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Live your life…and forget your age!

Photo: Cassius Rochford

By Jacqueline Adams, Attorney-At-Law

Starting a new career at the age of 70 raised a few eyebrows. I suppose that sort of behaviour violates the norm for what is expected from retirees. However, my philosophy of life is that one should never miss an opportunity to explore one’s talents and skills in service to others.

I was born to Charles and Barbara Felice at Quarry Street, Port of Spain. The first three years of my life were spent there, then my family moved to Barataria. I am the second of eight children.

My parents were teachers. Mom gave up her career to stay at home and nurture us; a decision that I can safely say had a positive impact on our upbringing. The emphasis on school and learning was of paramount importance at our home, sometimes intimidating to my siblings and me, but we successfully weathered the storm.

At a very young age, I knew that I would follow in my parents’ career path. I obtained my Teachers Diploma at the Mausica Teachers’ Training College, Certificate in Guidance and Counselling at the University of the West Indies, and BSc. Educational Services at Andrews University, Michigan.

My dream of becoming a teacher was realised one month after graduating from St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain at the age of 17.

I began my first career at the Tunapuna Girls’ RC. This was the first of six schools where I was privileged to work. I sincerely thank the Catholic Board of Education for its support over a career that lasted 42 years and 11 months.

I also taught at St Joseph Girls’ RC, Santa Cruz RC, Nelson Street Girls’ RC, and Chaguanas RC schools before I was appointed Vice Principal and subsequently Principal of Malabar RC.

I retired from the teaching service in 2010 as a School Supervisor and decided to embark on a new journey towards becoming an Attorney-at-Law.

That seed was planted in my mind two years before retirement when I had to attend a court matter. Her Worship, Nalini Singh, was the Magistrate. I observed and admired her mannerism, her decorum, and the way she conducted the matters before her.

I said to myself, “Jacqui, here is someone you can emulate.” I attended the Academy of Tertiary Studies at Curepe and at the age of 63, I attained the (Bachelor of Laws) LLB with Hons from the University of London.

As a very mature student among the much younger ones, I had to pretend that I didn’t see the looks or hear the comments such as, “What is she doing here? Why doesn’t she stay home and mind her grand-children!”

I felt compelled to show the marks I gained in assignments to be accepted in my study group. After three years of study, I had an LLB. Then it was time to sit the entry exam to gain a place at the Hugh Wooding Law School. After three attempts, success eluded me, and I decided to give up. Life is a story of beginnings and endings.

It was now 2019…six years after obtaining the LLB. I had a nagging feeling within my spirit that there was something God wanted me to do. I felt that I should be giving inspirational talks, but in my doubt, I kept asking God for guidance.

One day in answer to that prayer, a friend, Elizabeth, called me to tell me that she was at the Staffordshire University in England, reading for the Legal Practicing Certificate (LPC). I knew then that I had to recharge and go for it. I was 69 years old when accompanied by my daughter Vonetta, who is an Attorney-at-Law, I entered the Staffordshire University, in England.

It was at this time that it came home to me that nothing worth having is gained easily. I made up my mind to imagine my best self and show up as her.

Christmas, birthday celebrations, family gatherings were virtually non-existent. My time had to be devoted to my books. Most days, I studied for ten hours but at the end of it, I felt that I had retained one hour’s work, but it never entered my mind to give up.

The exams came fast and furious. Between tears, prayers, and assistance from two friends, Abigail and Esther, I gained the LPC with Commendation in August 2020. This was followed by six months’ internship at the Equity Law Chambers of Alfred Pierre. I remain eternally grateful to him and to all who assisted me along this journey.

July 23, 2021 was a red-letter day for me. It was the day of my Bar Call, the day that I was admitted to practice as an attorney-at-law of the Supreme Court of Judicature of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

As I donned my gown at the swearing-in ceremony, joy, gratitude, pride, and a sense of achievement filled my heart. I felt, according to Maya Angelou, like the hope of the slave.

After a sumptuous luncheon at my daughter Michelle’s home at St Augustine, it was time for photos on the steps of the Hall of Justice. Little did I know that various media houses were on hand to interview me.

Why? I hadn’t done anything different from my classmates. I came to realise that the difference is that I was 70 years of age. Humility replaced my excitement at the realisation of the great things one touch of God’s prompting can do for His children. I was to be an inspiration by being an attorney-at-law.

That was the nagging feeling I had many years ago where I felt I had to do inspirational speeches. God needed me to fulfil His purpose for my life. He used me to bring an understanding to His people that they are never too old to reach for their dreams and that they are never too old to become better versions of themselves.

At present, I work with my daughter specialising in family law and industrial relations. It is a continuous learning experience, one of which I feel privileged to be a part.

I am referred to as ‘Senior’, as I am the older Adams. This brings a smile to my face. I look forward daily to being a part of her practice and to learning as much as I can during the time I have on this earth. Family Law is my favourite.

For those who are toying with an idea or a dream, the first step is the hardest. But once you make that first step, you will be on your way towards your goals. There will be days when you’ll feel like giving up, but don’t. The day will come when you look back and say, ‘I’m glad I didn’t give up.’

For the retirees, retirement is a new beginning, a new life. Live it! Be determined that although you are retired, your brain must not go into retirement. Just live your life and forget your age. Blessings.