In retrospect, I wish I could say that my higher educational pursuits had been the result of a traditional track of graduating high school and going to college. It certainly would have been easier. At eighteen years of age, I was not wise enough or mature enough to recognize education’s lifelong importance. At the time, college seemed to be the last thing on my mind. I wanted to be married and was guilty of a socially inspired “white picketed fence” mentality that governed many of my earlier life decisions. I have learned over the years that there is a reason the cliché “Youth is wasted on the Young” exists.
I did not understand the importance of education despite constant preaching from my parents. Neither one of my parents went to college. I was raised in a blue collar family with a stay at home mother and a father who spent his working years in the shipyards as a union pipefitter. My parents knew how important education was by virtue of not having ever benefited by it. I had been taught at an early age that education was one of those things no one could ever take away from you. They wanted better for me, but, alas, at eighteen, I would have no part of it.
For many blue collar generations, it was not something that seemed to be part of the life plan. I cannot honestly remember any of my parents’ friends having college degrees. They went to work every day, punching a clock and came home only to eat dinner and start the routine again the next day. They socialized, worked and worshiped with like-kind. It was just the way it was. It would be many years later that I would come to believe it did not have to be that way.
My journey to pursue higher education was really born out of necessity that was fueled by an aspiration that had been planted by my parents many years before. In 1985, I found myself as a single parent with three small children and a high school diploma. The “white picketed fence” mentality was not quite turning out to meet my naïve expectations. Life was hard. Over the years, I had worked as a welder, factory worker, waitress, and security guard. However, now there were three small other people who I owed a life to and I had no plausible excuse why I was incapable of providing it.
In the late 1980s, with much apprehension, I ventured back to school. Surrounded by much younger college students who were fascinated that I was even alive during Viet Nam, I found my place in the educational world and settled into a long seven year routine. In 1992, I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, graduating summa cum laude from the University of Southern Maine and a Juris Doctor from the Maine School of Law in 1995.
It has now been almost sixteen years since I started my law practice. Early on in my practice, many of my clients would tell me that I wasn’t like a “real” lawyer. After working so hard to juggle children, education and a catering business for seven years, I was somewhat insulted and annoyed by their statements. But over the years, I have come to realize that it was and remains truly a compliment. Being a blue collar baby with extensive prior life experience has made me a different type of attorney who owns a different type of law firm. I broke the mold.
Mary-Anne E. Martell, Esq., is Senior Legal Counsel and Founder of Seacoast Law, a two attorney law firm in Westbrook specializing in estate planning, real estate, business and family law. Mary-Anne welcomes comments or questions here and at email@example.com or (207) 591-7880. This article was published in the July 2012 issue of MyGeneration.