All right, that’s it. Kid gloves are off. I’m so tired of feeling like a child, I thought as I pulled my peanut butter and jelly sandwich out of my Avengers-themed, Ziploc baggie.
After three weeks of working as an intern at Catholic Charities Legal Services, I’ve heard some incredible and tragic stories. I’ve witnessed the fear and desperation immigrants face when up against daunting possibilities up close, and have done my best to help. This help usually comes in the form of translating from Spanish to English or helping clients fill out forms, but often, it’s something I’ve never had to do before. It’s my first time working a 9 to 5 in an office, making my own lunch everyday, and commuting to work on public transportation. By all means, this should be the most adult I’ve ever felt. And yet, rarely have I been so much like a kid, so unsure of my own abilities.
We have been mistaken for law students surprisingly often. Once when filing paperwork in the courthouse, the worker behind the window asked me if I was the attorney. I heard myself nervously say, “No, I’m just the intern.” For whatever reason, my words echoed in my head as I took the elevator down. It’s true. I’m not anywhere near the level of an attorney or law student– I don’t even know how to make anything other than sandwiches for lunch.
A couple days into our second week, I was assigned to fill out my first COV motion– that’s a change of venue form for clients that have their court hearing in the city where they entered the US rather than where they live now. The attorney who assigned the COV to me brought the client into the room, hastily handed me a folder full of papers and said, “Just do it like you learned in law school” as he was leaving the room. “WAIT,” I screamed before he got too far, almost falling out of my chair. I had to let him know that I’m an undergrad, and not only did I not know what I was doing, but he was also considering me far overqualified for maybe any task he could give me. After, I proceeded to leave the room and ask him questions every five minutes to make sure I was doing it right. I didn’t want to be the reason that made this process more difficult for anyone; these clients had gone through so much already. The lawyer could have easily done it quicker and more accurately. It was hard to not feel more like an annoyance or burden than the help I was supposed to be.
But I did the COV. And I’ve done it several times since, each time faster and easier than the last. Sure, the first few times I’ve started any new task, I’ve had to ask extensive questions to the point of inefficiency, but that’s just part of the learning process. I am just an intern. Yet, I have work to do, and there’s almost always more if you know where to ask for it. Maybe I’m not going to change the world or even any individual lives, but I get to facilitate the jobs of the people qualified to do so.
The kid gloves stay on, for now. I’m learning that it’s not such a bad thing.