"You're not a person that can do a lot of different things...very well", I looked down at my half eaten bagel, trying to concentrate on the tiniest of crumbs, whispering to myself, "Crumbs crumbs crumbs. DON'T CRY. Crumbs crumbs crumbs." I managed to curve the edge of my lips into a wayward smile and said, "Yeah, I agree. You're right. I should just focus on one thing".
When I was at Law school, everyone around me seemed so certain about what they wanted to do. Commercial, Criminal, Immigration, Family. Everyone except for me. I enjoyed Law school (sometimes) and had a bit of a hunch that I could potentially work in criminal law but I was more interested in storytelling, film, photography, art and writing. It was difficult to explain this to people because they couldn't understand how or why I would 'waste' time completing a law degree in the first place. "What a waste of your degree" or "Why did you go to Law school then?" and the most common one, "You're going to have to choose one or the other by the time you graduate. You can't do both".
As I sat at the table, staring at the crumbs scattered sporadically across my plate, I was taken right back to my days as a young university student fielding questions from well-meaning, but skeptical people. Here I was, years later, proudly and happily working as a criminal defence lawyer. Yet, regardless of how much time had passed, I was still hearing the same thing, "You can't do both". I only nodded in agreement because I was embarrassed that I had even suggested it in the first place.
Despite this, I just kept thinking about it.
Like, a lot.
During my internal struggle, trying to weigh up the pros and cons of leaving the legal profession, there was one profound memory that I could not shake. Each time I thought about it, I was always coming back to this one event. It was in 2012, I was in my third year of Law school and Her Honour Judge Ida Malosi spoke to our class during a class trip to the Manukau District Court. She said, "Ladies, you can have it all. You can have the career, the boyfriend, the car, the house. You can have it all. Who's going to stop you?"
And that was it.
That was all the positivity, encouragement and inspiration that I needed to firmly believe that there was truly more out there to explore, to learn and most importantly, to give.
The sleepless nights turned into the TSW blog - I'm so thankful for all of our amazing readers, especially our Girl Bosses! The blog eventually led to features, publications and speaking events, where I was invited to speak to many young women and students about my journey not as a lawyer but as a lady lawyer blogger. And finally this year I was asked to join the amazing team at Tagata Pasifika (on TV 1) for 2017 - a dream! The best part about this is that I'll still be working as a criminal defence lawyer alongside this incredible job. So despite popular opinion, it definitely appears as though you can do both.
Young, Free and Pasifika Conference, Affirming Works, 2016
Paperboy magazine, 2016
Photo by Jasmine Jenke, Humans of South Auckland, 2016
If I've learned anything from trying to navigate two worlds and dealing with nay-sayers, I've learned that we only know the experiences, people and opportunities that we are exposed to. In particular, our young Pasifika people are influenced by the people around them - family, friends, classmates, teachers. Don't be the person that says "no, that's not possible" because although "no" is such a simple word, you can't underestimate it's power to discourage and at it's worst, destroy.
Be a YES person, instead.
If someone tells you, "I want to become an astronaut and a baker", say "hell yea my g!" There is enough negativity and doubt in the world. We don't need to add to it. I will always be grateful that I had the opportunity to hear Judge Malosi's inspiring words because if I hadn't, I don't think we would even be having this conversation right now.
For 2017, I dare you to step outside of your comfort zone and reach out as far as you can until your arms ache. I dare you to believe in the lingering whispers and dreams in the back of your mind. And as I always say, I dare you to dabble - explore your passions, try new things and share it with others.
Because of course, you can have it all. Happy new year, may it be your best one yet.