Our Summer Series continues! 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 Maria, a part-time evening law student who describes the steps needed to successfully balance work, school, and family expectations:
Ever since I was a little girl, I had dreams of doing it big. I’m not about to disappoint myself.
I am Maria, a San Diego law student who is near the end of her part-time evening law program. When I was thirteen years old I decided that I wanted to become an attorney. My parents are immigrants from Mexico, who upon arrival to the United States, toiled for years as farmworkers in Northern California. When I was thirteen years old I recall sitting in my father’s attorney’s office on the 42nd floor of the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco. My father’s attorney was once a farmworker who picked grapes in Northern California. In his office he had an empty crate that once carried grapes that he had picked. The office overlooked the entire bay area and I remember telling my mother, as we both were in awe of the view, that I wanted to become an attorney. I am the first from my family to graduate from college and pursue a post-graduate education. Currently, I work full time as an assistant child support officer for a government agency that establishes and enforces child support court orders. I also work part time as a legal assistant for a personal injury law firm.
My first couple of years in law school were the most difficult for me as I struggled to balance a full time job, family, a social life, and school. I experienced many defeats and set backs that have only made me stronger and pushed me to keep moving forward. I recently moved to San Diego in order to focus on my law studies and overall personal growth. Coming from a tight knit Mexican family, moving 400 miles away has not been easy but my family’s understanding and support has nonetheless always motivated me to continue.
I would to share with you what has helped me to stay focused and motivated.
- Learn to say No
Law school is not easy and there will be people around you that will not understand why you can’t go with them to Las Vegas to see J.Lo, why you can’t make it to your cousin’s baby shower, or why you are not ready to be in a serious relationship and settle down. I recall my grandmother’s distraught face when I told her that I was moving to San Diego to finish law school. Coming from a Mexican family, it is uncommon for a woman to venture out into the world on her own like I chose to do. My grandmother told me that it was very unsafe for me to move far away and I reminded her that I did the same when I left home for college, and came back with my bachelor’s degree. It is important to remind your family of how important your goal of becoming an attorney is to you, and what you have to do in order to achieve it. Law school will undoubtedly test your inner strength and determination. At the end of the day those who understand you are the people that respect your dream and truly want to see you succeed. Don’t ever feel like you have to explain yourself to those who don’t understand. Those who truly care about you will learn to wait.
- Exercise, Eat Healthy, and Nurture Your Spirit
Exercise has been the best outlet for my law school anxiety and stress. Living in San Diego has given me access to the most beautiful beaches and nature trails and I try to make it a regular routine to visit them and workout. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I hike down to the beach, lay out in the sun, listen to the waves, and just breathe. It is important to block out the world and make time for yourself. Find an activity or something that makes you happy. Eating healthy is very important to me as well. My body and mind needs to be healthy in order for me to be able to spend hours reading and studying. Given my busy schedule, I have found that meal prepping has helped with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I prep healthy meals for three days at a time which deters me from buying unhealthy food. 90% of the food I eat is home made. I post a lot of my recipes on Pinterest as I like to share what I cook.
- You are your biggest motivator
It is important to always believe in yourself. My first defeat came when I did not pass all of my classes during a semester where I struggled to balance my full time job and studies. When this happened, I took a step back to analyze the areas of my life where I needed to improve and I went back to the drawing board. It took me a while to find my motivation again and remember why I chose to go to law school in the first place. Remembering the time when I was on the 42nd floor of the Transamerica Pyramid is what brought me back to focus. Since then, I have learned to never stop believing in myself and not lose sight of my goal.
Law school is a life changing experience that will definitely help to shape the person you will be as an attorney. Embrace every tribulation you may encounter during school, learn from it, and carry on. Don’t stop.