For years, I was never caught. I typed my parent’s divorce parents; I filed their citizenship papers; I wrote affidavits. They did not realize that a 12-year old girl was completing all the legal paperwork. One sure giveaway was the baby-blue font color. In seventh-grade, my favorite color was baby blue, and I was thrilled that my parents had purchased a color printer with baby blue ink.
Unbeknownst to the clerks at the Atlantic County Court House, a seventh-grader completed all legal documents for her parents along with their friends who were also Vietnamese political refugees. My ‘clients’ came bearing homemade Vietnamese spring rolls with plump shrimp, papaya salad with roasted peanuts and doused with fish sauce, boxes of red and gold mangoes.
Now, as an adult, it amazes me that these families entrusted me with their legal lives. I did not graduate from college. I did not graduate from high school. I was still in middle school.
I was a good student, so I approached these cases as homework assignments and projects. I completed all the paperwork with care. At times, I accompanied my father’s countrymen to court. The Judge asked if I was legal counsel. Me, legal counsel? No, I said.
I am an advocate. At a formative age, I was an advocate for immigrants. As a teacher, I am an advocate for children. I have been in education for my entire life and have been teaching for over 15 years. I love my students, and I love English. However, it is time for me to take a path less traveled.
I came to this epiphany as I wrote my blogs in my graduate classes and during the writing retreats. In class, I was surrounded by classmates emboldened to follow their dreams and was inspired me to pursue my dream of going to law school and perhaps becoming a lawyer for a nonprofit or a judge or a politician. I hear horror stories of law school and lawyers. However, I hold Langston Hughes’ poem close to my heart. I reread when I am gripped by the fear of failure. I quietly remind myself,
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Pursuing this Master’s degree provided me with the time to think, write, research, and follow my dream, interrupted by raising children and by paying the bills.
As for my Master’s Thesis, I will continue to develop my research proposal on Online Grammar Checkers: An Act of Rebellion and Empowerment. During the Writer’s Retreat, I gained some valuable feedback on my thesis. I look forward to learning more about thesis writing.