To be honest, nobody did.
Five years ago - my senior year of high school - I realized that I didn’t want to go into the healthcare field. When I told my South Asian doctor parents that I wanted to go to law school instead, all hell broke loose. They couldn’t understand why I of all people wouldn’t want to be a doctor when their medical education had given me so much privilege and comfort in life. After all, I had my parents’ medical educations to thank for clothing me, feeding me, and providing me with a private Islamic school education. It took me whole years to understand this, but I finally get why they wanted me to be a doctor so badly: being healthcare professionals saved them from insecurity, calamity, and instability. And they wanted nothing more than for me too, to be saved.
I rehearsed the conversation with my mom a million times before finally letting the words surface. I remember it so clearly - she was driving and I was in the passenger seat, sweating a lot. I just blurted “I don’t want to be a doctor anymore” - and she asked me what I meant by that. I admitted that I didn’t know, and she didn’t say anything the whole way home.
When I told my dad, he didn’t talk to me for a week. He didn’t understand why, after everything a medical education had done for me and my family, I was trying so hard to forego it. In the weeks that followed after my revelation, there was a lot of screaming, crying, and door slamming. I remember one time my dad angrily exclaimed that I was going to be a nobody and I burst out into tears. When I finally found words, I just choked out “I’ll be more successful than you, WATCH ME!” In hindsight, it was really dramatic but I was so frustrated with constantly having to prove myself to my parents that I vowed to succeed for them.
The minute college applications rolled around, I proposed a deal to my parents. I would apply to both the University of Texas at Austin (UT) as a Public Relations (pre-law) major and to a five-year Physician Assistant program in New York at Lemoyne University: the first program to accept me would be my career choice.
I ended up getting into UT first (kind of a big deal considering my below-average SAT score), and funnily enough to this day, I have never heard back from LeMoyne University.
I accepted this as God’s plan for me and started college in 2016, switching my major from PR to Advertising and eventually, to Political Communications. I graduated in 2019 with good grades and excellent extracurriculars, but one major roadblock stood in my way: the LSAT. I enrolled in a prep course and spent every waking minute in my LSAT tutor’s office hours, did every LSAT practice exam available to the public, cut off my social life, and became obsessed with hitting my target score. Despite this, my practice scores remained stagnant and I started spiraling into detrimental patterns and behaviors. When I got my score back in November 2018, I couldn’t believe how low it was. I wish I could say that I could’ve tried harder with the LSAT because I actually did everything I could and still failed, which is what hurt the most: my best wasn’t good enough. I retook the LSAT in January and saw little score improvement but decided to apply to law schools anyway. All law schools boasted themselves as taking pride in a holistic review process, so I thought I would put it to the test: I had a good GPA, good letters of recommendation, and an excellent resume. Surely I would have a decent shot.
I didn’t. Although I was grateful to receive admittances from decently ranked Texas schools, I had my heart set on Berkeley Law, where my mentor attended. When I got rejected I half expected it but was also hoping for something else...anything else. Slowly, the rest of the rejections started coming in: NYU, George Washington, the works. To my surprise, I was waitlisted at Notre Dame Law and the University of Texas School of Law and saw this as my silver lining.
Eventually, I received an acceptance and scholarship to Southern Methodist University (SMU) School of Law in Dallas. It was decently ranked and near my hometown, so I planned to accept it, secretly hoping to get off a waitlist. I spent that summer interning in D.C. and that experience made me want to become a lawyer more than ever, but something didn’t sit right with me about starting at SMU in the fall. One afternoon in July 2019 I was walking back to the office from my lunch break and I received an email from SMU: they had overenrolled their Fall 2019 class and were encouraging students to defer for a year. I had no job lined up, no plan, no hope, but something in me saw that email as a sign. After talking it over with my friends and family, I decided that there was no harm in taking a gap year to work for a bit and retake the LSAT - maybe even reapply to law schools.
I spent that Summer frantically looking for a job on the hill, at think tanks, nonprofits...you name it. From networking events to getting coffees, I did it all to no avail. At this point, I just started freely applying to any and every opportunity I came across: that Summer I must have applied to over one hundred positions. Although I got a few interviews that my internship supervisor Leo was kind enough to let me take from our supply closet, they were always followed by rejections. After a few rounds of interviews, I received a callback from NPR’s gameshow podcast “Wait...Wait! Don’t Tell Me!” for their fall internship in Chicago - the only offer I got the entire summer. After a few rounds of interviews, I was offered a position my last week in .D.C. and having very little prior radio/broadcasting experience, I reluctantly agreed - and I’m so glad I did because it ended up being one of the best decisions of my life.
