My Future History Professor

My ten-year-old and I have two favorite mommy-and-me topics: first, he enjoys hearing about how he was when he was much younger, and second, how things will be when he grows up. Somewhere between that is “the now” of my soon-to-be fifth grader and mommy trying to keep him from growing up too fast.

I am just grateful that he never passed the “I want to drive a dump truck/garbage truck” stage which my youngest brother, Nikki, swore to in his early years. (And we were all relieved that he eventually did become a licensed Physical Therapist now working in one of the bigger hospitals in Manila!)

These days, my little boy is fascinated with Social Studies and the American Revolution in general. At the end of his fourth grade, he got the Social Studies Expert award with matching cheers of approval from the rest of his class. We, as the proud parents, beamed with pride, but he glowed with the recognition of his expertise and that was the most precious of all.

You can imagine how heartening it is to hear him say he wants to be a History Professor when he grows up.  He wants to study History and teach History.

I’m trying very hard not to let my dreams and aspirations get in the way of him forming his own. I want him to set his own goals in life– and I want to just be on the sidelines cheering him on. I want to see him get himself to a university of his choosing and pursuing his dreams to fruition. I don’t want to be the parent living her dreams through her child. That would be most unfair because we bring our children up to be their own person and not to be who or what we couldn’t be. If we couldn’t live our dreams, we should make new ones for ourselves instead of burdening our children with the pressure of succeeding where we failed.

We always want what’s best for our children, of course.  Well, most of the time.  I don’t want to be that parent who pins their future hopes and dreams on their children’s success.  I want to stick around for as long as I can and maybe watch him become a family man eventually.  But I see myself growing old around him, but not being a burden on him.

It would be great to hear him say “I want to be a lawyer like you, Mommy,” but for now, the fact that he is thinking of college and doing something fruitful afterwards is good enough. Maybe in time he will think of the legal profession.  That would be nice, but it wouldn’t be the death of my hopes and dreams if he chooses to be a rock star instead.  (Well, he doesn’t have the rock star voice although he has the swag.  Plus, there’s the prerequisite that a rock star career be preceded by a college degree.)

I was never goaded by my parents to pursue a legal education.  The one and only goal was to go through and finish college.  That I landed in the University of the Philippines was an added plus but would not have been the be-all and end-all of my post-high school life.  The choice to go to law school was totally mine, and a dream I had set my heart on as early as I was choosing my college course or the university I was going to attend.  At that point in my life, I was going to college with the end in view of eventually going to law school.

I have come across many young people who had thought about law school much later, or not even with such a long thought out aspiration as I did — and that doesn’t surprise me, and that doesn’t make it any less a valid dream or goal to aim for.  We go through life learning about what we can do and what we want.  These things change as our personality changes through our life experiences.  Sometimes we grow in ways we never thought we would, and we find ourselves suddenly thinking of things we never thought we would consider, like being a lawyer.

I’d like to think that my own life experiences will have some bearing on my little guy’s own life choices, but when it comes to the career or direction he will want to take when he is older, I’d rather leave the decision to him.  I won’t try to influence that one way or the other, except perhaps to convince him staying closer to mommy instead of moving to the other side of the country would be just as good.  (I’m trying to bribe him to actually stay here until he is ready to stand up on his own two feet AFTER college.. wishful thinking, I know.)

I would be on cloud nine if one day he tells me he wants to be a lawyer, too.  But that’s many years away, and I can wait.  For now, I’d be happy to encourage the dream to be a History Professor. After all, History is a good pre-law degree.  =)

Related posts can be found in the blog section LAWYER WANNABE which can be found in the navigation bar.

Dream on (Feedback from someone hoping to be a legal eagle someday)

Dream!!This post is inspired by an e-mail I received from a lady who is thinking of pursuing a career in law and currently trying to get into law school in the Philippines.  Her e-mail has inspired a half dozen possible posts, but let’s begin where the pursuit starts:  a dream.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a doctor.  I liked the idea of wearing that thing-a-ma-jig (stethoscope) around my neck, and seeing my doctor come into this colorful examination room bedecked with cartoon character mobiles and murals.  (My pediatrician was the late and great Dra. Fe Del Mundo.)  I didn’t like all doctors, though, particularly this one who lived near us and who was always taking out those glass syringes and long menacing steel needles.  But I liked the sound of “Doctora”.

