions were answered by online forums and a nice man from FSU Law (which I didn’t even bother applying to because I simply assumed I wouldn’t get in).
There are technicalities involved in applying to graduate or professional school. Exams, interviews, statements, letters, and some other component I’m probably forgetting. I didn’t start studying for the LSAT until it was too late. I scavenged for free classes on my undergraduate campus and had to settle for the cheapest option (still 1k).
Applying to law school was a very lonely process. I sought encouragement from my friends and mentors, none of which have pursued a legal education but gave me the bits of wisdom that got me to now. I found in them the emotional support that I wish I could’ve had right from the start at home. Occasionally, I hear other immigrant parents say how proud they are of how far their children will go and I feel a twinge of shameful jealousy.
It’s funny because Communications 101 taught me that Latin American cultures are all group based while good ol’ US loves the individual but there is no place that I feel more alone than in my Latin American familial unit. Ideally, I would’ve continued growing up quiet and studious, gone to a local commuter school, studied something that would’ve given me a solid career path straight after graduation. In this alternate reality, I would’ve helped out with my younger siblings, not joined protests (to the horror of my parents), met a nice boy from somewhere in South America, and always been home for Sunday dinner. Instead generational and cultural gaps make it difficult to relate to my parents my interests and career goals
I would like for this to be a story about the support I have felt through this journey to law school by my family, how I’m the first to go to some semblance of professional school and how I feel the pride of all our ancestors in me while I trump my way to some private university. But it’s not. This idea of familia and never throwing them under the bus, I don’t know if it’s something every Latino kid feels growing up when they want to complain about the overbearingness, but I’m here to tell you it’s very real. I am not allowed to complain because they’re the ones who struggled.
They show up to the graduations and ceremonies, they pay for a couple of bills, and they always provided for me growing up. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate them, I love them, and I am proud of them. Maybe to someone from a different background thinks I’m some basic cushy middle class girl, whining about feelings. And I am whining and giving millennials everywhere a bad name because my parents won’t be my cheerleader every once in awhile.
I once googled something about guilt in first generation kids who move away to go to school and, apparently, it’s a thing. That didn’t make me feel much better. I am able to dream because they were able to sacrifice and now I feel guilty for it. I have this insurmountable desire to prove myself to parents, not to myself, my friends, or circle of acquaintances, but to my parents. That I can do this, and maybe I don’t cook and clean with the tenacity that Tita did in that one book, but maybe, hopefully, that won’t matter to them when they see that I did this.