It always surprises me to go to events with law students and find that they have questions and I have answers. It feels like just yesterday that I was in law school. But suddenly when I describe my experience, it spans almost seven years. Seven years is positively respectable to be in a given field.
Even stranger is when I think about the fact that it's been almost seven years since I've been to Africa. That seems impossible. This is the longest I've gone without a trip to the continent since my dad and brother and I returned to Liberia in 2000.
I guess I didn't realize, when I decided to try practicing law in the US, how trapped you become. Between the hours and the pay (neither of which I've ever managed to arrange in the proper manner, namely manageable hours combined with a reasonable salary), I have barely left the country since I started working as a real lawyer. And going to Africa, which is now an extra four hours of flying further than it was from the Midwest, is even more prohibitive.
What they don't tell you is that a real lawyer job of the save-the-world type means that every time you take a day of vacation, there is someone panicking because they can't reach you and their life is on the line.
When I first started this work, I used to take real vacations: I didn't check my email. I didn't check my messages.
By year 3, I had figured out that things are a million times worse when you come back if the email has gone unchecked. I haven't been completely free of it since.
And many have been the weeks when I worked over 40 hours between Sunday and Wednesday so that I could take Thursday-Tuesday off, only to come back and work more than 40 hours from Wednesday to Saturday.
Saving the world is a lot of work, and it turns out that it never ends.
It also keeps you from seeing the world. There is a whole world out there, and I'm not seeing it. I was once on track to get my countries-visited numbers up near my age, but I've fallen behind.
It's that very adult discovery: you can't have everything. I can't be an accomplished, experienced lawyer in this field while also being a world traveler. I have to choose. We always have to choose.