If I Didn’t Need Money, I’d Be An Attorney

What would your profession be if you didn’t need money?

I’m aware that this is probably an unusual answer, but if I didn’t need money, I think I’d choose to be an attorney, in terms of a profession. Not just any old attorney, though — I would want to be an attorney for the Transformative Justice Law Project, TJLP (although I suppose a law project/organization with similar values and politics would be okay if I couldn’t be with TJLP). Definitely, in an immediate sense, I’d continue on as an intern with TJLP. Needing money is, after all, the biggest reason why I’m not staying in Chicago. If I were independently wealthy or won the lottery or something similar, I would definitely not be leaving.

But I’d prefer not to be an intern for the rest of my life, no matter how much I really do love TJLP, and I could do more if I were a licensed attorney. Some of the biggest reasons not to go to law school or become an attorney are financially related. Obviously, law school’s astounding expense is a concern. Even more than that, there is a serious lack of high-paying (enough to pay back loans . . . or even enough to just live on) jobs, especially ones that aren’t problematic. From what I hear, law school loans can cause a great deal of pressure to find a job in order to start paying those loans, even if it isn’t for a cause or company in which you believe. But if money weren’t an issue, it would be a completely different story.

If I didn’t need money, I could work anywhere I wanted (well, anywhere that would have me) — more importantly, I could work for the causes in which I believe. I wouldn’t need to find a job, of which they are so few, given that a lot of really rad social justice-type organizations don’t have the money to pay many people — that is, if anyone is even getting paid. So I could just volunteer, and it’s a lot easier to find volunteer positions than paid ones.

Actually, I’m not sure if I really want to be an attorney (even if I didn’t wouldn’t have to worry about money). Part of me feels as though the reason why I latched onto the attorney idea is that it seems the most logical way to stay involved with TJLP (and I am absolutely panicking about the fact that tomorrow is my last day in the TJLP office as an intern for the forseeable future). I’m still not sure that law school and being an attorney — let’s assume for the sake of this post that I’d be able to graduate and pass the bar — is the right path for me.

I’ve actually also thought that being a professor could be really interesting: I first thought about it during a gen/sex (gender and sexuality) class when we were discussing trans issues. Introducing people to new ideas and ways of thinking is really exciting, and I can definitely see how being a professor — in the right situation — could be rewarding. I actually sat in on an undergrad class today, and it was an amazing experience. As much as I loved Bryn Mawr and my professors (Morgan, you were fantastic!), the professor from today was the most inspiring I’ve ever met. It made me wish I were back in undergrad (even with final exams and theses and all of that) — that’s how great it was.

I recognize that those kinds of professors are rare, and unfortunately, I doubt I’d be that sort. Furthermore, I think being a professor isn’t quite as directly affected by no longer needing money — that wouldn’t do anything about how incredibly competitive the academic field is, or the weird power dynamics at universities, or a number of other problems. I’m also aware that I’m glossing over much of the work professors do and the issues they face — it’s not all exploring complicated questions and shedding light on the problematic systems that regulate our lives. Still, I really like the idea of being in a position to hopefully get people to think about things they haven’t before — it’s what I hope to do with several of my blog posts, actually.

Ultimately, if I didn’t need money, I would find a way to challenge the status quo, whatever the process may be. Because I wouldn’t need to worry about supporting myself, I could devote my time to trans activism and abolitionist awesomeness, and really, isn’t that the dream? To spend your time doing something about which you’re passionate?

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