Celebrate yourself: a 41-year-old graduate's message to the world

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Amber Goodwin’s recent graduation from law school is the culmination of a lifelong dream, one 41 years in the making. It’s not every day that you get the chance to change your own life, but that’s exactly what Goodwin decided to do three years ago. After being rejected by the law schools she applied to almost 20 years ago, she earned a master’s degree and spent several years working on Capitol Hill. During that time, she founded the Community Justice Action Fund (CJAF), a non-profit organization seeking to end gun violence by focusing on communities of color. While that seems like a pretty full plate, Goodwin decided at the age of 38 that she wanted to try her hand at law again, this time with a different mindset. “My mentality was: I'm going to keep applying places and they have to tell me no. I'm not going to call the question on myself. If people tell me no, then that's on them, and I'll just keep trying,” Goodwin told Good Morning America. By not taking no for an answer, Goodwin was able to achieve her dream, and on June 6 she graduated from Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minn. As ecstatic about the occasion as you might expect, she posted a picture to Twitter to celebrate and the post ended up resonating with way more people than she anticipated. "I didn't expect that anyone outside of my family and friends would actually like it or tweet it," she said. But people appreciated her tenacity at her age, her commitment to justice and reform, and her celebration of herself despite what the world would normally expect of a woman, especially a woman of color.

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Thousands of replies and retweets later, she reflected on the messages of support. “I consider myself brave for going back to law school at 38 and not really going back with a plan of what I would do once I got out of law school. A lot of times people, especially women and Black women, are not celebrated while we're doing things. We're celebrated maybe when we've made it and are winning big cases as an attorney or doing other things like getting married or having kids. “And a lot of times things like [graduating law school] aren't just seen as a win for someone who is 41 years old. This gave me a sense that people were standing right next to me as I was getting really great news and times when I was maybe not feeling as sure of myself.”

Goodwin is quick to point out that her post doesn’t mean she’s never planning on marriage or kids. Rather, she needn’t wait for such life moments to celebrate herself and her accomplishments. “I want everything, but just because I'm 41 and haven't accomplished some of those things doesn't mean that my life is a failure," she said. "I think everyone's life should be validated and celebrated. I hope that people take away that there's no one way to live the life you have and life should be lived and celebrated literally every single day.”

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