Today I turn 40 years old. And today I will hit submit on an application that has taken six months (or 40 years) of work to complete. I don’t know if I will, or even should, be successful. All I know for certain is that I’m giving myself permission to try.
[ Serendipity, literary: luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for ]
This past July, I found myself answering security questions for an online account I’d created: What career did you want as a child? This was the easiest to answer of any security question I’d ever encountered. Former street names, where my parents met, my first pet—they all exist in hazy shades of grey matter. But this answer was immediate; vibrantly clear, and one I would never forget: Lawyer. As I typed the word, my heart welled up, and the emotion overflowed down my cheeks.
At that time, I had just left my job of twelve years in public library management. My reasons for leaving were as complex as the reasons I became a librarian in the first place. In short: During the middle of a global pandemic that was causing unprecedented levels of turmoil in my country, community, and home, I just couldn’t bring myself to care deeply about the work I was doing. Please don’t misunderstand me: I believe the work of librarians to be transformative and essential—nay, critical—to a democratic society. I just didn’t feel I was the right person to be doing that work any longer.
While I should have been focused on helping my library system navigate unprecedented hurdles, I was instead drawn to helping people whose individual struggles had been magnified and/or marginalized during the crisis. I thought of the children whom I volunteer for as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), stuck in the foster-care system during this tumultuous time. I thought of those I’d come to know through my work at Boise State University—survivors of sexual and domestic violence—many now stuck at home in unsafe situations. My mind whirled around hundreds of ways I wanted to help—but none of them involved libraries.
The security question made me stop and contemplate why I hadn’t followed my passion and pursued a career as an attorney. Some of it was simple: I’d started a family in Boise, and at the time, there was no law school option that didn’t involve uprooting my young children. By the time there was a local program, it felt too far out of reach. I was engrossed in my career, had amassed the debt that inherently comes with graduate degrees, and—the loudest of all reasons preventing me from taking a chance to do what I really wanted—I didn’t think I could score well on the LSATs.
I am a lifelong learner, inside and outside the classroom. In 2013, I maintained a 4.0 GPA in my graduate program while working full time and raising two children. In 2016, I took nine credits of public-administration courses, just for fun. I completed project-management courses in 2020, to better lead programs in my position at the time. This passion for learning has always given me confidence in my potential as a law student; however, I have never been confident in my ability to perform well on standardized tests. I knew that preparing for the LSATs would take months of time I just didn’t have. I stayed in libraries, and said goodbye to the idea of becoming a lawyer.
In absence of a formal program, I found other ways to hone the skills that originally drew me to the legal field. Before I landed in libraries, my father suggested I’d always been good at understanding people and telling stories. That was why libraries made sense. I fell in love with libraries because I could research, present, and work with people in need of an advocate. I fell out of love with libraries because the limits on ways I could help didn’t feel conducive to the ways I wanted to help.
I’d like to leave you with an impression of who I am at my core. I’ve explained the circumstances that led to this application, but haven’t explained the reasons I believe wholeheartedly in my ability to start over in this monumental way. In 2016, I was selected as a jury member for a federal trial involving a well-known national brand, and a smaller, less-known entity. We ultimately found the large brand responsible for breaking the contract, but were not able to award an amount I felt was fair. After the trial concluded, lawyers for the big brand were waiting outside the courthouse, finally allowed to speak with us. I felt certain this legal battle wasn’t over, and although my part in the process was complete, I had no desire to give these lawyers any tips that could help them in the future.
I decided not to chat with them, and instead looked up the opposing counsel—a well- respected, established local firm—and asked if they’d like any feedback on their delivery. They replied with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” We all went to lunch and had a great time discussing the art of storytelling—something that, as a librarian and published author, I felt confident giving advice on! The lawyers told me that, in all their time practicing, they had never had a juror do this. They had never had someone go out of their way to help them for the future, and they’d never had their delivery explained to them through the lens of a story.
I’m good at understanding people, and good at telling stories—which ultimately led me to the title of this piece: Serendipity. That security question changed my life in an instant. I was searching for so many answers, and suddenly everything just seemed to click. I needed a new path forward; not because the one I was on was bad, but because I needed to get to a different place. In quitting my job, I now had time to study for the LSATs—and study I did! While I may not have achieved as high a score as I’d wanted, I’m hopeful that tackling the LSATs after years of doubt demonstrates how determined I am to make this happen. I have found something amazing in the last place I was expecting; I hope you see the serendipity in it too.