The last explosion, just down the street from our apartment, was strong and loud. It was one of the first that targeted a shop in our area, and it shook the entire neighborhood. The explosion was so strong that it rattled the doors and windows of our apartment. The smoke wafted from the burnt building for days.
That evening, my husband came home and said, “I just don’t think this will work. It’s not safe. You should move back to the United States.” I immediately agreed.
I had spent the last year traveling between Kabul and Atlanta with our now 1-year-old son. I managed my law firm in Afghanistan, which provided global immigration services and rule of law consulting services. I traveled back to Atlanta, where I grew up, frequently. I was proud of my firm and considered it a culmination of my work in Afghanistan on rule of law, immigration, and gender justice in Afghanistan. But as a new mother, the career and location were not tenable. I was tired of being on edge, worried that taking my son out for a walk or to a restaurant would result in death or bodily injury. Deciding to leave was a relief but one that made me feel guilty — the ease in which I could hop on a plane while Afghans were stuck in Afghanistan with the same fears I had. I still struggle with it.
Within a month of deciding to leave, I closed up shop, transferred my portfolio to a business acquaintance who promised to hire my local employees, and moved back into my parents’ home in Georgia, while my husband continued to work in Afghanistan. Once there, I immediately reached out to my network for leads, thinking I would be able to find a job in Washington, D.C. quickly. Unfortunately, this was not the case. I was offered work overseas but as the main parent I did not want to travel extensively. I could not take any of the rule of law/international development jobs I was offered. After several months of a futile job search for D.C.-based work, including a networking trip to D..C, nothing materialized. I had to redirect my search.
I thought back to my other interest, immigration law. My second job out of college was at a corporate immigration law firm, almost 14 years earlier. I liked working with immigrants and had continued working in immigration while I was in Afghanistan. I contacted my boss and asked her for advice. Thankfully, she responded, and I began the marathon of calling people, updating my legal knowledge, and volunteering with the local chapter of American Immigration Lawyers Association.
There is an Afghan proverb that says, “Drop by drop, a river is made.” I muttered it to myself throughout my attempts to figure out what to do next. As an introvert, I remember being so tired of introducing myself over and over again. But I did it, and I am glad I did. It was difficult reaching out for assistance when, just a year ago, I was the one offering advice. I am still so thankful to the immigration legal community — everyone is so welcoming and devoted to helping immigrants. Among the advice I received was to start my own practice, which is what I ended up doing. I now work for another immigration law firm as their full-time remote attorney. Everyone at my firm is devoted to protecting immigrant rights, and I enjoy being part of a team again.
The career pivots I made throughout my legal career were unexpected but ultimately fulfilling. I remember feeling alone and confused when I was in the middle of trying to figure out what to do next. I did not take the typical path when I graduated, and finding my footing as a lawyer back in my hometown was disconcerting and sometimes demoralizing. But when I speak to other lawyer moms, everyone’s career took turns they were not expecting. Very few attorneys stay where they started out and most are better for the change. Drop by drop, a river is made.