I mentioned that I had exciting news, so here goes: Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to really solidify in my mind--and then verbalize--what I really want to do with my life, career-wise. I've known for a long time what I've wanted to do, but I've beaten around the bush when asked about future plans because getting to this career seems almost insurmountable. In a lot of ways, it seems more like a dream job than a real career path.
I want to work in the intersection of forensic psychology and law. These are the people who evaluate clients for their mental competency to stand trial and assist in all sorts of psychological consultations to determine how mental health and behavioral issues play a role in the courtroom, especially in criminal, family law, and personal injury cases. Forensic psychologists are experts in how psychological issues and neuroscience affect our understanding of criminal responsibility, sentencing, and the potential for recidivism. They do not always have law degrees, but many of them do because they have to be able to communicate effectively with attorneys, judges, and juries about how psychological issues might affect the outcome of a case. And that is exactly what I want to do. I've been absolutely fascinated by the brain and behavioral sciences since I took my first psychology class as a freshman in college. This is my passion, and I want to be able to pursue it.
Along with those decisions, I also really think that I want to eventually move back to Virginia (of course, provided that there's work available there in the areas I'm interested in). I love Georgia. I really do. And I have such wonderful friends here, who I wouldn't want to leave, and I think I could definitely be happy staying here. But I also miss living in VA a lot, and I feel like I left part of my heart in the Shenandoah Valley! It was so amazing to go back a few weeks ago, and I felt like I was coming home. After I came back here again, I realized that I really, really missed it, even though I've tried to convince myself that I don't. That would mean taking the bar exam in Virginia and pursuing moving up there, either right after law school or eventually.
There are so many obstacles that stand in the way of me reaching these career goals, but I'm going to see them as challenges to deal with as they come up. For one, I would have to get a master's, if not a doctorate, in psychology--in addition to finishing my J.D. My bachelor's degree is not in psychology, which is not really a problem, except that I may need to take a couple prerequisite courses before I could enroll in a master's program. And I would probably want to work for a couple years after I finish law school just to gain experience, be sure of my career aspirations, and pay down student loans before I started working on the psychology degree.
I can't say for sure that this is the direction I'm going to go in, and I want to be open to whatever I'm supposed to be doing. But this is what I am passionate about now and have been passionate about for a long time. Today when I was at work, the director of career services stopped by and we chatted for awhile, and I told her that this is what I want to do. It made it seem more official just to really talk to someone about it--and who better to tell than the director of career services? It's hard to know exactly where I will end up, but as long as I know this is a passion I have, I think I owe it to myself to see if it's possible to turn it into a career.