A few weeks after I got back to Texas from D.C, my mom and I drove to Chicago. Although I was born in Chicago and visited every Summer to see my extended family, I never saw anything amazing about the city. I’m so glad I was wrong because living in Chicago awakened something within me: I got to be a part of my uncle’s life, even if for a second, and learn his story. I drove to Indiana to stay with my expecting cousin, who shared her hopes and fears about motherhood. I danced in a chuck-e-cheese during my niece’s 3rd birthday celebration. I walked along the navy pier at sunset. I got lost in a lot of parking garages. I even took a stand-up comedy class where I had the most fun ever. It helped that my internship was boatloads of fun too: the NPR office building was right across the Bean, and every day during my lunch break I’d try a new restaurant or just walk around the bustling city and people watch. I loved the people, atmosphere, and energy at NPR - but most importantly, I loved watching the show come together. Every Thursday night we’d walk over to the theatre where we’d record a live show with an audience - it was pure magic watching the show come to life, not to mention all the cool celebrity guests I was too scared to ask for photos with and the backstage food. We also went on a couple of roadshows in different cities, my personal favorite being Salt Lake City, UT. During the roadshows, I would wake up early and enjoy coffee in a nearby cafe, visit popular tourist attractions, and order a lot of room service. When we were on tour, I felt on top of the world: I stayed in five-star hotels (they even got me my own bedroom!), ate expensive meals, and mingled with local celebrities. However, that experience made me realize that there’s was no point in having an amazing and perfect life if you have no one to share it with. As fun as the shows were, it was painful to return to an empty and cold hotel room with no one to discuss the day’s events with or share a funny thought with.
While at NPR, I received a call from Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign (they rejected me when I originally applied in the Summer). They requested another interview, and a few weeks later I received an offer to start the following month in Columbia, SC. Understandably, I was flabbergasted. As someone with zero campaign experience, I didn’t know what to expect. Because I had just gotten used to Chicago, my first instinct was to reject the offer - but I knew how foolish that would be of me. It didn’t help that my NPR internship wasn’t even halfway complete, so I felt terrible giving my two weeks. Informing them of my decision to leave was the most awkward thing I’ve ever had to do, but thankfully they took it well.
Because I was expected to return to Texas after the new year, I enrolled in the January LSAT. Joining the campaign meant I would have no time to study for or give the LSAT, but for some reason, it didn’t bother me: I accepted that I would just go ahead and start at SMU in the fall and that it wouldn’t be the end of the world - somewhere, a little voice in my head told me that it would all be okay.
In South Carolina, I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into campaigning. While dealing with the stress of being tucked away in Columbia, South Carolina law school naturally took a back seat. Although I applied for another cycle, I didn’t expect much given my LSAT score and GPA had remained the same. However, I added a lot of valuable experience to my resume, so I was sure that there may be some hope. For my job, I had to campaign in different suburbs of South Carolina many of which were an hour or so away. On the drives home at night, I would roll the window down and let the wind hit my face all while wondering what exactly Allah had in store for me.
After spending a few months in South Carolina, I concluded that I ultimately wanted to be home for law school. I made the tough decision to apply to UT Law binding early decision. I also ended up interviewing with them, and after months of waiting, I received an answer: I had been waitlisted, yet again. This time, I felt absolutely shattered. I felt like my entire gap year was invalidated because I would end up going to the same school I was going to go to last year despite an entire year of moving around and adding extensive experience to my resume. After trying to change my fate, I had been defeated.
Months went by, and I continued to receive rejections and exclusively waitlist offers. I want to say I kept my cool, but the truth is that I had a lot of breakdowns and identity crises. Still, through it all, I kept telling myself to trust God, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I did. It was ultimately this hope that got me through one of the toughest times of my life.
After the South Carolina primary, I moved back to Texas with no job lined up or any idea of where I was going to school. I just knew two things that I couldn’t continue the campaign, and that I missed my mom and dad. One day I was catching up with a friend, and I mentioned that I had been waitlisted yet again at UT Law. He urged me to email the Assistant Dean of Admissions and request a meeting to go over my application, and I reluctantly agreed. Surprisingly, the Dean responded well and we set up a time to speak.
I can’t explain how nervous I was going into our meeting. I was a sweaty wreck, and after speaking with the Dean for ten minutes, he essentially pointed out that my low LSAT score was holding me back and politely confronted me about not retaking it. How could I explain to him that I hadn’t retaken it simply out of fear? I felt so angry at myself knowing full and well that the LSAT was the only thing standing in my way, and I walked out of that meeting convinced I had only made things worse for myself.
A week after our meeting, COVID-19 dominated every aspect of my life. The one job offer I had earned was rescinded due to the widespread Coronavirus, and although I was grateful to have a roof over my head during a stressful time for so many, I felt stuck in place.
On May 23rd, I was asleep when around 5:30 PM I received a call from a 512 area code number. Groggy, I let it go to voicemail. A few minutes later, I got suspicious and checked the message translation and saw the words “Texas” and “law.” Excitedly, I called the number back, but no one responded. Thirty minutes later, the same Dean I had met with two months prior was on the line. After some small talk, he blurted “you’re admitted!” and I muted myself to scream. I thanked him and promised that I wouldn’t let him down, and I have every intention of delivering on that promise.
I can’t explain how many tears of joy I cried that day. Finally, all the pieces came together. After years of planning, executing, and failing...it all so seamlessly fell into place. That day, the voice inside my head that told me to keep pushing when every single person in my life, at some point or another, suggested I back down sung a beautiful song. I can’t explain why, but Allah made my biggest dream come true: not only do I get to attend the best law school in Texas and the number #16 law school in the country, but I get to do it in the same city as my support system (and eyebrow lady!!!).
So if you’re in a predicament where you feel like there’s no end in sight, I beg of you - do not lose hope. Trust your gut and most importantly, trust Allah (any higher power, really) for he is the best of planners.