Do you ever wonder about the life not lived, the road not traveled? I try not to. I mean it can lead to regret, the agonizing “What if?” and keep you from appreciating the life you actually have. Sage words, a good way to live, but as long as we’re human we’re not perfect and sometimes it still pops up.
While I have a few (I should have heavily pursued X; I should have never gotten involved with Y; I should have interjected and shutdown Z myself), the one that I keep coming back to lately is a matter of profession: I should have been a lawyer.
It’s not a regret as much a musing that makes me laugh, a road I could have traveled well and one I still dip my feet in once in awhile.
I have two great passions: writing and activism. I really can’t imagine myself without either. They are both a vital part of who I am, encoded deep within. Perhaps that’s why most of my writing is meant to matter. A wonderful mentor-writer once asked, “Why are you writing this?” My response was: I want it to matter. I want to it mean something to someone else and I want it to make a difference for the better.
That pretty much sums up all of my writing now. Whether I want to add an important voice to a larger conversation, help others, make someone not feel so alone, inspire, educate – I want to touch the world and if I help one person, that’s enough. So I am able to practice my second passion through my first (that doesn’t mean it’s the only way I’m an activist, but it’s a big part of it). But I also love to debate. I don’t call it arguing like some people would because while it’s passionate I always state logic, reason, facts and figures – I have a steel trap of a memory that is especially useful. I have a knack for impassioned speeches. Obviously the reality of being a lawyer is less impassioned speeches and more behind the scenes, but I love researching and using the law to back up my positions. And make no mistake, I have had no problem presenting legal infractions to big companies or parties that are exploiting someone illegally. I’ve done it with housing, ADA (American Disabilities Act) stuff, employment discrimination, mocking disabilities and going back on a contract (hey there: Comcast, AT&T). And I’m not a lawyer, but I’m a writer and writing a powerful and damning complaint and filing with the appropriate agency or taking to social media or publishing an essay – that’s how I roll.
Lately, I’ve also felt a strong pull to start a nonprofit, so I get to be the “pretend lawyer” already. But it makes me think how much I love slapping “the bad guy” with the law or standing up and challenging an existing law as unconstitutional. I get a serious high from it. Make no mistake, I would not be a highly-paid lawyer or go corporate but the legal aid, ACLU, champion of the underdog and marginalized with long hours and crap pay. Because I can’t help but stand up for any injustices I see, and in today’s climate, I see too damn much of it. And I always speak out, it’s a compulsion, a furious need – I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t.
And whenever I go off, going through proper channels or using social media and bad PR to shine a much-needed light on whatever – I feel in my element. Not just good, but that feeling you feel when you’re fulfilling your purpose, your reason for being. And a lot of the time, it has nothing to do with writing. Often it is through articulate verbal argument. So yeah, sometimes I think, “I should have been a lawyer,” because damn sometimes I’m on fire. Friends have remarked I’m “a force” and that they like to “break out the popcorn” when I get going on someone. My husband laughs and tells me how sexy I am after I’ve just gotten done with someone. I don’t hold back, and I’m straight to the point. I like efficiency.
Sometimes I even channel it into negotiating, like when I negotiated a recent car purchase for a new vehicle with all of the 2018 upgrades, $200 under the current true car best – and got them to take in our scrapyard trade-in for $1,000 when it literally could barely be stripped down for parts (over ten years old, nearly 170,000 miles, major problems including engine issues). When I’m negotiating or letting someone have it from a “legal verbal bitch slap” or writing an impassioned complaint including the law and relevant evidence or taking to social media or writing a piece exposing something wrong – I just feel good. Like I’m making a difference. Not waiting for change, but being a part of it. And that’s why I think I should have been a lawyer (other than all the things I love/am that a lawyer needs to have). Because I love kicking ass, taking names, righting wrongs.
I don’t believe that the law is always fair or just, but I believe that if it were followed most people would be happier and not as exploited. And in the times when the law is wrong, I’d be up there protesting, marching, educating, speaking out – because I’ve done that all my life. (Remember, LGBT rights is a newer thing, and I grew up in Bible-belt Nebraska, I have been protesting and organizing since I was ten – for real.)
I think that’s why not being a lawyer isn’t a regret as much as it is a running joke. (One that I did not come up with, it was relatives and friends who started saying this while I was in high school, and at the time I disregarded as “whatever”.) I wanted to be a lawyer to help others and be a champion of change. I’m able to do that, just in another way. And yes, I love “to argue” and I’m “hyper-rational” and know the law like the back of my hand, but I can achieve everything I would being a lawyer by being an advocate, organizing, getting in the face of those injustices and not backing down. What’s the difference between resilience and stupidity? Persistence.
And lawyer or writer, I have that down pat.