My 2010 silver Toyota Vios for The Hague
Many expectations are hinged on turning 30. Settling down somewhere, finding a stable job, getting married. Even the ability to contribute to Young Blood is cut off by age.
There is something about turning 30 that signals maturity. It must be because, by 30, we are expected to have our life somewhat figured out, sorted. We are at least expected to head in that direction.
I seem to be going the opposite way. I do have a vague sense of what I want to be, but underneath this veneer of accomplishment is a staggering sense of anxiety over my uncertain future.
What will I do next year? I don’t know.
Where will I be next year? I don’t know.
Do I have options? Yes, I do.
Does having options help? Only in the slightest.
This story of uncertainty began two years ago, when I was still working for a big corporate law firm. I was enjoying the things I was learning in practice, but somehow felt that something was missing. I wasn’t sure what it was I needed, but I always found myself asking at the end of each day in the office, “Is this it?”
In the midst of this existential struggle, I found myself applying for an internship at the International Criminal Court. I was surprised to learn that I got the internship, but as most internships at international organizations go, it was unpaid. I needed funding.
Selling my car was initially not an option. But I knew it was the only option available if I really wanted this to happen.
The craziest thing for me was not selling my car; many people have sacrificed much more to be where they are now. The craziest thing was the comfort with which I accepted that, even if things did not turn out well, I was still okay with the decision.
I was making this gamble just for the experience, whether or not I would enjoy it. Oftentimes, when we risk something, we expect to receive many pragmatic returns. For this experience, I was only glad to have the chance to live it.
I was so confident I would be back that I only took a leave from the law firm, instead of quitting. I even informed the partners about the litigation workload I would like to take on when I returned from The Hague.
But life — if you embrace it to the fullest, if you embrace all the chaos and uncertainty that it throws your way — has a funny way of giving back. When I came back from my internship, international criminal law had become news of the day in the Philippines.
People, no matter their politics, started wondering what this field was all about. More and more law students have become interested in what human rights means in the Philippines’ own story.
What did I get in exchange for my 2010 silver Toyota Vios?
I was able to extend my internship for six full months instead of the initial three-month period; it inspired me to study international criminal law further at Harvard Law School, and to write and speak publicly about the topic. And now I am pursuing human rights work abroad.
This story is for the few young lawyers out there who feel lost or pressured by a legal profession that seems to define success through the traditional path of corporate practice. All paths are worth celebrating.
I mean to draw out those who may be hesitant to start a different journey. This is meant all the more for the young female lawyers out there who can identify with my desire to wander around for a bit.
I am nowhere near stable, in the traditional sense of being secure in my career, having my own house, and starting a family (not even deliberately headed in that direction yet)—an almost blasphemous thing to say in an age where young professionals are pressured to expertize and have it all figured out as early as possible.
But I can assure you that, two years later, I am still enjoying the thrill of this ride.
* * *
Jenny Jean B. Domino, 29, recently earned her master of laws at Harvard Law School, where she was awarded a postgraduate human rights fellowship to continue her work on international accountability. A 2014 UP Law graduate, she is happily anticipating her permanent ineligibility to write for Young Blood.