It's been a little over 3 months since I left Oakland for my pro bono journey. I view each project location as a chapter—each one invariably being rooted in similarities as well as differences. In greater Bakersfield, Portland, and Seattle, I've worked in a variety of law: generalist legal aid, specifically housing law; working on T and U Visa applications for victims of crimes and human trafficking; and perhaps most strikingly—working at the federal immigration detention center in Tacoma. In fact, my experience working at the detention center made such an impression on me that I absolutely plan on working at other detention facilities in Arizona and Texas, when I make my way down south.
Speaking of which, when I left Oakland in July, I anticipated that I would do a straight shot after Seattle and make my way eastward toward Boston. Let's just say that it's mid-October and the Pacific Northwest is already getting a little chilly this time of year... and I am concerned that my trusty sidekick may not like the snow so much.
So, I am slightly rerouting my plans. When I initially was looking at things, I wanted the flexibility to do exactly this: to be able to make changes when I needed and wanted to. The combination of wintery months ahead (Detroit, I am coming for you, but just not in the middle of winter in my 'lil car)—and my focus in wanting to work in more detention facilities (most of which are concentrated along the US/Mexican border in Arizona and Texas)—leads me to start heading south after hitting Montana.
I look back at the last few months and am amazed at the succession of events that led me here to this point:
- I head to Bakersfield/Delano and hear a bit about immigration needs in the Central Valley and how there aren't nearly enough lawyers to cover the number of cases. I hear from a couple folks that Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services in Portland does good work.
- My research and curiosity leads me to in fact work with Catholic Charities, where I worked on visa applications and learned quite a bit about immigration based relief.
- Here, I heard even more about the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project—and was able to do some work at the Tacoma federal immigration detention center and help write their T Visa self-representation manual for victims of human trafficking.
Each of those experiences were like dominoes colliding into each other; one situation inevitably impacting the next, and the one after that, and so on and so forth...
And sometimes you just don't know exactly where the next domino will lead until the moment of impact.
I've never considered myself a giant planner. But—living off the cuff while on the road can daunt even the most laid-back person, I would posit. There's been many a night where I've nervously wondered: What the eff?! Where am I going to go after this, and where am I going to stay, and what work will I do that is hopefully meaningful, etc...
But it is true that worrying takes up precious energy (and that energy is something I am making a very concerted effort to preserve). I read in an article about MLK, Jr. recently that one of his central tenets that aided him amidst so much adversity was that he had a steadfast belief in the importance of patience and perseverance.
Certainly MLK, Jr. had the most monumental tasks ahead of him—but I think we all could perhaps benefit from his wisdom on how he viewed his uncertainties and challenges. So, I try to think of all of the many questions I have and retain my steady faith that with patience and perseverance, things will inevitably work out. And <knock on wood> so far, this theory has served me well—and particularly has helped to anchor me when I am feeling a little squirrely (it happens).
So, with that—this Pacific Northwest—and actually West Coast—chapter is coming to an end. Holy crap. I have been living on the West Coast for the last 10 years (nearly entirely in California) and what a RIDE it has been! Much of the West Coast's American history is rooted in this sense of individuality—the Gold Rush, Silicon Valley, Hollywood—all to claim some sense of a larger dream for oneself.
When I look back at these last 10 years on the West Coast, it was my time to get to know myself a little bit better. To figure out what I wanted from this one precious life. It's with a big smile on my face as I make my way eastward/southward that I feel like I, too, have been able to find myself out here. The sadness is there, too, as I think about traveling away from all the friends who I consider family out here (you all know who you are). But it is with great reassurance to know that one day soon, I will see them all again. (I miss you all!).
And with that—my West Coast door is coming to a close. And the Rocky Mountain/Southwest door is now opening. Montana and Idaho—I will see you very soon.