If you want to know a little bit about me…
When I was 5 my mom asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said maybe a lawyer (like her) or a teacher (like my dad), and that if I couldn’t find a job I’d become a nun because they always have a place to live, plenty to eat, and all they have to do is help people.
My mom tells this story and laughs and jokes that my dad never had to threaten sending me to a convent because it was already my back up plan since day one. Lately, she’s told it more often to lighten the mood in conversations that start with, “So what’s next, Maggie? What are you going to do after you graduate?” The answer to such questions I did not have until very recently.
Needless to say, I’ve changed my mind a lot since kindergarten. Well, I changed a lot in general and I’ve had a lot of different experiences. To name a few: I played soccer, basketball, swam on the swim team, got kicked off the swim team, got reinstated on the swim team, played piano, sang in the choir, did community theater, won a talent show, returned as talent show winner and embarrassed myself, wrote for the school newspaper, and babysat. Upon graduating from Martinsburg High School, I set my mind and goals on law school. So after saying I would never become a lawyer because my mom works too much, and protesting ever attending a small university so close to home, in the Fall of 2013, I started classes at Shepherd University with a major in English Literature and a minor in Political Science. Contrary? Me? Never.
I jumped head first into the pre-legal realm of professionalism: joined the Pre-Law Society, bought a few blazers (which I still rock over my favorite t-shirts), gained some experience from internships for Senator Rockefeller, and Delegate Stephen Skinner. I loved learning about politics, working with and under such inspiring people, practicing writing and research skills, and building a better understanding our government. But I quickly learned that I wasn’t exactly cut out for the 9-5 office life. And thus my first attempt to follow my mother’s footsteps fell short.
My mom is a powerhouse. She took the oath of office this year, and after 16 years of practicing law at Steptoe and Johnson, she is now a Circuit Court Judge. She’s the 12th of 13 children from Glen Bernie, Maryland. She’s as smart and driven as Hillary Clinton, as compassionate as Mother Theresa, as naturally beautiful as Julia Roberts, and as much the life of the party as Snookie claims to be. Talk about the full package. Exactly the kind of person you could imagine an immigrant would stay in the country for. Dad, here’s your cue.
My dad, the middle of three children from Naas, Ireland, came over for a summer vacation that turned into lifelong staycation. Yes, I believe in fate—without, I wouldn’t be alive. I have him to thank for my passion in music (only the good kind), my thick Irish skin, my ability to always get the last word in edgewise, and the belief that there’s nothing you don’t know that you can’t learn. There’s one other very important part of my life that I give my dad the credit for: The Shepherd University Multicultural Leadership Team.
He forced me to apply to the Multicultural Leadership Team (MLT) halfway through my freshman year. I remember dreading it because it was right around midterms, but MLT is one of the most impactful elements of my undergraduate education. My dad has a way of enforcing values that are justified with financial benefits but are rooted in his ethics: Short showers, water isn’t free, don’t throw that away we have a compost for a reason, turn that light off you’re not using it—all of which translate into his consideration for environmental conservation. You need to apply to this team, you’ll get a scholarship—which I like to think was rooted in his wanting me to be apart of a group of leaders who value and encourage diversity and social justice.
My involvement with MLT has given me perspective, a passion for equality, and hope in the future because one day my smart, compassionate, progressive teammates are going to be real leaders in the world. So, while at one point I was going to be a lawyer, then a freelance writer, an entrepreneur, a documentarian. MLT has guided me back to my 5-year-old mentality: All I really want is to have plenty to eat, a homey place to sleep, and the opportunity to help people. I’m grateful that I learned that I don’t need to join a convent to do so.
~Maggie Cohee Nevin