Twas the eve before Princess Nikita started her job. She didn’t lay in her canopy bed that resided at the castle. Instead, she laid in a different one with her mind drifting to anxious thoughts. These thoughts kept her up at night like those monsters under her bed when she was five years old. Princess Nikita had not grown up with the burdens of fending for herself, let alone others. The King and Queen didn’t kick her out of the castle nor force her to change. Instead, Princess Nikita walked away from the castle’s alluring comfort. So, she wondered why she was so anxious.
On Monday, June 29th, your girl will officially start her job as Deputy State Public Defender! Yes, her big girl job. The one with healthcare benefits and a 401(K)-pension plan. And, the one you’ve all been waiting for me to start so I stop bugging you with these blog posts. Luckily, I am passionate about being a public defender. But I am still extremely nervous about starting this job. I had the fortunate experience of working at a clinic in my 3L year where I got to be a public defender for a school year. However, this isn’t the same. The responsibility is very different.
When choosing to move across the country, I knew that my entire life would change. For those who know me, I’ve been a princess-in-training my whole life. Other than the obvious ethnic minority woman struggles I’ve faced in a white-dominant workforce, I’m pretty privileged. In fact, I am so spoiled that one of my best friends violently threw a book at me titled, Thin Rich Pretty. Nope, she didn’t mean it as a compliment. It was a full-on “fuck you, bitch” book. (It was Lylan “Jessica” Nguyen who threw the book at me for those wondering. You’ve all have met her before on my blog. She’s kind of okay.)
Anyways, I saw my parents achieve the American Dream through hard work. They came to America with degrees, a drive to help others, and an unmatchable passion. (All of which I have inherited.) As a family, we rose from poverty to comfort within a few years. So, when I decided to dedicate my career to helping indigent people, I knew that I would lose some of that comfort. But, I don’t think my family expected me to give up that comfort for my career.
Making the Wrong Choices.
I gave up my princess-in-training lifestyle to become a public defender. This isn’t a stepping stone job which will lead to a “better, high paying job” later. No, this is my purpose. And, when I decided to act on this purpose, I had to say bye to my old lifestyle. Unfortunately, helping indigent people doesn’t get me that “Jeff Bezos money.” I’ll have to make compromises, look for good deals, and put my retail therapy on hold. But, it will all be worth it because I am doing my dream job. As I start advocating, the stress of giving up my princess-in-training lifestyle will be a distant memory. (Wow, this is such a first world problem.)
We all fear we’ll make the wrong choices. But the consequences of those choices are scarier. From accepting my placement in Alamosa, Colorado to the house I am renting, doubt-filled every decision. (Enough reasonable doubt that a jury could not convict any of my clients.) However, I wasn’t the only one worried. Those closest to me expressed their concern with orders on how to live my life. Although I recognized their concern, the authoritative way of showing it was not helpful. Rather, it made me feel extremely underprepared for my new adventure. It got to the point where I doubted my career decision. However, when I started my basic lawyer training for the job, I knew I made the right decision.
I’ve made peace with the fact that I am going to make lifestyle mistakes. I’ll spend too much money on useless things, I’ll make bad investments, I’ll rent a crappy a place for a while, or I’ll not put enough money in my savings. However, many of my loved ones haven’t made peace with those facts. Sure, they don’t want to see me get hurt. But, I have to live my life. I keep waiting for the day that their concern stops spilling over into my autonomy. I hope they make peace with my decision to be a public defender; to say bye to being a princess-in-training and to say what’s up to being a glorious-female-warrior. Over time, they will see that I made the best decision for myself and this decision doesn’t hurt the family.
We All Make Mistakes.
When someone’s liberty is in your hands, you’re terrified of making a decision that takes away non-reporting probation and replaces it with jail time. At some point, I’ll have to make peace with the idea that I will not be the perfect attorney. However, I will be the most compassionate attorney for my clients. Only laziness and selfishness lead to very bad decisions for our clients. Hopefully, those two characteristics won’t bleed into my advocacy.
I am here in Alamosa to practice client-centered representation. I refuse to call my clients defendants, then let them be another number in a system. Throughout my law school experience, I lost belief in the idea of second chances. Instead, I believe in multiple chances. For some reason, indigent people are held up to a higher standard. If they make one mistake, then they’re held accountable for the rest of their lives. A simple misdemeanor conviction is enough to ruin someone’s life. Another conviction added to a person’s criminal record is another obstacle.
As a compassionate public defender, I don’t have the luxury to say, “oh, it’s just a misdemeanor,” or “he’s been convicted of felonies before.” I find my mind drifting to all my previous cases then analyzing all my previous cases. Did I fight for the right plea deal? Should we have gone to trial? Did I try hard enough to track down witnesses? As time passes, and with therapy, these stresses will float away and I will be a more confident public defender.
Tomorrow will be an exciting day and tonight will be an anxious night. Regardless, I am finally advocating for those I want to represent.
Princess Nikita felt a sudden surge of calmness as she reflected on her journey away from the castle. Her eyes felt heavy and her breath found a peaceful pace. Her imagination took her to courtrooms where she fought evil monsters while protecting those in need. No longer a princess now, as it wasn’t her destiny. Instead, she is a warrior fighting for others to fulfill their destiny.
That’s all for now. Wish me luck!