My mom always tells a story that both makes us laugh and horrifies us. It is about the happiest day of her life. She always starts off my making sure we know that she is not qualifying the story. She says, ‘That happiest day of my life wasn’t when I got married, or when I had my kids or when I came to America. Nope. It wasn’t any of those days. The best day of my life was the day that I got my driver’s license.” She might clap her hands or be laughing when she recounts this story because that is how happy it makes her to think about it. She talks about the sense of freedom she had that day. Her whole life changed in a magical, beautiful way.
I never thought I would be able to look at my life and say there was one happiest day. How would I recognize it? What would it look like? Would it smell different? Would it have a special taste? I assumed the day would be full of signs, of laughter, of lots of big, crazy things, like that one scene in that terrible movie 500 Days of Summer when Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character is walking down the street with everyone singing and dancing and there is a blue cartoon bird over his shoulder.
My perfect day was nothing like that. It started at seven in the morning when I woke up after four hours of sleep in the horrible Crowne Plaza (Never stay at the Crowne Plaza in Albany! It was awful!). I went outside and the first drops of rain began to fall on a bitterly cold morning. I pulled my suit jacket close around me and did not get any warmer.
I walked as fast as I could to get to the meeting room where I would wait for almost three hours until they reached the Ys and I could give my interview. A few minutes later a piece of paper was signed declaring me to be of good moral character and qualifying me to take my oath of admission. And in those moments before I took my oath, I began to think of all the things I can never forget.
I will never forget that little village I came from. I will never forget all my family there and especially my parents who brought us to America so we could have a chance to be something. And not just something, they always supported me to be what it was that I wanted. And before my parent’s boast that I am a lawyer, they say that I care about women’s issues and one day I will help women all over the world.
I will never forget all the places I have traveled and all the faces I have seen. I will never forget all the little children and all those little eyes that hold dreams and potential and power, that if unleashed could change the world. If someone would just give them a chance. I will never forget that it is a simple twist of fate that separates them from me.
I will never forget that day in the fall of 2005 when a big envelope came from the University of Michigan and I knew that my life would change forever and I thanked God for this chance and I begged Him to never let me forget the feeling of gratitude I felt in that moment and to make me worthy of this blessing.
I asked the same of Him on Friday. As I took the oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and as I joined a profession I have dreamed of joining since I was a young child, as most people in the room looked bored or annoyed to have to take part in this arcane seeming ritual, I tried not to cry and I asked that I may be worthy of the blessing I am receiving and when I am working late nights and weekends I remember that this is not a burden but the fulfillment of a dream I have long wished to realize.
It is not the happiest day of my life only because of what happened in it, but because of what it represents about the roads that I have walked on and the hope it can bring for the roads I still have to travel. It is a day that helps me understand my mother’s own happiest day. One that wasn’t tied to marriage or family or expectations. It was a day that was her own and signified something about the roads on which she had traveled and still had yet to see. After all these years, I can finally understand that look on her face and the excitement with which she tells her story.