– Kara Shannon, Montpellier, VT.

When I was approached to write this story, I immediately felt uncomfortable doing it. What hardships had I, a white female from an upper middle class family, faced in my life? How many things had I truly overcome? It was only when I voiced this apprehension to a friend, explaining how I was worried that my story might trivialize the “real” struggles of other women sharing their stories, that I realized my personal struggle- an inability to value and acknowledge my own accomplishments.

To quote my helpful friend, “You are a woman in law school after all!” As I write, I am officially a law school graduate. I am a 23-year old woman who graduated magna cum laude from a two year accelerated J.D. program. That is a big deal. That is something to write about. And yet I was worried that doing so would somehow detract from the greater dialogue about struggle and overcoming hardships. To me, attending law school at all was a privilege and not something that I should equate to hardship. And though it is true that having the opportunity to receive an advanced degree is a great privilege, this does not make the granting of said degree any less valid. It does not mean that it was handed to me on a silver platter or that I did not work hard for it. Yet I found myself unable to acknowledge graduating from law school as a serious accomplishment. To me, it was just another step that I had to take to do what I want to do.

I knew that I wanted a career in public policy and that a law degree would help me get there. I applied to Vermont Law School and was accepted into its brand new accelerated program with a significant merit scholarship. This in itself is enough to celebrate, but to me it seemed to be just another step in the process. My education was one part of the bigger plan I had created for myself and I could see very little significance or mastery in simply following a plan. For me, there was never any other option. I was going to law school because I knew a law degree would help me find the career I’ve always wanted. This follow-through and determination did not seem remarkable to me because it is what I have always done. It took the outside perspective of a friend to enable me to recognize my own successes and to allow myself to acknowledge them as such.

Women often struggle silently, forging ahead each day because they are expected to do so.

As I move forward in life and career, I know that this is something I will continue to struggle with. Women often struggle silently, forging ahead each day because they are expected to do so. The same way I expected myself to reach certain goals, other women work tirelessly each day both in and out of the home because it is what is expected of them. They labor without complaint and seldom ask for help. Their accomplishments are many and are all their own, but rarely do they step back to consider how hard they work and to celebrate themselves. Even more rarely do they present their accomplishments the same way men do. Women, myself included, are constantly underselling themselves to employers, partners, family, etc. Because of this, we often settle for less than we deserve both professionally and personally. However, once we are able to recognize our own value and take pride in the things we have accomplished, we enable others to acknowledge them, too.

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