“Get through your fear to see through the beauty on the other side.”- The Good Dinosaur
I went to my women’s group last night, and the woman speaking said, “suffering teaches persistence.” One of the lessons I learned through my dad’s addiction was persistence. I have always been an overachiever and felt like I had something to prove. When I got into my teenage years, I hung out with the wrong crowd and headed toward a path that would make all of my dreams and goals much harder to accomplish. As a naïve teenager, I was skipping school to party, spending way too much time with a boyfriend who was bad news, and making choices that would forever change my life. I just didn’t know or care at the time. No surprise that I ended up seventeen and pregnant. I was a disappointment to my family and myself. My parents were ashamed of me, and once the reality set in, I was ashamed too. I would not be going to college to be a news anchor; I was not moving to a big city to have a career in broadcasting. I was only trying to prove to everyone that I was not a failure.
Immediately I told myself that I was not going to be the typical teen mom who dumps my kid with my parents so I could still have my youth. The emotional suffering of being a teen mom taught me to be persistent. I was not going to let this decision to have a baby at a young age define me. But, I had to make a lot of sacrifices. I was smart enough to know that I needed an education, so I spent the next four years after my daughter was born busting my ass to get a degree. I decided to go to school to be an English teacher because I always loved reading and writing and a teacher seemed like a stable and honorable career for a mother. I had never dreamed of being a teacher, but here I am still teaching middle school over a decade later.
Looking back, I realize that I missed out on the ‘typical’ college experience. I never went to a party, never lived on campus, never went to breakfast club or tailgated at the football games. My life consisted of 21 credit hours per semester, and I made money by cleaning houses on my days off from class. The rest of the time, I was focused on being the best mom that I knew how to be to my daughter. While my peers were finding themselves, I was going to ‘baby and me’ swim classes and pushing a stroller around the park. I missed out on a lot of my young adult life, which prevented most opportunities for self-discovery.
This isn’t intended to be a pity party, but a lesson in persistence. Although, I suffered in a lot of ways as a young adult, I persevered. I was the first person in my family to graduate college, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. There were times where it was incredibly challenging to see people my age living the life that I had imagined for myself, but I found some pride in creating a life for myself and my daughter. My daughter is now almost sixteen years old, and I am so proud of the mom I became and the young woman she is becoming. My hope is that she will learn from my mistakes so that she can live the life she has imagined.
Part 2-Suffering Teaches Persistence
Flash forward five years, and I am a teacher with a home, a car, and feel like I have proven my self worth. Then my dad got sick, and everything changed. He became addicted to prescription drugs and our family began to fall apart. His career quickly declined with the economy, his credibility was tanking, and my parent’s marriage was falling apart. Someone in the family is always the strong one, and I somehow took on that role. Although there was much suffering over the seven years of my dad’s addiction, and all of my efforts to save him failed, I never gave up.
As a young mom trying to figure life out, I once again found myself having to focus on someone else. I spent hours researching rehab facilities, talking and pleading with my dad, discussing solutions with nurses, doctors, and mental health professionals. I was trying to figure out how to get my dad the help he needed on a zero-dollar budget. I went to Al-Anon meetings, which left me utterly frustrated. I took him to Narcotics meetings. I moved him into my home. I took him to various rehab facilities. I was fighting for my dad until he took his last breath.
This tragic experience has shaped a major part of who I am. I may not have fixed my dad, but I know how important it is to be the person who does not give up. He needed me, and I was there.
I don’t give up when it comes to my students. I want them to be successful. I don’t give up on my kids when they test my patience. They need to know that my love is unconditional and that I will always be there. I don’t give up on my marriage when we hit rough patches. My husband needs to know how much he means to me. I just don’t give up. And although I’ve faced more challenges in my life than I would ever wish for anyone, my life is one that I can be proud of because I am persistent. So whatever your are struggling with, know that your struggles will lead you to greater things.
“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”– Maya Angelou