When I was 14 years old, I received an assignment to research 3 careers I might want in the future.I remember thinking, “What? Why? The future is so far away!” Nevertheless, I threw myself wholeheartedly into the project because my motto was and still is to “Always do my best!” I had no idea at that time I was deciding my future.
I was raised in a family with 7 children. My parents taught me how to work hard and that grades were important. No generation had ever graduated from college. After this assignment, I decided I wanted to be the first to graduate from college and have a career.
The three careers I chose to research were: a lawyer, a psychiatrist, and a teacher. I had to have at least 10 sources, which meant several library research trips because there was no internet. I also needed to interview someone who had taken each career path. I learned a lot about each career, including how many years of college were necessary, licenses or certifications that were required, the average income, and even job satisfaction of those I interviewed. This project provided insight into those careers and helped me find what I wanted in my future. With this knowledge, I was empowered to create the future I wanted. I wanted to become a lawyer, someone who stood for the Constitution and the rights it gives us, someone who stood for freedom and sustaining the law.
From that moment forward, my decisions were based upon what I wanted. The classes I took were based upon my goal to become a lawyer. One of the lawyers I interviewed said that lawyers need to know how to read and write really well, so I took challenging English classes that required extensive reading and essay writing to help me learn those skills. Another attorney I interviewed said that lawyers need to know how to articulate arguments and speak well, so I was on the debate team to learn those skills. I learned that I would need seven years of college, four for an undergraduate degree and three for law school for my juris-doctorate degree. Seven years of college was going to be expensive, so I knew that I wanted scholarships to help pay for it and to work to minimize future debt. Having jobs in high school while taking difficult classes, I learned the critical skills of time management and budgeting.
When I told people that I was going to be a lawyer, some were supportive and others were doubters. I dismissed the doubters. I decided that nobody defines who I am but me. You decide who you are, nobody else. Write down, “I am” statements to declare to yourself every day. Post them on your mirror. Every morning, repeat those statements to yourself, yell them, softly speak them, sing them, whatever works to get those powerful statements you have chosen to define yourself in your head so that you believe them. Have someone you love whisper them in your ear. Your mind will believe them; I know that because I’ve done it and it works!
There were bumps in the journey. I married when I was 19 years old. I started law school with a one-year old and was pregnant my third year of law school. I knew what I wanted and I continued to focus on it even when life’s journey could have distracted me. What I focused on was what I created.
I’m happy with the choice I made thirty years ago to be an attorney. Make a commitment to yourself that today you will start on your future. Write down a schedule for each step. Do the research, gain the knowledge, then decide, and create the future you want with the present choices you make. You can do it, I believe in you!
Nicole R. Call is the mother of three daughters and one son. She has been happily married over twenty-five years. She has worked full time in the law since graduating almost seventeen years ago. Over that time, she has worked for judges, government agencies, non-profits, and small businesses. She loves the youth and looks forward to the future they will create. To keep life interesting, she continually stretches herself to do something new that is outside her comfort zone. Most recently she has done free presentations on personal development at local libraries, and this article. This article is dedicated to Mr. Grossenbach, the teacher at Sandridge Junior High in Roy, Utah who gave her the assignment when she was 14 years old.