One of my favorite things about working at CCLS is the intern community that has formed in the conference room. There are four of us from Duke working alongside a number of other undergraduate and law student interns from different universities around the country. On any given day, there could be up to ten of us crammed around the long oblong table. The energy of the others keeps me engaged, my simple translation questions are easily answered, and I am able to collaborate freely on tasks and projects, finishing them more efficiently and thoroughly than I would be able to on my own.
The opportunity to work with the other interns not only benefits the CCLS staff, but also benefits each of us because we form connections that allow us to learn about each others’ diverse backgrounds. Earlier this week, I got to hear the story of another intern who I will call Nicole. I knew she was older than me and hadn’t taken the same path that most of the other interns had, but I had never had a long or personal conversation with her before. The conversation started off as a discussion about a Supreme Court case and turned into her sharing most of her life story with me.
Born into a military family, Nicole moved around a lot when she was younger. She had her first child when she was 14. She finished high school but didn’t return to college after winter break of her freshman year when she decided her son’s father wasn’t raising him the way she wanted him to be raised.
After recently moving to Miami, she wasn’t satisfied working as an administrative assistant She didn’t have the salary she thought she deserved, and her work didn’t inspire her. So she put in her resignation and decided to go back to school. At age 47 she is back in classes, first to finish her undergrad degree and then to pursue a law degree. Her goal is to become a lawyer and represent a disenfranchised and marginalized portion of the population in the United States– African American men. And as the mother of three, she knows firsthand the struggles they face, both in day-to-day activities and facing the legal system.
I am inspired by Nicole’s motivation to do something about the unrest she felt at her job, her drive to find a career she’s passionate about, and her dedication to education at a point in life when many others might give up. Amidst the stress of trying to decide a major and the constant questioning about my future, it’s important to keep reminding myself, you’re never too old to ask, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”