I still remember the day the test confirmed I was pregnant. It’s been over thirty years now, but revisiting that time brings back the raw emotions of fear, overwhelm, and disbelief.
Disbelief was the loudest emotion all those years ago, as I held that white stick in my hand. I knew where babies came from, but in the moment when those purple lines came into focus, reality collided with my belief that “it will never happen to me.” I loved my boyfriend. This wasn’t some random act of sex. We said were going to get married. We discussed college, jobs, and our future dreams and desires, which included how many kids we would have. Still, I wasn’t planning on getting pregnant. It wasn’t time—yet.
I must hop forward to present-day time and tell you that right now and every single day since that initial shock wore off, I wanted that baby! I also wanted more for that tiny life than what a sixteen-year-old girl could give. But, call it being hard-headed or stubborn, naïve or romantically idealistic, or full of passion and perseverance, I was determined to find a way to keep my baby and most of my dreams, even though the odds were stacked against me.
One of the perks of being hard-headed, stubborn, naïve, romantically idealistic, and full of passion and perseverance is you don’t take no for an answer. You don’t give up on your dreams; you just keep taking the next blind and bold step.
Even when you keep stepping into difficulty and failure, you keep taking the next step.
ESPECIALLY when you keep stepping into difficulty and failure, you keep taking the next step.
I don’t know which I lost first— the boyfriend or the dreams. Actually, I do know. I just didn’t want to accept that, either. He helped me not accept it because he never officially said “we’re over” or “figure it out on your own.” Though that is what I did—figure out each and every single step on my own. I had no choice. In an ill-timed move, my boyfriend packed up all of his things and moved with his family, fifty miles away. It could have been 50,000 miles at that point, since I never heard from him again.
I called him to confirm I had taken a test and I really was pregnant. I had my friends call because I wanted him to love me— us—so badly I would have done anything. It all seems pathetic, now, but those were all part of the determined steps you take when you’re young, in love, and pregnant. Or maybe you also take them when you’re JUST young and in love and fool-hearted.
The loss of my dreams was a different story. A story that, if I’m being honest, hurt worse than the loss of the boyfriend. I think it had a lot to do with my idealistic view of the world. That view was a denial of what was actually about to happen to me, what was already happening to me. And that view was the reason my dreams were lost in a slow unraveling as my belly grew. I wanted to be a letter girl (which at the time of my high school career was like a cheerleader but much higher in status), but I needed a job more. I wanted to “hang-out” on Friday and Saturday nights, but I was a mom with responsibilities and, again, the job thing. I finally accepted I wasn’t going to marry the guy and live happily ever after. Hell, at some points I wondered if any guy would ever want to marry me at all. The final blow to a young girl’s dreams was the realization that attending NC State and getting that Interior Design Degree wasn’t going to happen.
By all statistical accounts, I wouldn’t make it to college at all. Most likely, I wouldn’t even finish high school. Because teenage mothers often don’t. But here I am, now, telling you that not only did I finish high school on time and as planned, and not only did I attend college and attain my undergraduate and graduate degrees, but I married a loving and caring man. I’m living my happily ever after. I’ll be celebrating 29 years with that man in the fall. I also watched that precious baby of mine earn his Mechanical Engineering degree, and purchase his first house, and most recently pay off his dream car. AND, I’ve had two other precious children along the way.
How did I beat the odds and do all that?
I had my parents and few amazing friends, but along with them I had grit. I might not have known it at the time, but that is exactly what it was—staying in the messiness of the journey, doing the work, overcoming barriers, and so many times getting knocked down and picking myself up and dusting myself off and doing it ALL OVER AGAIN. That is grit. Grit is one of the things I’ll be talking about more on this blog, along with sweet Grace.
But for now, what I really want you to take in is this: DON’T give up on your dreams. No matter what those dreams are. Just keep taking those blind and bold steps. And one day, maybe even 30 years later, you’ll look back and realize that those gritty steps that you took as you walked away from your own wreckage were the exact steps that brought you to the place you were hoping to be all along.
More to come …