Jessica L. Burke

Growing up into a lawyer

As I edge towards entering the legal profession, I am consistently reminded that I am no longer a child. My high-backed leather chair, my bun knotted hair, and my black suit make me appear to be an adult. This summer I was thrust into the hectic world of legal aid. Unaccustomed to such poverty, anguish, and despair I have alternatively felt grave despair and waves of purpose wash over me. Rather than let the tides carry me away I fold them beneath and practice my professional face.

This movement from girlhood to womanhood is slowly progressing. The first day was researching a file and as I read it the story grabbed me. A woman beaten and raped in front of her young children without resident status leapt off the pages and seemed to take shape before my eyes. I wanted to run home, cry, and hide from this frightening world where such horrid things can happen. Instead, I leaned back in my big leather chair, breathed deeply and continued researching. This woman on the page needed my help and I was capable of providing it. So I did.

As I drove home the tears fell down my checks as I tried to blink them away. I can only imagine the future that woman's children face. Innocent little babies, one and four, already exposed to more horror than I ever seen in all my twenty-four years. They are the children now, and I need to help protect them. I cannot hide from that responsibility. I know that I will grow accustomed to seeing the darker side of human nature, and be less frightened by life's tragedy, but it is a winding path switching back with flashes of youth and mirrors reminding me of my adult status.

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