By Christine Connolly LeBlanc • April 05, 2015•Writers in Residence
“It is so real…” That is all he kept saying during our conversation. So real. He wasn’t talking about the wedding we were attending for a mutual friend, even though it was real. And a really nice wedding, I might add. So real. He wasn’t talking about the real and…dare I say…unique dance moves on display. So real.
He was talking about my job. I guess it was so real. You see I had met another lawyer at the wedding and, of course, we started talking about our jobs. Isn’t that what all lawyers like to do? Talk? Well, I was interested to hear about the inner workings of a big law firm. His current position was an in-house counsel at a large company - what do you really do all day long? It sounded so intriguing, interesting, and to me – completely foreign. It seemed like the kind of job you imagine all lawyers doing. Big, important, rubbing elbows and all that. The talk seemed glittery; a brief glimpse into grandeur.
But, all he wanted to talk about was my job. While he had questions about what it was like to be in the Army, wear the uniform, and work with Soldiers. “What?” he gasped, “You wear combat boots to work every day? I mean you’re really in the Army?” Sure. A lawyer and a Soldier. The Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps moto is: Soldier first, lawyer always. Years later, I would still be answering the same questions. Yes, JAGs deploy. Yes, they fire weapons. Ummm, correct they wear a military uniform to work – they are in the Army after all.
After the questions about rolling in the dirt and ruck marching in formation, he really wanted to hear about my cases. As a prosecutor you deal with real people, real victims, and real life. All day, every day – it is real and often really messy. He didn’t want to talk about a contract he read or meeting he had attended. Instead he wanted to know about what the perpetrator had done to end up in court or how the victims could gather their courage to testify in court. How do you talk to them? What do you do when they break down? Real life and real people; he was right, it was real.
It’s real when you are sitting crossed legged on the court room floor eating pizza with a 6 year old so they feel comfortable talking about their dad abusing them. It’s real when you hand the box of tissues to the victim of a sexual assault while they testify in open court, in front of everyone, including the perpetrator. And it is devastatingly real when you comfort the family of the victim of a negligent homicide where the Soldier you are prosecuting was the victim’s best friend, battle buddy, someone they would have given their life for but in a cruel twist of fate a single mistake caused them to take their friend’s life. Monsters, moments, mistakes…real life.
As we talked I realized that being real is often raw, many times revolting, but always revolutionary. It reminded me why I went to law school. I had wanted to change the world. I had visions of being a Senator, ambassador, President! Big dreams, but here I was dealing with the real world. Often times I would feel pulled down between motions, battles in court, trying to help and sometimes failing to help victims. Wondering if I was doing what I had set out to do in law school. But after this conversation I realized I was right where I belonged. It was real and what I really could and wanted to be doing.
My job was more than a job, it was seeking justice. It was dealing with real people, helping them get through real problems, and working through real tough times. I had set out to change the world with my big dreams and realized I was trying to change the world – one real person at a time. My intentions were real. My reasons for helping was real. And I hoped I was making a real change.
Give me real any day. Don’t you want real too? I challenge you: Do what you were meant to do. Be who you are meant to be. And don’t look back. Keep it real. You never know, one day you might just step foot into the Oval Office…