My day job, for the past twenty-plus years, has been providing legal representation to children in abuse and neglect proceedings in Circuit Court.
I guarantee you, when it’s Career Day in fifth grade, not a single kid in any school anywhere ever thought, “I want to be a child abuse lawyer!” I backed into this work because the state was hiring child welfare attorneys through a competitive procurement, and that involves writing a proposal. I DO enjoy writing proposals, and I had a child of my own to look after. When the work became available, I grabbed it with both hands.
It’s honorable work. My job is (usually) to advocate for what the child wants, provided the child has some reasons for the position they take. Just the fact that the child HAS a voice in the courtroom proceedings speaks well for us as a society, and often results in the judge making a wiser decision.
But there are bad days. Families I was sure had made it out of the woods fall back into spectacular trouble. Toddlers play with guns. You get the picture.
On those bad days, what has often sustained me is the certain knowledge that I have a new Loretta Chase, or Mary Balogh waiting by my bedside. Some years, I was in the habit of reading a book a day, every day. This means that before I started writing romance novels, I had read THOUSANDS of them. I attribute that to the day job, and what remaining functional on the day job required.
The day job has also shown me the variety of ways we cope with, ignore, rise above, and are brought low by the wounds we suffer. I’ve had a front row seat on a lot of suffering, and on a lot of healing and courage. This is the stuff of a good romance, particularly the courage and the love, and I have the day job to thank for letting me see so much of it in action.
Finally, the day job shows me miracles. The children I work with have been dealt such low cards–genetically, socially, intellectually, economically, politically–that by rights, very, very few of them should lead successful lives. I’ve been doing this long enough, though, to know that many of them do. They beat the tremendous odds stacked against them from birth, they triumph over adversity, bigotry, poverty, institutional injustice, disability and just about every other curse a baby can be born under, and they live contributing happy lives. If that’s not heroic, I don’t know what is.