This article originally appeared on The Well. It is reprinted here with permission.
Most of my earliest childhood memories involve watching TV. As a kid growing up in Brooklyn, I especially loved The Cosby Show
. When my mom told me Mrs. Huxtable was a lawyer, I declared, “Okay, I’m going to be a lawyer.” That was how I chose to pursue law. I never really considered that the woman I admired was an actress playing
There were no lawyers in my family, but when it came to carving out my path, my mom had set an example of how to be resourceful and figure things out: She migrated to New York from Puerto Rico and was the first person in our family to go to college, eventually becoming a computer engineer. So, like her, I kept asking questions and working toward my goal.
Once I got to law school, though, I encountered a reality I hadn’t anticipated: I was miserable. Some of my struggle came from not having a great sense of who I was or which tribe I belonged to. I constantly felt like my classmates were making assumptions about me. They’d say things like, “You grew up in the Bronx, right, like J.Lo?” (Uh, no...
) It didn't end there. When it came to my peers, I don’t know if it was because I was a young Latina or a woman, but I’d walk into a courtroom full of male attorneys and they would assume I was the court reporter. There’s nothing wrong with being a court reporter, but I’d have to say, “No, I’m defense counsel for XYZ,” and walk by with attitude (and a winning argument).
I was really unhappy, but I’d been saying I was going to be a lawyer for so long that I thought I’d be disappointing myself and my family if I quit. I graduated, landed a job at a mid-sized law firm, and was the only Latina attorney in the litigation department. It took me about three years of working in a job that wasn’t right for me — along with a lot of introspection and planning — to finally follow my heart and become an actress.
Transitioning to acting professionally has been a game changer. I feel liberated and empowered to be building a completely new career that is
right for me — and to still be able to pay the bills. I value all of my experiences, including being an attorney, for their roles in helping shape who I am now. But I also want people to know that it’s truly okay to say “I’m done with this chapter” and move on. We don’t allow ourselves to do that enough.
If you’re considering a career 180 or want to do something different with your life, I’ve been there. I challenge and encourage you to consider these steps that proved very important to me.The Well is the editorial hub of Jopwell, the diversity recruitment platform that connects Black, Latino/Hispanic, and Native American professionals and students with leading jobs and internships.