Then certain life experiences, innocent though they may be, convinced me that that wasn’t the path for me.  I have written about most of them.  (Gag alert)  One was my experience holding my mom’s tonsils floating in liquid in a plastic bag after her tonsilectomy — it literally made me feel my stomach turn but thankfully, the gag reflex was easier to control.  Second was my waterloo being Math.  And I think I haven’t mentioned how one time I ventured into the kitchen to try to slice through a slab of pork, just feeling the knife slicing through the meat sort of sent the wrong sensations up my spine.  End of the dream.

But one thing that made me shift my sights on the legal profession in my younger years was I realized I loved to write, I had the gift of gab, and I liked the looks of those lawyers parlaying their skills as defenders in court.  (Little did I know that they didn’t speak Tagalog at all in court.. everything was translated.  That was all for drama.)

We nurture all sorts of dreams in our hearts. I nurture dreams big and small, simple and profound, achievable and impossible.  Even now at 48.

I dream of one day being able to wake up without the burdens in my heart.  Being able to truly wake up with a smile not just on my face, but deep within.  Of one day being able to say I made it through.  It’s all behind me.

I also dream of maybe having the time and the energy to devote to my creative pursuits.  So many beads to make things out of.. so little time to sit and try.

And as much as I’ve written and do write, I have a particular project I’m hoping to one day accomplish.. I want to write profiles of people on a website dedicated solely for that purpose.  And I don’t mean those celebrities or bigwigs (although I do know one or two) or popular personalities.  I want to write about the very affable sandwich guy in the deli where I get lunch for my boss, or the young lady with very pretty eyes who rings it up when I’m done.  I want to write about the old lady who serves up food in one of the Filipino bakeshops we frequent and find out what brought her here.  I want to hear their story and have their stories heard.  I want to write about classmates who are now their own person — whether as single moms, successful executives, entrepreneurs, politicians.  But I don’t want to write about them as the person they are known for.  I want to write about something that they are that people don’t know.  For example, one celebrity friend who has battled cancer likes Matrushka dolls, Hello Kitty and Bath & Body Works Sanitizer keychains.  I want to write about why she likes those things and how she reacts when people tell her she’s inspired them in their fight against cancer.

I can go on and on and on, but that is a project for another day.  It’s a dream in my heart and in my mind.

Not all dreams are nurtured early on.  Some of them come at the spur of the moment.  It’s like a lightbulb that pops up at the weirdest of hours.  Like most things in life, dreams are fanciful enough for us to take seriously or dismiss with flip of the hand.  But if we choose not to ignore it, no dream is too late pursue wherever we may be in life.

Not even entering law school.

There are many lawyers or lawyers-in-waiting (those who cannot seem to pass the Bar exams despite multiple tries but who have not given up — kudos!) who pursued that dream very much later in life.  When I took the Bar myself, there were people in the same room who were old enough to be my mom.  Yet they were there feeling as nervous as we young ones (then) were.  When you take the bar exams, you are thrown into a new room for each of the four Sundays.  You don’t know who is going to sit next to you, and often, there’s a lot of small talk and nervous chatter between exams as we await the beginning of each one.  I have been lucky enough to have taken it only once, and during the first Bar Exams held in the premises of De La Salle University on Taft Avenue at that so we had airconditioned rooms and all.  But seeing that collective laboring through the travails of trying to make it through the four Sundays gave me added courage that I needed to believe in myself.  If they can make it, I can make it.  I felt one with them — we were all dreaming the same dream.

Beyond my innocent visions of being in the courtroom as I watched those movies showing Atty. so-and-so when I was younger, I’ve come to see that being a lawyer is not confined to being in the courtroom.

So my reader Evelyn tells me that she doesn’t even know why she wants to be a lawyer when deep in her heart she is a businesswoman with a flourishing printing press.  (Wow.)  To which I say, what’s stopping you?  Being in law school, finishing it, taking the Bar Exams and passing it may not be needed in your printing press business, but believe me, it won’t hurt to have that added knowledge.  You’d be drafting your own contracts instead of going to someone else (and paying them for it) and maybe even notarizing those documents yourself.  You will know your rights and the nuances of contracts, taxation and corporation law in relation to your business.  But that’s not even the crux of why I think you should go ahead and give it a shot.

