Thursday, February 10, 2011

Staying Sonia

Last week, before snowpocalypse blanketed the ground and dominated all news, I had the opportunity to attend a speech given by Justice Sotomayor.  I've been lucky in my life to see quite a few United States Supreme Court justices speak.  Since I started college, I've seen a sitting Supreme Court Justice speak at least every other year.  And, in law school, I had the opportunity to (but did not win the lottery to) attend a class taught by Justice Thomas.  While hearing a speech certainly doesn't mean I know or understand a person, hearing our Supreme Court Justices speak - about their interpretation of the Constitution, their struggles balancing work and life, their dedication to their job - has given me an immense respect for each and every one of them,  no matter what I think about their politics. 

Justice Sotomayor was no different.  Before the speech I honestly didn't know much about her.  Of course, I knew the same things everyone knew, but I didn't watch her confirmation hearings with the rapt attention so many of my colleagues did.  (I did think she won the "Who Wore It Best" challenge posted by Above the Law when she wore an outfit almost identical to one worn by Justice Kagan in her confirmation hearings).  After the speech, I knew a few more things about Justice Sotomayor (and I knew that I never, ever, never want to be a Supreme Court justice).  But one of the things that stuck with me was when she was asked about the legacy she wanted to leave.  I'll never do her words justice, but Justice Sotomayor said something along the lines of if she knew what she wanted her legacy to be, she wouldn't be growing, and she wanted to grow in her position as a Supreme Court Justice.  And then she said that she would consider her time on the Court a success if she "stayed Sonia." 

What an inspiring comment.  It only makes sense that as our lives grow and change we grow and change too.  That's a good thing.  But so often in life I find myself caught up in being an attorney, being a mom, being a wife, being thinner or being whatever, that I forget at the core of it all, I'm still Karen.   I forget that at one point in my life there was a Karen who liked reading and aerobics and walking and cooking. There was a Karen who made time to hang out with her friends.  A Karen who didn't spend all weekend running between gymnastics and Walmart and hockey and Target.  A Karen who believed that by giving her best to everything she did, she could make a better world for herself. 

Somewhere in my struggle to balance having a husband, a family, a job and a three hour daily commute, I lost a lot these things.  Or maybe not lost them, but they got pushed aside.  Novels were exchanged for cases and briefs.  Cooking turned into crockpot.  And my circle of friends (with the exception of a few who have hung in there and for whom I am immensely grateful) became my kids and parents.  While I'm grateful for all of the things I've gained, Karen has gotten a little lost. 

 I tell my kids again and again that our differences make us special.  That they should celebrate who they are.  But at the same time, I'm pushing away the very things that make me special and sending the message that some things are more important than staying true to yourself.   I don't want my legacy to be that I sacrificed my individuality just so I could make it through the day.  I want my kids to see that my differences make me special too. 

I'm resolved to relocating Karen and incorporating her into the many hats I already wear day to day.  Thanks to fantastic friends and family, Karen is constantly evolving to a better person.  Hopefully my legacy is too.  It would do me no good to stay Sonia, but I certainly am going to try to "keep Karen." 


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