Catrina Otonoga, LSRJ Summer Legal Intern
Each spring, my elementary school, like elementary schools across the country, had field day. A day where the 1st through 5th graders with innate talent to run fast, treat tug-o-war like life or death, and leap through obstacle courses like mini-Olympians, shine. I wanted so badly to be one of those kids, to run fast, “like Greg”, arguably the fastest kid in my class, who went on to excel in high-school sports and field letters from football recruiters across the country. Instead, I had short, spindly legs, thick glasses, and barely the muscle definition to allow me to walk properly. My grandfather wouldn’t let me carry an umbrella on a blustery day for fear I’d blow away with the wind.
“Not everyone is good at everything, not everyone can have everything,” my mother told me. Sometimes hard word doesn’t pay off, sometimes you just aren’t meant to be a fast runner, or an astronaut, or the President. But sometimes it does, and those are the things I was told to focus on. Instead of struggling to be good at everything, trying to be spectacularly awesome at one thing that makes me tick.
Now, the dialogue has changed. Society, feminism, and sometimes even well meaning family and friends are pulling women in opposing directions. And, as I approach the beginning of my 3L year, where applying for jobs and starting my life outside academia is knocking on my door, I feel it more than ever. The push to have an amazing career, get married, buy a house and also to travel, see the world, not compromise. The pressure to Have. It. All. Even in a world where we are increasingly being told that having it all, isn’t going to happen. Not with these institutions, not among this systemic culture of disadvantaging women and annihilating our path to meaningful choice. Not without some serious change. And even when we see women who have finally reached that pinnacle, they distance themselves from the history of struggle and sacrifice that they built their education, careers, and ability to achieve balance on.
Increasingly, I’m unsure of what I want for myself; how many kids I want to have, if I want to own a home, if I want to live in Bangladesh and help provide women with micro financing, if I want to be a mother, a conventional lawyer, a U.S. citizen, at all.
What I do know, is that I want to live a passionate life. To work for a cause I’m passionate about, and to surround myself with people who not only work passionately, but live their lives with laughter and tears and friendship at their core. It’s an experience I have gotten a taste of in my time at LSRJ. I have seen passionate women who are growing and raising their families, expanding their careers, pushing through law school, struggling with what it means to be a woman, a friend, a partner and an advocate, and living lives of growth and intention. In a political climate where our identities as women are under scrutiny, my internship at LSRJ has been shelter from the storm—a shelter full of balloons, Friday Night Lights, dialogue, and affirmation. And, as I begin to wrap up my time here it is a way of thinking and living that I’m sure will carry me through my final year of law school, down whatever path I find myself on, and through the obstacles that I’m sure will be there.
So thanks, Mama LSRJ for giving me shelter.