Going after your dream is living your life as you want it.  It’s like a lifestyle choice — you can be whatever and whoever you want to be.  If you have the means like you do thanks to the business you’ve been successfully running, what’s stopping you from pursuing a legal education that so many others pine for but can only dream of for lack of the financial means to do so?  So what if the law school you choose doesn’t choose you!  As you have probably read in previous related posts, I wanted to go to UP but they didn’t want me.  Because the Ateneo School of Law opened their doors to me, when I passed the Bar, that point went to their passing statistics.  We choose the school we go to based not just on their reputation and their standards, but sometimes we have to go to the school that will accommodate our work schedule, too.  And even if that school that we chose or that accepted us later on decides it wasn’t working out (translated: if you get booted out or dropped), there are other schools.

From the beginning to the end of that journey, it’s you and your dream that will steer you this way or that.

Future posts will deal with the other points you wrote but let’s start at the most important deciding factor of whether you eventually carry “Atty.” before your name some day — dream on, Evelyn.  I say go for it!

Next up, writing, you ask…

Related posts can be found in the blog section LAWYER WANNABE which can be found in the navigation bar.

(Of Never-ending but very welcome) Law School Inquiries – A reply to Concerned Citizen

This is a much-delayed response to a long e-mail I received from someone who strayed into my blogspace last April. I apologize for the delay but it was not exactly a question I could answer with a “yes” or a “no” and I had totally lost track of which account the e-mail originally was sent to. (Reminder to self on e-mail / contact info widget.  And just for everyone else’s info, best e-mail to reach me at is pinaynewyorker@gmail.com)

First of all, I want to thank “Concerned Citizen” (CC) for having taken the time to write the e-mail and share with me his dilemma and ask me for my two cents’ worth on the matter. I am humbled that you found me worthy of asking, and no, I don’t find it nerve-wracking — on the contrary, your asking me the question was a compliment to this blog’s very existence.

CC would have graduated or is about to graduate from a prestigious university in Manila and is asking me what I think his chances of going to law school are, and if it is prudent to give law school a try given that it is something that came to him only in very recent weeks. He gave me a good background on how he landed where he landed, and I must say I found myself “talking back” as if in conversation as I read his e-mail.

CC, for whatever it’s worth, please bear in mind my advice here is just that: MY advice. You have quite a good head on your shoulders, and I take my hat off to your parents for having raised you as they did. Trust your instincts.

We parents always want what’s best for our children, but you will have to pardon our tendency of sometimes making the mistake of living vicariously through you, our children.. They mean well by trying to imbibe in you that goal of becoming a doctor one day. We try to set lofty goals for our children, because we dream of a good life and a good future for them. We seek affirmation of our success as parents in the hope that they will become successful. We always want our children to apply themselves, and be the best of what they can be. You are fortunate that your father seems to have the flexibilty between the two most cherished titles parents wish for their children (Doctor or Attorney), so that means you have retained the prerogative to choose. So setting aside what your family may want for you, let’s focus on what YOU want for yourself now.

The pursuit of higher education is a daunting task. Whichever way you go, it will mean hard work and a different brand of perseverance and persistence that you will need to see you through. Your father’s dream of you having a title and for the two of you to have something to be proud of is neither trivial or selfish even if it appears to be on its face. In a sea of graduates that join the job market year on year, a four year college course is now the norm. Of course having DLSU on your resume gets you more than just a foot in the door, but you need more to get you up the ladder.

I think I can see what your father and the rest of your family sees in you, that is why they keep goading you on to pursue higher studies.

Do not give in to self-doubt. You say you don’t think you are as smart as they think you are — I believe you’re short-selling yourself in this respect. That you lost your fervor for studying in college is not indicative of how intelligent you are.

My choice early on was DLSU. My father, however. wanted his daughter in UP. I have written about this several times that even if he decried the hardships that the (then) construction of the LRT on Taft Avenue would cause, I ended up on the other side of Taft Avenue in UP Manila.

I saw my college years fly by as a time of seeing the world with the eyes of a grown up. While I started out taking copious notes and studying diligently, an English professor was telling me she knows I deserve a 1 but she couldn’t give that to me if I was never in class by my sophomore year. I was still pretty tame compared to most — I never smoked, and while I went out with friends who went drinking on most afternoons, they ordered me a coke for every round of beer. (This same group produced at least 4 lawyers besides myself, by the way.). I could have made the Dean’s list if I really put my heart and soul to it, but it just wasn’t in me. I had other things that kept me busy.

