I will never forget the heavy fearful emotions that flooded my body when the pregnancy was confirmed. I’d gone alone to see a doctor and request the test. Deep inside I already knew it was true even though I had hoped it wasn’t.
Yes, I was pregnant at 16, while in my junior year of high school.
What was going to happen to me? What would my parents do? What would my friends say? How would my life be forever changed because of this?
Months earlier I’d dreamed about going off to college the next year, moving away from home and traveling the world. Marriage and parenthood were supposed to be far off into the future.
Even though my boyfriend and I were crazy in love and talked of getting married someday - marriage in my junior year of high school was not ideal.
We found ourselves in a situation that could not be undone, we had to deal with it and move ahead somehow. We had several choices but could not imagine not having this baby.
We needed to believe we could make it work, especially when people said it was doomed to fail. Together, we took the giant leap into the unknown, determined to do our best despite the odds being against us.
Life is a compilation of choices made during major turning points. The decisions we make at these junctures will primarily determine how our lives unfold. There is no perfect painless path, even if we try to follow an ideal plan.
It’s been over 41 years since that decision to marry at age sixteen. We did the best we knew to make it work. Even though we haven’t been ‘together’ for 26 years now, we will always be connected because of the love we share for our children and grandchildren.
My surroundings have changed often in these four decades but inside - I’m still me. Older and somewhat wiser from experience yet always enthusiastically focused in the pursuit of living and learning. Life usually doesn’t go as anticipated but I continue to take risks that contribute to many of my unpredictable circumstances.
The unexpected offers me opportunities to choose who I will be and what I will create in each new moment. I take chances, shift direction and deeply believe things will work out. And they mostly do. Even when it’s surprisingly different than expected, I’m grateful for the unfolding journey. It hasn’t always been easy or without painful seasons but there have been exquisite highs too. I hope to focus more on the highs than the lows.
While we are young we anticipate some kind of reward in a future destination. Perhaps we once believed that love means, ‘happily ever after’ or a college degree equals ‘financial security’ and over time we begin to understand there are no guarantees. For me, the main message is that the sooner I learn to stop trying to control the outcome, the easier it will be to enjoy where and who I am. The outcome is the same for all of us – we don’t get out of here alive.
Accepting the idea that there is little certainty in life, I’ve begun to see great value in enjoying the small and simple things…
- Painting a scenic nature landscape on canvas.
- Watching a mother deer with her young fawn in the forest.
- Marveling at the dark midnight sky lit up by countless brilliant stars.
- Walking barefoot along a favorite Oregon beach on a warm, sunny day.
- The fresh scent of pine accentuated by light rain on a morning walk through the trees.
- Picking ripe homegrown vegetables in my own backyard.
- The sound of rushing water moving downstream as the high mountain snows melt in early summer.
- Free contagious smiles and belly laughter.
- Satisfying creative projects.
- Giving myself a fresh bouquet of flowers, just because.
I accept that my days are numbered. However, I do not know the exact number nor do I want to. My plan is to live and celebrate each day as it comes. And when my number’s up, I hope there are very few regrets of missed opportunities and countless memories of enjoying what brought me the most joy. I wish the same for you. Find your true north – the place that feels most like you and your path. Stick with that, no matter what anyone else believes about your choices. In the end, you are the only one who lives your life!