There are support groups for restoring your bad credit, divorcees, the ex prostitute, the junkie and the alcoholic. If you where recently released from prison for drug trafficking, armed robbery, even murder; I’m sure by now you know there’s a support group out there for you too. There is a support group for almost anything under the sun to help a woman transition back to society as an upstanding, rehabilitated, keep your head up citizen; except for women like myself. Single women who gave birth as teens and raised their child(ren) successfully to adulthood, who are now transitioning back into society. Similar to the “Empty Nester” but different
That young girl who became a teen mother and dropped out of high school. The one who worked diligently to get off welfare, obtain her GED and got a decent job to care for herself and child(ren). Not so much as the one who had a strong support system and went on to get her college degree and is now an entrepreneur or; a partner in a law firm because that’s another story by itself. I’m talking about the young girl who didn’t have a support system. The one who made it work with what little she had. The one who survived a bad relationship; who’s friends and family became judge and jury convicting her to “life in prison” with no parole, all because she took responsibility and chose to give birth and raise her child the best way she knew how.
Noo… not the one that started singing, modeling, and dancing alongside celebrities; I’m talking about the one that everybody forgot about. The girl who is a grown woman now and who’s children are also grown. I’m talking about Me!
I show up at family reunions and get stares. Stares that scream, “I BE GAWD DAMN!” I turned out so much different than they had imagined. Over the years I’ve watched co-workers, school teachers and various denominational church folk just to name a few, all who do this crazy looking thing with their eyes and fingers like a child in grade school learning arithmetic. In this case trying to calculate my age, minus the age of my oldest child. I always smirk before I finally blurt out, “Sixteen, I was sixteen!”
I’m young but my life experiences has caused me to feel far more older than my years. I’m in my early 40’s. Today I hear women my age talk about buying their first home and sending a child off to middle school. Some talk about having panic attacks for merely thinking about what a college tuition will be by the time their child who just entered high school goes off to college, in four years.
Let’s see. I gave birth to my first child at age sixteen. Dropped out of high school. I moved out on my own at 18. Got my GED at 22. Started college at 23 dropped out a few years after. Bought my first car with no payments at 27, bought my house at 29. Drove a new Ford Explorer off the car lot at age 30. Graduated my first child from high school at 34. Became a grandmother at 36. I graduated my youngest from high school at age 40 and next year I’ll be 44 when my youngest becomes a college graduate.
I currently work in the field of Cancer Research alongside Master degree toting colleagues. We do the same job, I am their equal. I lack a college degree but I do possess a Master’s degree in Life. Honestly, the more I think about it I have a Doctorates degree in Life. I have college credit hours, lots of them but Life happened.
I’ve spent a minimum of two years each working/studying in the following fields to achieve such high distinction and as of this year 2018 the bulk of my experience is 27 years as a mother. Here are the other prerequisites I’ve obtained over the years:
- Caregiver for the Mentally/Physically disabled
- Laborer in a Slaughterhouse
- Mental Health Technician on a Psychiatric Unit
- Medical Bill Collector
- Emergency Room Liaison within a Trauma Center
- Administrative Associate of Neurological Surgery
- Program Coordinator – Cancer Research
I’ve attempted a couple of times to go back to college and turn, I believe my 80 something credit hours into a 120+ hour degree giving my story a fairytale ending. I use to daydream about becoming something so farfetched. My story would read: From Teen mom and high school dropout to… National Press Secretary of the United States. Believe me I know these Legends are out there, we walk amongst you everyday in so many ways.
Today I’m more focused on myself than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m on a mission to do what makes me happy by writing and traveling to as many places as my income will take me. I’m doing it day by day with the only support system I’ve ever known and that’s my faith and belief in a higher power. I think I will forever have my moments of where I breakdown and cry; but the moment I start to blog or surf the internet jotting down places I’d like to travel and then actually start doing some of those things, I start to feel better.
Remember the movie Shawshank Redemption, what a classic! I’ve seen this movie countless of times and as if it each time was the first, I always find myself crying. I cry because of a scene that spans less than five minutes; but delivers a kickass punch to a persons soul. Well at least for me it did. It’s the “Brooks scene” as I will call it. Brooks release from prison. I cried years before I even knew why I was crying. I actually didn’t realize why I was crying until its 20th year anniversary (2014) a year before my youngest graduated from high school. When I started to have my own fear of being released back in to society.
The pivotal moment in the “Brooks scene” is not his suicide or his inability to fit in with society. For me the pivotal moment was when the gates opened and the bar he stepped over before the prison gates closed behind him. Everything on the backside of that bar was his whole life. He learned the ins and outs of prison life, who to befriend, who to avoid and what it took to survive. Stepping over that bar allowed him freedom to access everything he knew existed but now had to face. I liken it to my own experience, a new chapter in my book of Life after Teen parenting.
Having children at such a young age for me was like working in a factory and punching a time clock, working 12-14 hour shifts seven days a week. I grab lunch and a sip of water whenever I can, while overhearing the same rumors about the company closing from the same people year after year. Then at the end of my shift on a Wednesday evening I’m called into the office. There I’m told that the company is downsizing and that my position has been eliminated.
Can I finish out the work week to at least have a full paycheck, I would cry while asking. No, the elimination is effective immediately they would tell me. I’d continue…but I have perfect attendance, I’m always willing to fill in, my work is good! By that time security is called to escort me out with them saying, “Ms. Bell it’s nothing personal, this is something that had to be done.
I wasn’t ready! Looking back there where ways I could have prepared myself to soften the blow of my children leaving home; but time got the best of me. The good thing is I still have my health, which means – I CAN! I could join a group for empty nesters; but can they really relate to my struggle, I don’t think so. Some may say that I’ve always had my freedom and that it’s my fought that I’m out of touch with society because I put myself under self imposed sanctions, choosing to live a sheltered life with my children. That’s true but now what, I’m still here. I CAN!
Okay I parented too hard, too tough. I was too wrapped up in my children; okay I get it but I refuse to believe that I’m alone. In the late eighties and early 90’s teen pregnancy across the United States was at its highest it had been in decades. These mothers our my age now give and take a few years they’re still here too. I can’t be alone. We are Legends.
My name is Janice. I am a Teen Parent survivor living in Louisville, Kentucky. I am writing from my apartment. I will be blogging multiple times every week. If you are out there, if anyone like me is out there, I can provide friendship. I can provide support. We can embrace this “New Chapter.” If there’s anybody out there, anybody. Please, you are not alone. We are Legends!