I was not a great student in High School. I excelled in English and History but plummeted if any numbers became involved; Chemistry was pure torture for me. I can look back and honestly say I never pushed myself very much, I did well at what came easy and somewhat half-assed everything else. I was an average white American female coasting through the middle class, and I didn’t have a ton of direction at 16, you know, like most teenagers. I won’t get into all the horny details (pun intended, heh) of getting pregnant, but suffice to say, I had a lot to think about.
I had always wanted to go to college but I’d never given much thought as to where, or how, or why. My Senior year I went from a pretty consistent 2.5 GPA over the previous three years, to a 4.0, graduating on time and everything. I realized that if I was really going to keep my daughter and try to raise her, I was going to have to get my shit together, fast.
My daughter was my driving force in college. When I wanted to give up, I thought of her, and the example I was setting for her. I thought of the life I wanted to create for us of all the things I truly wanted for myself. Everyone, relatives, friends, the internet, told me I was doomed for failure and inadequacy, that, essentially, my life was over and I would never have what I wanted. I have never taken people telling me I can’t do something well and I set out to prove everyone wrong.
I went to a community college, received a scholarship to a university during my first year, and graduated with a bachelors in history and the intention of becoming a museum curator. All while raising a kid and persisting through a shit marriage (a story for another time).
Having a child didn’t ruin my life, it gave mine meaning and direction.
I didn’t really have wild crazy college years, and people are right, I probably missed out on some fun stuff. But, while my classmates were getting drunk, high, or whatever else (which is fine, if that’s what you want out of the experience), I was learning to manage my finances, juggle my priorities and really figure out what I wanted to do with my life. As such, I graduated early and with zero debt (I’m not trying to brag here people, just trying to illustrate a point). I made just as many lasting and meaningful friendships as anyone else, and every step of the journey was paved with caring for an infant/toddler. She was my little trooper and I usually felt that it was she and I against the world. It was hard, I grant you, but not impossible and I wasn’t the only one to do it, either.
The level of responsibility I inherited from having a child truly and honestly set me up for getting every job I have ever gotten. My employers knew, as a young, single mother who had graduated college, that I was dedicated and hardworking, and no, this isn’t an assumption, I was told this on three different occasions by three different supervisors. They knew I would take my job seriously and work hard because I had another life on the line. They understood that, in many ways, I’d had to work twice as hard as everyone else to achieve what I had. Granted, my goals are different from many other peoples and don’t necessarily meet everyone’s standards for ‘success’. I wanted to work in museums or in technical writing (which is where I am right now) and someday, write books. But they were (and still are) my dreams and ones I was, and still am, passionate about.
I currently hold a great job with the government and, while the hours are often taxing, and I wish I had more time with my daughter, my life is not over nor do I feel in anyway encumbered by my child. I enjoy both aspects of my life immensely and find satisfaction in either role, both of which have their fair share of challenges.
Being a young mother who went to school and then began to develop a career has been a trial, that is true, but as I watch my friends struggle through the stress of their jobs and relationships, I’ve realized that I have found a way to cope. I have been through several versions of hell, of crippling stress and dark moments that I thought I would never overcome, and it has taught me the value of my experiences and how to handle and even thrive off stress. I know what is on the line, and it isn’t just my happiness. The life of another human being can be a real motivator and grounder.
I’m the girl my friends come to with their concerns, when they need advice, when they need a calm and steady hand. I know how to solve problems and how to keep it together when everything is on the line.
I have also learned to ignore the opinions and judgments of other’s who are outside the people I actually, legitimately care about (an important lesson for anyone). I very much enjoy reading all the feedback on the articles I have already written here, as well as on other sites, and have appreciated the support I have received. As well as respected the differences of opinions, several gave me some interesting food for thought. But, the judgments of others on a life they have never led are of no interest to me and they shouldn’t be to anyone else in any situation.
I am not a perfect person, by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve screwed up, I’ve been low (who hasn’t?) and I have my regrets, but having my daughter isn’t one of them. My success and my happiness is what I make it and is subject to my definition and no one else’s.
I’m twenty five, my life isn’t over, nowhere near. I feel for people who put an age limit on their accomplishments or their dreams; you don’t have to achieve everything you want in your twenties to make it real or meaningful. You have forty more plus years to change, to develop, to realize; so why should I feel ashamed or lessened because some things I want to do might have to wait a few years? I mean, I’ll be thirty five when my daughter is eighteen, hardly a decrepit old lady. I read these articles about my fellow ‘20 somethings’ and it always feels as though they think if they don’t figure shit out now and ‘accomplish something exceptional (whatever that is)’ then they never will. Or, for instance, that having a kid will just crush everything they’ve ever wanted.
Having a kid can only ruin your dreams if you let it, people, just like anything else in life. You can allow the opinions of others to lessen you, to unmake and demean you, or you can take them as a challenge.