Writing along with my students in the Self-Discovery Writing mentorship,
Prompt #231 showed up in my email inbox recently. And like most things, proved to be a timely teacher at looking inward toward my darkest fears.
I married at age sixteen, just a few months’ shy of my seventeenth birthday. Announcing my pregnancy and desire to marry to my parents, was one of the most difficult and painful experiences of my life. Being a naïve teenager who fell head over heels for my 19-year-old boyfriend, I trusted we could have this baby and together live happily ever after. In my own little bubble of youth and stupidity, I never considered how much my actions would devastate and hurt my parents. Nor did I realize how these emotional decisions - made at sixteen years old, would forever alter my future.
Fast forward 38 years to the present day. I’ve been fighting to prove that romantic version of my story for many years. The other version is where people said, “You won’t be able to realize your dreams if you marry and have a baby at this immature age.” “You’ll end up on welfare.” “How will you finish school, take care of the baby and support yourselves financially?” “It will be very difficult if not impossible.”
Thankfully, my parents never uttered those discouraging words. Even though they were disappointed and broken-hearted, somehow they believed in me and my will to succeed. However, those phrases spoken by others have continued to haunt me. In the back of my mind, hidden deep in a dark crevice of self-doubt, there’s been a small consideration that perhaps they were right. What if I would be a complete failure? Truth is, my life was forever changed and life has been quite rocky at times. But there have been many successes along with the disappointments.
Today I have five amazing grown children and as of this month, eight grandchildren! Every single one of them is a gift and brings joy and purpose to my life. Is life perfect? Absolutely not! Reading this prompt about ‘our stories different versions’ brings me face to face with voices of the past and stories I’ve believed to be true. Others I’ve contrived or changed in my memory to suit my purposes. The thing is, each version of my story holds some aspect of truth. I get to decide how the story turns out in the end. It’s not over yet. The scary part is facing my fears. The fear that I could fail and fall flat on my face. Giving those who believed I would fail some type of satisfaction. They could then point and say, “See, we were right, she should’ve listened to us and given the baby up for adoption. Her life would have been so different.”
I’ve definitely experienced major failures along the way where the naysayers have given themselves a pat on the back about being accurate predictors of my future. I also experienced life changing detours which offered hope, a belief in myself and in some areas, great success.
Each time I fall, I’m driven to get back up and prove them and their version of my story wrong. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These folks were not intentionally trying to hurt me with their words. Rather influence me to make a different decision. Statistically the odds were against me.
Perhaps it’s time for me to let my wounds heal and embrace the fact that both versions of my story include pieces of truth. The marriage didn’t last and there have been many financial hurdles. Against all odds, I was able to love, provide for and raise my five children to be healthy, responsible adults. It wasn’t a solo job. I was fortunate to have friends and mentors who believed in me, along with loyalty and support from certain family members.
After pulling that story out from the shadows and shining light on it, it doesn’t seem so scary after all. Actually, the real-life story is constantly changing. I am the one with the changing power. I realize not everything is within my control. No doubt there are difficult days ahead. Knowing I’ve handled hardships in the past gives me faith that I can handle them again – and again if necessary. At times, I feel weary of it all and want to quit. Then I remind myself that’s simply just one version of my story. I’m not fully committed to that one. I see the incredible people who’ve believed in and supported me during my lifetime. Evidence of their belief in my success story too.
Find out more about Self-Discovery Writing here: Self-Discovery Writing