She Becomes a Judge and I Become a Mountain Nomad

As usual, I was in my office sipping my cup of soy latte when I heard screaming from a group of female colleagues down the hallway. Having been here at this office for 13 years, my first thought was, “Oh, someone just announced she’s engaged or having a baby.”  My legal office is full of female attorneys. Actually, a majority of them are females. I hit 40 this year. So, as you can see, I spent majority of my fertile years as a female in this work space. But I don’t have kids. Not even a husband. And I have never been married.

Over the span of 13 years at my job, I have grown accustomed to hearing about my female colleagues’ dreams of marriage and having children. You can say I grew up in my office the same way you grow up with your immediate family — everyone is discreetly critical of everyone’s career advancement and judgmental of your dreams and the direction you take in life. I know that sounds harsh but that’s simply the nature of the work atmosphere in an office full of lawyers who are trained to exercise judgment on a daily basis. Fortunately, it was easy for me to adjust from the beginning as law school typically affords you the training on the norms of the lawyer world.

Moments later, in passing, a co-worker blurted out, “Oh, did you know, so and so got nominated to become a judge.” “Wow, that’s amazing,” I replied. In the entire 13 years of practicing, having someone nominated to become a judge from our office was unheard of, so much so, that most of us stopped bothering to pursue that dream. Hearing this great achievement by my fellow colleague caused me to feel a surge of complex emotions and thoughts like, “Am I jealous or not? Should I be? How did this happen? Her, really? That could have been me. But why didn’t I apply for it? Do I really care? It’s just judgeship. But that’s the natural career path for you. You ought to be a judge by now. And remember marriage? Husband? And the kids? Those are your dreams, right?”


They WERE my dreams but not anymore. And the person who needs to feel comfortable the most about that is ME. As doubts crept in to compel me to question the turns I took in my life, I had to recover rather quickly from the potential of my questioning any previous decisions I made about my life. The one hard truth about this is the older you are, the more challenging it is to overcome the doubts that periodically seep through your mind. The clock was ticking. Now, it stopped ticking because time has given up on nagging you to do the things that you were supposed to have done years ago. You then wonder if the clock stopped only because the time is up.

But let me tell you what my dreams are:  I want to trek up mountains and live near one. I wish to dedicate time to focus on my social enterprise and non-profit organization that market adventure travel and treks as a way to help locals in mountain regions to earn an income. This means leaving my legal career in the next couple of years and moving to a suitable location overseas that will allow me to expand my trekking/adventure travel enterprise. I don’t plan on getting married but I intend to share my life experiences with a partner that complements my goals in a committed relationship. But if there’s no partner, then I’m fine with that too. I intend to maintain my child-free status because I am choosing a life that is filled with more freedom than normal, which entails extensive traveling and trekking in remote mountain regions globally to promote lesser known trails.

Next to a volcano in Nicaragua during my early years of organizing treks with the DC area outdoor groups. Recently, I self-promoted myself as a CEO.
To have dreams is easy but to make sure you stay on the path that will take you there can be difficult, even more so when your dreams are more “off the beaten path.” Hearing the news about my colleague and her promotion as a judge brought to the forefront of my mind a vision of the existing contrast in our lives. Add to that the fact that everyone else but me in the office yearns to become a judge, the entire experience created a division between their dreams and mine. But this also made me revisit the question of why I didn’t choose the path that my colleague has chosen while reaffirming to myself the reasons why I am choosing the path that is now before me. I don’t dare tell them one bit of what I see in my future because I learned early in my legal career to be mindful of sharing my dreams and the risk of people commenting negatively about them. When your dreams are unconventional compared to others, it’s rather important to have the ability to focus on your own unique path and be prepared when society subjects you to its tendency to criticize or question your passion.

Here are 7 ways to help you continue on with achieving your dreams, and not those of others:

1. Write down your goals.

Don’t allow yourself to have your dreams float in your mind indefinitely. Make them more concrete in your life. Writing them is a way to solidify your dreams and gives you a sense that they are now official. It’s a contract you create between your present and future self. Written contracts like this are helpful as a means to remind you of your true desires. The contract serves as your compass to direct you where you wish to be. This is especially important in situations where the meaning or value of your dreams is questioned by others, and yourself. Make sure to keep this contract accessible so you can easily get to it when needed. When I first started out, I confess I was lazy about writing my goals down. But as time passed and the more my desires became overwhelming, I couldn’t help but write them down. The process naturally led me to visualize my goals as if they were already happening. Doing so afforded me more clarity on my goals and how best to achieve them.