I was also hit by that “I’m not as smart as they think I am” early on when I sat in one of my classes with my freshman “blockmates”. I couldn’t help but wonder if I really belonged in that class with what seemed to be a motley crew of freshmen from different parts of the country — but despite appearances, accents and all that — I felt they were all smarter than me. It took me a while to realize I did belong, and what’s more, I could actually hold my own. 

“Passion” and “Motivation” are two things that only you can find.  If it is not where you are right now or in what you are doing, then you have to accept that and move on from there.  You will only find those two if you continue to search for it.  We can only cheer you on, but the motivation must be there in you, or there will be nothing that will move you one way or another.

From this point forward, I hope that you will think only of you.  Let’s take the “family” equation out of the way.  I kept hearing you go back to “what would make (your) family happy,” and while I think that’s a major part of the equation, I don’t think that’s what should weigh heavily on any decision you make about yourself.  You appear to have done them proud and have been a good son up to this point.  You will always be — even if you choose to be a rock star.  Remember that no matter what you choose to be, and no matter how you end up in the future — whether you become a politician, an activist, a lawyer, a doctor — they will always be your family.  Your future, however, is in your hands.

I know only too well the pressure that thinking about one’s future brings.  No matter how independent-minded you are or want to be, there are always things that come into the picture, like people who depend on you or whose state of mind is intertwined with your course of action.   You always try to do things in the now in preparation for a goal or a dream about tomorrow.  But you have to keep in mind that it all devolves around YOU.   You can only be good at something that you truly enjoy or love, no matter how you may be able to learn and pick up things in a snap. You can only be truly good at something you like and enjoy doing. That is why you should decide based on what you want.  Do not be afraid to think about new ideas — so what if you just thought about pursuing a legal education in recent weeks?  What I think you should focus on is, as you wrote: “When I thought of this option, unexpectedly, I felt quite relieved for some reason.  I knew that somehow, my heart has found peace in the midst of all the anxieties I’m feeling because of the apprehensions the future bring me.”  CC, I would read that aloud and I would listen to my voice.

And here’s another reminder:  .. I decided to shift out, with a conviction that I do not want to be a doctor.  I realized that I didn’t want to become a doctor, it’s just my family pushing me to do something they want for me.”  I copied that verbatim from your e-mail.  I just realized on fourth reading that in one breath, you said it twice – “I do not/didn’t want to become a doctor.”

Okay, so that’s that.

I have always said you will never know until you try — you’ve already seen that the medical option wasn’t for you because you tried. I like that you can actually see that pursuing a law degree is not going to be easy, but you didn’t blink by thinking it was impossible. You actually see it as an easier path to success and stability later on in life.

So what do I think about you pursuing a law degree? I believe you have the smarts, the English (number 1 requirement!) and the proper frame of mind to go for it. You were able to relate your story to me in a very coherent and logical fashion. It was actually well-written, and I would have published it here in full but I felt that too many of the details would make you and your family easily identifiable by those who know you.   If I were to base my answer on whether or not you had what it takes academically and intellectually, I’d say yes.  But more than seeing  that you have the skills and the brains to go for it, I think the fact that you have a very clear picture of what you want to do is yet another reason to give the law entrance exams a try.  You’re just being held back by the notion that everyone wants you or expects you to be a doctor, and the thought that you only started thinking of law school recently kind of scares you.  Don’t let it.

Dreams have no timeline.  You can be a dreamer of many dreams.  What does have a timeline is going for that dream.  And no one says your dreams cannot change.  Let’s say you take the entrance exam, you pass, you go to law school, and you eventually pass the Bar and become a lawyer.  Then during your first year of practice, like me, you realize that litigation is not for you.  You realize that you want to be a journalist.  Or that you want to be a pastry chef.. or you want to be a travel writer.  What’s there to stop you?  Only you can really put a stop to any dream that crosses your mind.

I’d go for it.  And if, after the exams.. or even after a year or two in law school you realize it’s not for you, go and dream another dream.  Some people judge those who can’t seem to make up their minds about their pursuits as being whimsical or being irresponsible and living a life without direction, I say that perhaps they just have the guts to go after what hits their fancy at any given time.  Not everyone is as brave.

You know what you want.  I say go chase that dream and see where it takes you.

Related posts can be found in the blog section LAWYER WANNABE which can be found in the navigation bar.