I hear I'm going to ruin my life.
I hear it about other girls, too. I hear it as a warning — from my parents, from my teachers, from TV Dads having heart-to-hearts with their TV daughters.
"You just have so much potential. Don't allow yourself to get pregnant and ruin your entire future."
I hear it in whispers, in punchlines. Some nights — after I settle down from a hectic day of classes, doctor's appointments, working, studying — I even hear it from my own brain.
I see it, too. I see it on PSA billboards, and in reality TV shows, Internet comment sections, snarky Facebook rants. I see it in your raised eyebrows and uncomfortable reactions. Why does "congratulations" feel so inappropriate to say?
News spreads fast; people are wondering if I'm going to "keep it."
I don't feel ready. Aren't I supposed to feel ready? Wouldn't a "good mom" be ready?
It's funny, but I don't feel like a statistic — you know? I feel like an individual person with a deep capacity to love and nurture and grow. But they tell me I'm too young to know any better — that every young person thinks they know it all. They tell me it should be illegal for anyone under 30 to get married, and that I'll regret having a baby too soon.
Maybe they're right. Maybe they know something I don't. Maybe this has been doomed from the start.
Maybe I can't do this.
I can't do this.
You can do this.
The fact that you worry if you'll be a good mom — the fact that you're reading this right now, concerned about your future and your child's life — suggests that you'll be just fine.
The fact that you care puts you miles ahead of some parents.
They're right about one thing, though: You are young. And because of your lack of life experience, perhaps you haven't had an opportunity to get rattled off the society-conditioned track you've been traveling for two decades. It's a comfortable ride — guided by a list of "shoulds" and fear-based warnings, and by sensible adults who hand out blueprints for life (Summary: Go to college, find a safe job, meet "the one," and live happily ever after). According to this blueprint, you must get your partying and "me decade" out of the way. You should "find yourself" before settling down. You should get all of your goals and accomplishments done before strapping yourself down with kids.
Maybe you don't know that your goals and priorities will shift with time — and having a child just might be the motivator you never knew you needed. Maybe you don't realize that it's possible to "find yourself" in unexpected life twists, scary changes, difficult moments.
Maybe you don't know that the blueprint is imaginary, and that all of these boxes we draw around people — identities, stereotypes, assumptions — are made of bullshit. Like, actual bullshit. Who knew!
And when people project their own fears and deep-set cultural beliefs onto you, it's not personal. It's not about you; it can't be. Because no one can possibly know how your life will unfold, and how motherhood will change you. They can't know what lessons you'll learn, how much self-awareness you'll harness, how a shift in perspective and lifestyle will affect you. Heck, I can't tell you these things, either.
Sure, you might have difficult moments — seasons, even — but that doesn't mean your life is doomed for misery and regret. You could be consumed by "what-ifs" and believe the negative self-talk, if you allow it. And maybe you do have unique obstacles and challenges that older parents don't have — but every life path has those. Highs and lows, perks and drawbacks.
There are no dead ends. This is not your dead end.
You have more control over your life than they'll have you believe.
Trust your instincts. Tune out the unproductive distractions.
You can do this.
The only way you'll ruin your life is if you believe that it's already ruined.