2. Take steps towards your dreams, even little ones.

Thoughts require action for them to occur before you so take steps towards them. It doesn’t matter if they’re small or large. Eventually, small steps add up so you don’t always need to act on your dreams in an extravagant fashion. In my case, my steps started out small in the way of spending more time in the mountains hiking or backpacking. Soon after, I started organizing hikes and backpacking trips locally which led to my organizing major treks overseas. These steps have now culminated in launching a non-profit and a social enterprise which formalize my passion by making that shift from a mere hobby to a lifetime goal. As an added bonus, the more steps you take towards your dreams, the easier it is to dismiss the idea of comparing your dreams with others. When I found out my colleague got promoted, my sentiment was as follows: “She is going to be a judge? I’m happy for her. I’m on my way towards my dreams too so I’m happy for both of us.”

Appreciate your effort and enjoy the process, all in one, while on top of a desert in Gobi, Mongolia.
3. Appreciate your efforts frequently.

It requires focus, time and effort to achieve any kind of goal in life, even more so when it requires a major shift in life. Early on, it is crucial that you learn to be your own cheerleader. Give yourself the praise you deserve along the way and practice positive thinking on days when you come across dead ends. I know that quitting my legal practice is not an easy decision to make but when my passion for mountain trekking became more apparent overtime and the more I invested in it, the notion of leaving the practice started to feel natural. Appreciating the work you’re putting into your dreams creates ownership of your own goals and thus enhances the value that your goals hold in your life, so much so, that even when the major shift happens, you’ll be more ready than you initially anticipated because your mind and spirit are already invested in the fulfillment of your dreams.

4. Enjoy the process.

Dreams are made through the process of creating. The process of getting to your truest desire shouldn’t feel like work. It should feel like a burning passion. Love. Not obligation. Joy rather than stress. If, for some reason, it is becoming more of a burden to work towards your goals, then don’t be afraid to re-assess to see if your dreams still serve your best interests or whether a new path should be taken. Be authentic with your dreams. Otherwise, you will be fooling nobody, but yourself.

5. Surround yourself with inspiration and positive energy.

Read inspirational books, journals, articles, quotes or whatever else that will add some positive energy to your day. Meet others who enjoy creating and making their goals come to life. At the same time, it makes sense to keep distance from those who don’t appreciate your dreams or are critical of them. It’s perfectly fine to cut the ties with those who constantly degrade your goals and discourage you. Negativity is the quickest way to kill your dreams so do not compromise what you desire the most in order to maintain certain relationships that no longer serve you in a positive way. I obviously don’t spend much time with lawyers in my profession outside of work because their dreams are completely different from mine. My circle of friends includes mostly those from the travel and hiking worlds who constantly provide me with inspiration and drive. They are perfect in terms of company as oftentimes our views about life are in alignment. Acceptance of each other’s quirks is the norm, not the exception. Without them, my path would be a much harder trail to walk on.

In good company- my trekker friends blazing the more remote trails of Drakensberg in South Africa. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people leads you closer to your off the beaten path dreams.
6. Trust the process.

Life will give you what you desire. Believing is the first step. My two enterprises will only thrive if I believe in my product and the value that it gives to others. I also believe that my enterprises will pave the way for me to achieve more freedom that I hardly have as a practicing attorney. I further believe that this freedom is the key to sustaining my chosen level of happiness in my life. Before you dive into turning your dreams into reality, you must first be invested in them fully. Have a belief system that will hold your goals solidly in place when moments of doubts arise.

7. Embrace your weirdness.

I won’t lie and tell you that I didn’t feel like a weirdo when I received the good news about my co-worker. Doubting one’s dreams can easily lead to self-judgment. Hence, this is why it’s important to embrace your weirdness. Love the fact that you have an unconventional set of dreams. While society tells you to BE THIS, you do THAT. And that’s perfectly fine because that’s who you are. The more you practice appreciating and loving your weird self, the less people’s comparisons matter. In fact, you’ll soon realize you’re too busy loving yourself, your dreams, and others who love you to even bother with the haters and critics. Luckily, in the world of mountain trekking, there is a higher level of open-mindedness in which I can flourish as my true self who aspire to live a nomadic mountain life. Having such a support system is highly significant as they not only provide you with the inspiration you need, but also serves as a major source for networking when it comes to mountain trekking.

