Continuing my story forces me to discuss a topic that I have kept close to my heart, both out of fear of what others would think of me, as well as shame and regret. At the same time, I’ve always felt a calling to tell my story for others who find themselves in the same circumstance. Just a way to let them know that they are not alone and that the situation may not be as dire as it seems.
The past months have led me to reconsider and in some ways, let go of some of my old negative ways of thinking. It occurred to me that I’d long ago come to terms with the shame and regret, and for reasons that I will discuss later, they no longer exist. Moreover, I’ve almost outgrown any fear of what others may think of me. The people who know and love me will be there as always and anyone who isn’t, they shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Anyway, it is time. Time to let go. With this letting go, it is my hope that someone, somewhere out there will read it and from it, understand that with hard work and determination, a seemingly dire event, can have positive results. No matter how huge the mistake may seem, we have control over the direction our lives take.
By the time that I graduated high school, I had three scholarships in hand; the most generous at a college in Lafayette. Great, I thought, here’s my ticket to freedom. I’d been waiting to leave home since the day that I was born. I graduated high school and began what was supposed to be my final summer before college. Instead, it turned out to be the summer that I made a decision that changed the course of my entire life–I became pregnant at 17 1/2 years of age. I was the oldest; the one to set an example for my younger brother and sisters. I was terrified and my Mom, not one to express her feelings, was undoubtedly devastated.
Did you know that “[t]he United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world. The Center for Disease control says that one-third of girls get pregnant before the age of 20. Teenpregnancy.org, a site managed by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, states that there are “750,000 teen pregnancies annually. Eight in ten of these pregnancies are unintended and 81 percent are to unmarried teens.” http://www.livestrong.com/article/12504-teen-pregnancy-rates-usa/#ixzz1yGicMpjx I was one of those girls.
Thinking that I had no other choice, soon after, I was in an ill-advised, destined to fail, marriage. Since I was not even 18, my mother, who did not support the marriage, had to sign for the marriage license! After decades of self-inquiry, I’ve come to realize that my actions were borne of fear of leaving home and fear of the unknown. I was torn in half; I desperately wanted to leave home and to “be free,” but I had not been prepared for the outside world and my fear overtook my reason. As a result, I choose a different, and difficult road. The marriage did not bring me freedom; it merely introduced me to another form of dependency.
I was a very young mother, with 3 children by the age of 21. I always believed that some way and some how, I would graduate college. I refused to be one of those teenaged mothers that others looked upon as having ruined her life by getting pergnant. I tried attending college but with children, a job and a lack of significant support at home, it was difficult. Since we had no car, I remember spending countless hours on the bus lugging my happy, but chubby young son, from our tiny, postage-stamped sized apartment, to his baby-sitter, then to school and work, only to reverse the route at the end of any already long, exhausting day. I can remember one occasion where I had to take my son to class with me, where he was the center of attention. Finally, however, I could not manage it all and I had to forego my education. Between 1976 and 1981, I made 3 failed attempts to pursue my college degree but the stresses of caring for a family, working and going to school were too great and I was forced to stop each time.
Five years passed and by this time, I had wheedled my way into the oil and gas exploration business. First, I worked for Shell Oil Company and then Tomlinson Offshore. Even though I had no college degree, I was a assistant geophysicist, and later an assistant geologist. Unfortunately, the oil and gas bust came and hit New Orleans and I was laid off. There were no similar jobs to be had throughout the city. By this time, I’d grown up and my marriage was over. I had children to care for and I made a decision that I thought that I would never make–I moved to Texas, a place that I thought was, the land of cowboys and no trees. I was heartbroken to leave my home, but a part of me was looking forward to the unknown. To be continued. . .