As you may have read in my last post “Write What You Know”, I was a practicing paralegal and case manager for the past fifteen years. I had a wonderful career back in the States. I started my career by working at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland. I felt a sense of pride every time I told someone where I worked. Although I enjoyed my colleagues and duties at the ACLU, I realized that I needed to pay my bills.
Hello, Washington, D.C.! Here I come. I had left the ACLU and joined a small law firm called Gilbert & Kiernan. I was able to broaden my knowledge and skills as a paralegal, but after some time I figured out that I needed to move on if I wanted to have more hands on experience. I had also realized that the firm should have been paying me more. I was entry level yes, but I think they were paying me the same salary as the man flipping burgers at McDonalds.
I made the decision to approach a head hunter who landed me an interview with what would become my dream job, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) group at McDermott, Will & Emery. The group consisted of a small team of attorneys, paralegals and secretaries. We were not only a team – we were a family. I was now handling multiple (small and large) cases simultaneously, and organizing and maintaining an office for the attorneys and myself at onsite inspections. I had gone from working in an open office to a cubicle to finally having my own office and sharing a secretary. What more could I want?
Then I met the love of my life who happened to be Dutch. We married in 2001 and I had to make a huge decision. My then fiancee was planning on moving to The States. However, I came to the conclusion that it was important for me to learn his language and understand his culture. How could I do that if he moved to The States? So, I made the decision to move three thousand plus miles away from my family and friends and give up my dream job as a paralegal. My marriage took over as the main priority in my life. My career had to take a back seat.
I moved to Holland in October 2001 and attended school full-time from December 2001 – August 2002 in order to learn the Dutch language and culture. In September 2002, I transitioned from attending school to working a full-time job at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, where I worked as a case manager for the prosecution. I worked on six cases during my tenure at the Tribunal and left at the end of my contract in June 2011. I must explain something before continuing with my story. For those of you that are unaware the Tribunal is in the middle of its completion strategy, and staff members are being downsized in stages. Now, back to my story…
I wrote my debut novel and found my passion for writing during my tenure at the Tribunal. I could have made the decision to find another job and leave the Tribunal before my contract was finished. However, I was on a great case prosecuting three generals and most importantly I was working with a large team full of amazing and wonderful people! Also, like I stated before – I had found my passion, and I had reached the point in my life where I was standing at a crossroad and needed to make THE decision, which was – continue on the same professional path, go back to being a full-time paralegal, or do what I’m completely passionate about (and include my paralegal background at the same time) . So, I made a decision, with the support of my husband, to take a sabbatical once my contract was finished and follow my passion.
Since making that key decision I have published my first novel, The Parallel World. I can’t breathe easily yet though. I need to work hard at marketing it, connect with people in a different professional career, learn a completely new industry and tackle social media, finish my second book (it will be a two part book and I’m almost finished the draft of the first part), and then start my third book. I have learned a lot over the past few months, and been introduced to some wonderful people. Of course I miss the security of a monthly salary and the daily chats with my work colleagues. But, I’m on the path to doing what I love, and when you’re working on your passion, then the salary comes back and you meet and chat with some fantastic people during your journey. Do I have any regrets? Sure, doesn’t everyone? Would I change anything that’s gotten me to where I am today – plain and simple: No!