my heart won't stay entirely in this ribcaging

take it from me

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go on, go on, leave me breathless
August 7, 2009...????????
When did this happen? Didn't I leave Tufts on May 7? I could have sworn that was three months ago. And in two months, it'll be October 7, and I will have been in England for 4 days. Whoa.

Okay, so I've been super lame about updating my journal. Like, WHOA. But here's a little taste of what my summer was like.
I worked at a small, bi-partisan think tank in the Dupont Circle area of DC called The Constitution Project. The organization has a small staff--7 full time, plus interns--and maintains 7 active committees, made up of prominent legal thinkers and former politicians from around the country. We seek to resolve complex constitutional and legal issues through consensus solutions. And all the "bi-partisan" language isn't just talk: for example, the Death Penalty Committee has former prosecutors and conservative Congressmen who support capital punishment wholeheartedly, and also includes strong advocates of LWOP (life without parole) instead of the death penalty. The other committees include Sentencing, Liberty and Security, and Courts.

I had no idea that I was going to learn so much INFORMATION this summer. In the first few weeks, I didn't even know enough to know what questions to ask. I felt completely out of my league, over my head, and out of the loop. But I persevered, and listened a lot, and took to reading political web sites and blogs during my lunch break, and going to events which might not have been at the top of my list...but I learned.

For the first two weeks, I didn't get to DO much. Mostly researching contacts online, updating spreadsheets, reading some of our reports. I was just beginning to worry that my bosses didn't trust me with "real" assignments. Then our Senior Counsel called me into her office, and I got my first real writing task. A daunting one, considering the topic, and my lack of background knowledge. I worked on it for almost a month--crazy, especially when you consider that the overall word count is maybe 700 words--and after edits by 5 different people, it was published on DailyKos, a political blog-website. You can read it here, if you're so inclined. I would say that about 75% of it is my writing; 25% is my bosses'. I'm okay with that!!!

What else? I did some cool stuff this summer. (Stuff is such a GREAT word...) I cooked, and baked, a LOT. If you're really nice to me I might invite you to the fancy dinner party I'm planning back in Seattle. Highlights from the summer include: carmelized cauliflower, chocolate-covered coconut macarooons, 4 kinds of banana bread, balsamic barbeque chicken, and french-style yogurt cake with lemon glaze.

I also went bowling at the White House. More specifically, in the EEOB, which is NEXT to the White House. Super cool. Went on a tour of the White House. Pentagon, too. Met people who have interviewed KSM at Guantanamo, managed U.S. operations in Iraq, met weekly with Hillary Clinton as the State Dept's Acting IG, and Justice Brennan's sole autobiographer.

I asked questions all summer. I went to the grounds of a deserted mental hospital in one of DC's worst neighborhoods to meet with a Public Defender (PD) and get insight about her career path. I hobnobbed at parties and accepted glasses of wine when they were offered. I went to a luncheon and shook hands with a man who had been on Death Row for over a decade. He was exonerated and is rebuilding his life. I asked all of the intelligent, motivated people I met what they loved about their jobs, and what they wished was different. I asked about law schools. I tried to glean what kinds of people get into what kinds of careers, and who succeeds. 

And after so much learning, and so much NEW--god, I feel like someone took the blinders off me and I can SEE--I think I know what I want. It will have to wait (duh), since for almost anything I think I will pursue professionally, a law degree is necessary. So, law school first. But afterwards?

I want to be a public defender. I want to go into jails, bad neighborhoods, places where people feel like they've been forgotten. I have always believed so very strongly in the right enumerated by our Constitution, that every American has the right to a free and fair trial, and to a lawyer to represent them. The crisis of indigent defense is so horrible, and it doesn't get enough media attention, funding, or help. I want to fight for the small victories, the day-by-day battles to make sure that poor people, or black people, or women, or people who have just been hurt by the world, are not screwed over even further by the American judicial system. I'm so excited, and so scared. I want to do this almost more than anything else. And you know what?

I think I would be good at it. I say that not over-confidently, nor cockily, but just with this sense of calmness: I feel like I SHOULD be doing this.

But right this second, I SHOULD be packing. I get into Seattle early Sunday morning!
I can't wait. There is so much life to be had.

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good for you. i admire you so much.

also, if you ever want to talk to my aunt leslie she is a public defender for victims of domestic violence in seattle. she would LOVE to talk to you, i am sure.

NOT that you haven't already made connections out the wazoo!

oooh i would love to!!! i actually haven't met with any PDs that do domestic violence work, so that would be amazing.

we're both getting home so soon. can't wait!!!

"Justice Brennan's sole autobiographer." I like you.

"I want to be a public defender." A lot.

Come home and say hi :)

hahaha. oops. i guess justice brennan's sole autobiographer is dead. so i met his sole biographer :)
i'm going to be home SO SOON!!! sunday in particular. can i have you over and make food for you?

Yay! You're coming home! We miss you!

I like the DailyKos post. You made good points :). It sounds like you've had an awesome, very full, summer. And yes, it's been 3 months since you left Tufts; I remember bidding all of you still-in-college Bostonians adieu.

A close family friend of mine is a former PD (now she's Assistant AG in Illinois for Domestic Violence I think) so one thing I can tell you is that if you go down that road there will be a lot of very depressing, very frustrating things you'll have to deal with. That doesn't make it not worth doing - in some ways that makes it more worth doing - but it's definitely not an easy or a simple road. That said, I think you're one of the few people to whom I would say you're up to it.

I miss YOU! And thank you for reading the post :)
I can't believe our Bartley's dinner was 3 months ago...oh how time flies.

Yeah, I do have obvious worries/fears about the lifestyle of a PD, mostly emotionally. Intellectually, I understand that there are a lot of hard, sad things to deal with--but I won't know if I'm capable of dealing with them until I try. Which is why I'm planning on doing some shadowing/internships before I sign my life away. :)
Thank you for your support and confidence, though--that means a lot! And perhaps after a long day at the court, I will return home and enjoy reading the latest book on Shakespeare by Professor Goldfarb :) :) ;)

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