Long story short, I was in a world of trouble as a young person. I'll have to disclose some significant incidents from my past, including a fight which resulted in a felony assault charge. Given this, I've decided to address my past in my personal statement, as its a significant part of who I am today and why I want to become a lawyer.
Any criticism or comment,s especially concerning style and typos, is greatly appreciated.
“You don’t know what it’s like in here, I have to get out!”, he managed to get out between muffled sobs. It was the second day of my internship at the Public Defender’s office and my first time conducting an intake interview in the jail. The tiny room was cold and harsh, constructed entirely of concrete and steel. I could feel his fear—not just of the imposing nature of the jail itself, but of the opaqueness of the process he found himself thrust into. I desperately wanted to provide the cowering man in front of me with some meaningful sort of reassurance, yet my job was strictly limited to taking down the “pedigree”—name, date of birth, priors—of new clients. But more frustrating was that I could not bring myself to tell him that I did know what it’s like in jail, and it was because of this experience that I was now sitting before him.
When I left jail six years earlier, my mother pleaded with me to just find a job that paid a decent wage—construction, plumbing, or some other trade—and to “stay out of trouble, become productive”. Looking back, I appreciate her pragmatism, but I had been too affected, indeed shaken, by what I had seen and felt to resign myself to just getting by. Heroin addicts were shipped off to prison where they could return to using instead of receiving the treatment they desperately needed; the mentally ill were often denied their medication and chastised by correctional officers and other inmates; young men my age (19) and younger were utterly indifferent to the prospect of spending the rest of their lives in prison. I witnessed vividly the life that my selfish rebellion would lead to, as well as the immeasurable pain I had already caused my family, especially my two younger sisters who had once looked up to me, whom I had let down. I was compelled by not merely a desire, but a penitent sense of obligation to prevent others from making the mistakes I had and to help those who had made worse. Yet as a ninth grade dropout with a criminal record to boot, I was unsure of what, if anything, I could do.
I enrolled in community college, altogether uncertain what to expect. I cringed every time a professor would skim over something we “should have learned in High school”. Haunted by an overwhelming fear of failure, I spent long nights in the library and my lunch breaks at work reading, re-reading, and reading the material again. By my sophomore year, I was tutoring my fellow students in philosophy and political science courses. I also began to notice that when I spoke up during class discussions (something I was mortified of at first) that other students listened to and respected what I had to say. I became involved in politics, working long hours as an unpaid intern on campaigns and founding a Young Democrats Chapter. I had a new group of friends, successful friends, and had become a different person; indeed, the few people from my new life to whom I revealed my troubled past either waxed incredulous or thought I was kidding. Yet with my accomplishments came a creeping feeling of superficiality. My well intentioned, if not slightly over-idealistic, vow to go back and save the poor, the drug addicts, and the at-risk youth had been lost in an obsessive pursuit of A’s and networking.
My junior year I received a bizarre collect call. It was Peter. Peter and I had been best friends growing up, playing basketball after school, pretending to be tough guys, and to our mothers’ annoyance making huge messes in the kitchen; we had both wanted to be chefs and planned to open a restaurant one day. After I began college, we gradually lost touch and hadn’t spoken in years. Half jokingly, I asked Peter how his restaurant was going and was met with a long pause. When I asked if he was still on the line, he told me that he had been sentenced to twenty years in prison. I didn’t know how to respond and awkwardly resorted to small talk—the weather, baseball, cooking. The painfulness of that conversation became a familiar pang in the following years: a handful of other friends whom I had lost touch with over the years went to prison; three others died after drinking and driving; two more were taken by overdoses. A chasm yawned between the lives to which we had traveled, yet in our rebellious adolescence we shared a common point of departure. Realizing the significance of the choices my friends and I made along our respective journeys drove me to look beyond personal achievement and find a meaningful way, however local and unglamorous, to reach young people who found themselves at the same pivotal juncture from which we had gone in different directions.
I found this in working at the Public Defender’s office. Every day, I met young men and women who were—all too often unknowingly—at the point in their lives where they would be forced, as my friends and I had been, to make a choice between continuing on a destructive path and changing for the better. As an attorney, I wish to continue working with people in this situation, not only to protect their rights, but to help them realize the significance of where their choices have brought them, and where they will lead to.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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