Diana Szochet: Dreaming, Running, Winning
I’m running for Civil Court Judge in the 6th Judicial District of Brooklyn, New York. It’s a surprise, really.
A lifelong resident of Brooklyn, I’m the daughter of Latin American immigrants. Despite their lack of formal education – my father never finished high school – my parents ensured that I finished high school and went to college. But my destiny was to be a teacher, or a nurse, careers my father believed would leave me more time to be the wife and mother I would become. Being a lawyer was not in the cards; much less running for judge. Yet I’ve been a lawyer for almost 30 years now, with a wonderful husband, and two wonderful children. Perhaps it’s because I’ve spent my entire career in Public Service that I’ve been able to balance the demands of work and home. Having “normal” work hours (i.e., 9 to 5 or 8 to 4) I was always with my kids at dinnertime when they were younger. And I was always there for emergencies – a dislocated elbow; a fractured finger or collar bone; a cut above the eye.
Now I’m running for Judge. No one said it was going to be easy. Although people told me they were confident I could win, they also said I would have to fight for what I wanted. But isn’t that the way my life has always been? So I decided to become a candidate.
As the child of Latino immigrants, becoming a Judge is, for me, the incarnation of the American Dream. However, running for judicial office also has been some of the hardest work I ever have done in my life. Conducting a campaign, while working full-time in the Court system, and meeting the needs of my family, is a fascinating study in time management. The campaign itself is a full-time job. But, with the support of my family, I think I’m up to the challenge.
Right after finishing law school, when I began to imagine what I could accomplish, these logistical issues didn’t occur to me. I wasn’t married. I didn’t have children. Although I pictured myself sitting on the bench one day, I never realized there would be a rigorous campaign trail to get there.
Over the past few months, I’ve come face-to-face with the realization that achieving my loftiest goals requires a higher degree of determination than I ever expected. As I’ve climbed the ladder of success in in my career, I’ve come to points – as my parents predicted – when I’ve had to reconcile my career goals with my family life. I suppose that’s why we don’t have more female politicians – particularly Latinas – because the idea of having two full-time jobs, along with a family, seems daunting.
I’m not saying that everyone should run for office, or even get more involved in politics, because, honestly, it’s not a walk in the park. But I would love to see more women – especially Latinas – stepping up and giving it a shot. Personally, I’ve discovered that just being a candidate is empowering; I can’t wait to see how it feels when I win!