There you have it. For better or worse, stay committed to your dreams that society normally views as odd, unusual, out of the norm or unconventional. It’s tough at times, I know. But that’s exactly why unconventional dreams are more special. Next time you don’t go for that career advancement that everyone in the office wants, just smile and say, “It’s not for me” and be the first person to believe it. Then, back in your office, you can tell yourself quietly, “Sure, she can be the judge, and I can be the mountain nomad.”

One of my future offices where I can do real work.

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24 thoughts on “She Becomes a Judge and I Become a Mountain Nomad”

  1. I’m reading this at something of a cross roads in my own life and I couldn’t agree with your 7 points more. Travel your own path and be happy. After drifting for a long time, I’ve crammed a lot into the last few years, and only now do I have a plan to move forwards. My dreams are modest but I it’s what I want. I hope you achieve you dreams too and live a fulfilled life.

  2. This is a great reminder that we have to walk our own path! It’s not always easy to live in a society where the value system is different your own, but I do think that being true to your dreams means so much more.

  3. If you ask me – your dreams are cooler than hers ;). I was engaged to a lawyer long ago – I know it’s difficult to become a judge, but I think it’s the more difficult to be honest with yourself and chase your own passions. You’re great Marinel. I find you to be inspiring and I hope you keep on pushing yourself towards your goals!

  4. This is such a beautiful post! I know how difficult it is to take step like this. I could identify with your feelings so much, I felt like I was reading something I had written 🙂 This will be my dose of motivation for the day!

  5. A very honest writeup. totally loved it! Your advice is what I am trying to stick to already 🙂 One step at a time towards that dream goal…

  6. Have the dreams and then pursue them. Love your practical advice of taking daily steps to get closer in alignment with your dreams. This is a great post and an honest assessment of where you are! Thank you for being brutally honest and may you become the mountain nomad!

  7. Great advice on following your dreams! I can completely identify with you and your working environment. I recently left my career to travel and do freelance work but up until that point, I was a Procurement Manager in an extremely corporate environment. I discovered that the life and goals I were pursuing weren’t my own dreams, but those I thought that society expected of me.
    Hope you continue to enjoy your adventures and mountain treks!

  8. Love this! I think all of us have an unconventional dream or two that we might keep from colleagues and even friends. People who blog may have a dream that their blog becomes their career. People who love travel may dream that they will be able to travel for a living. But both take time and a lot of work, and are somewhat unconventional life paths. But like you said, we all need to enjoy the process. Because nothing happens overnight.

  9. GIRL I totally feel you. Recently graduated and a bunch of my gal pals are getting MARRIED or are having BABIES and 22 year old me here is just sitting here like “I’d like to have enough money to go buy a plane ticket and climb a mountain maybe.” I just want to explore and I lost the old dream where I want to go for a MA/PhD and teach.

  10. I do feel like a weirdo too when people have normal accomplishments like getting marries, getting pregnant, doing family things. But then I realise that I am preparing for 2 major trips by the end of the year, Chile and India. And for me, this is the joy and the excitement that other people feel when they have a promotion or an event in their families. I don’t have a family but I have the entire world to discover.

  11. It’s great that you have your own dreams and intend to stay true to them. How wonderful for your colleague that she has been promoted to judge. We need more gender balance in these roles. But that’s not for everyone. Your dreams are just that… YOUR dreams. And I sincerely hope you fulfill them. I particularly agree with what you say about enjoying the process and trusting in the process. Good shout.

  12. I am so impressed, as a person who has spent many years in social enterprise in Canada I am always happy to see others recognize the value of SE and move forward to make it one of their ways to help the world. You Rock!

  13. I love this!! You can do it girl! I also refuse to I’ve that 9-5 job I donated all of my stuff and moved to Mexico with my bf to begin our journey of traveling the world. That’s my dream and I love your 7 things to do to pursue your dreams, it’s so true! Best of luck on your adventures!!

  14. Preach! It’s not easy to express something like this when it’s not the “norm” of your industry. Thanks for the reminder about going after your dream, especially #1! I think we forget about actually writing down our goals to hold ourselves accountable.

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