My path has not been straight and narrow. Lord knows it has been far from it! It has been wide, often taking the longest, steepest routes possible. At times it has been covered with tears, and other times marked with laughter. The path has been one of solitude and one of companionship. It has seen new life and death, failure and accomplishment. This path has carried me through dark nights, but even brighter days. Sunny moments highlighting the beauty of life are the ones I have most enjoyed. However, it was the moments of sadness and struggle that brought new growth. That’s the way it happens.
Last night marked the end of a chapter for me. It was my final class, an ESL/ELL teaching internship. It was perfect. I handed in my paper and taught one last time, officially. A BS in Psychology from the University of Georgia is the tangible reward. Yet it is so much more than that.
Thousands of men and women graduate each year. It is a reasonable, sound goal. I find it to be a personal triumph not so much because of the academic challenges. Rather I feel success because I fought my way through the battles, internal and external, that raged at times. I attended three universities, and changed majors three times. From Methodist University to the University of Georgia, and English to Psychology, I flowed where I needed. I left a dreadful marriage, and entered a beautiful one. I gave birth to three amazing children. I developed deep friendships, and strengthened family bonds. Essentially, I grew up.
When I look back on the person I was when I set forth towards this goal, I shake my head. That girl was stubborn, foolish and determined. It was survival. A mother at the age of 16, thrown into a great big world full of adult choices, I made some piss poor decisions. Exhibit A: getting married at the age of 16. In what underdeveloped portion of my brain did I think that was even a remotely great idea? The better question is, would I change it?
Nope. Most certainly not. My current reality would have been altered. I am where I am because of those choices. The person I was needed to hit her head against the wall to get it right. I learn by doing. And sometimes I did really stupid things. I let a man define me. I let him artificially build me up and tear me down. I broke the collective hearts of my family. I was selfish. I was seeking independence, yet had managed to create a world for myself that would prevent it. Ironic.
What I did get right during that time was love. I was one hundred and ten percent in love with my two tiny daughters. Born less than a year apart, they were the lights of my life. And as their mother, I have no regrets. Each day I smothered them with kisses and loved them with all of my heart. They did not know that their mother was just a child herself, nor did they care. I truly believe that love is enough when it is pure. I wanted to love them like my mother loved me. So I loved them through the hard times and the happy times. From the moment they were born, that’s what I did. I made a choice to bring them into the world, and I knew I better make damn sure I gave them all I had.
A strong maternal bond is like no other. It is a mama bear protecting her cubs from intruders, mama goose with her goslings, and it was me with my girls. Defying the odds is no easy feat. I should have, according the statistics, fallen on my face. Yet the love I spoke of earlier has a hand in my story. My mom and dad, who I have come to truly respect as the individuals they are, have taught me what true love is. They continue to feed my soul with their support. I have always felt their collective encouragement. As an adult, I have come to understand that this is the greatest gift I have been given. No matter what happens in this world, I have two amazing people who will give me their honest opinion, perhaps shaking their heads, yet loving me anyway.
So while this started as my story, it ends as a tribute to my parents. Mom and Dad, thank you. Life has thrown us one hell of a wild ride, but here we are, holding on, with smiles. I carry your message of love in my heart, it makes me strong. I use to it nourish my own children. And while I am biased, I must say, it is working.