Monday, September 12, 2011

Letting Go of a Dream

For many years, I longed to have a career in federal law enforcement, but today, on my 36th birthday, I am letting go of that dream.

I remember the first time I realized I wanted to be in federal law enforcement. I was in grad school, pursuing my Master's degree in Criminal Justice, planning to go to law school once I graduated. Then, in April of 2000, I watched the video of INS agents removing Elian Gonzalez from his relatives' home. That was the first real seed that was planted. That was when I gained some direction. I wanted to be an INS agent.

After graduating with my Master's degree, I applied for many different jobs in different branches of federal law enforcement. Each one was a long process. I tested for at least four different positions. I began to get frustrated with the process. A state law enforcement job presented itself and I applied, thinking that it would be the last law enforcement job I would apply for. If I didn't get the job, I decided I would go to pharmacy school instead.

As luck would have it, the state hired me. I went through the law enforcement academy then, three weeks before graduation, I got a call for an interview for a federal law enforcement position in Dallas, TX. After much consideration, I decided that I wanted to give the job I had a fair shot and I passed on the interview, thinking that I had an opportunity to gain some experience before applying with the feds again later on.

At the time, I was 33 years old. To be eligible for a federal law enforcement position, you have to be hired before your 37th birthday. I figured I had plenty of time.

Time came and went and I was enjoying my job as a state law enforcement agent. I was tempted many times to apply with the feds, but I never did. I can't tell you how much time I spent looking at job descriptions and thinking about attending the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. I looked at the life my best friend had as a federal employee and was once again tempted. I still did not apply.

Last week I attended a training session at which an FBI agent spoke. She showed pictures of the countries she had visited as part of her job and I once again felt that familiar tug. "I still have time," I thought. "I still have a year to go after this." Later, I told my husband about her and he could sense what I was thinking. "Is that what you want to do?" he asked. I thought for a second and responded, "It was once, but it isn't now." I realized in that moment, that if I was going to leave the job that I have now (which, by the way, allows me incredible flexibility and freedom) I was going to do so for a different dream.

I felt a little sad as I realized I was letting a dream die. But it is the right thing to do. I need to focus on other dreams, things I am actually more passionate about. So today is the day that I let go of a dream.