Married as a teen, this woman learned how to not give up on her dreams despite getting pregnant and dropping out of high school.
Twenty-two years ago, I was 17 and pregnant.
I had just informed my boss (a Chinese pediatrician) that I would be resigning from my file clerk position to become a homemaker. He asked me, “Are you still going to school?” I was embarrassed and ashamed but admitted to him, “No, I dropped out of high school last year after I got married.”
Like any good father figure would do, he gave me a good kick in the shin about taking my education seriously. From that day on, I knew I would have to find a way to get back into the system even if it was through unconventional means.
The truth is, I wasn’t ready to call it quits after ten years of being a B+ student with less than two years left of high school.
THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE
I found an alternative high school program for pregnant teens. There was a long wait list since Milwaukee only had one of these programs to serve the entire metropolitan area. But, I didn’t give up. I eventually made it into the program and stuck it out as long as I could.
To my surprise, the program ended up being more dangerous than the public high school I had dropped out of. There was a butter knife altercation in the cafeteria between two girls who found out they shared the same baby daddy (You can’t make this sh*t up!), and I was inches away from being stabbed.
Fortunately, I found my saving grace when a spot opened up at a new alternative program for at-risk high school juniors and seniors. The program was designed for students who could attend school while working a job—a place for self-disciplined and self-motivated individuals whose circumstances were beyond the norm. I nailed the interview, and they expedited my place on the waiting list.
Within 1-1/2 years, I graduated second-in-class and received my high school diploma. Within two years, I was enrolled in the local university and awarded a full scholarship for academic achievement after submitting a winning essay on not giving up in spite of your non-traditional circumstances.
Over a decade later, I received an MBA with honors and moved up the ranks from filing medical records to managing a $1.5 million territory of Fortune 500 companies. Despite defying the odds and living what some might deem the American dream, I was ready to call it quits again.
Up until that point, I kept achieving things to afford buying more things. I found myself married to a job that sucked the life out of me, and nothing money could buy would fill the void inside me. I realized at that moment I had been chasing someone else’s dream. I quit my corporate sales job shortly after that revelation.
QUITTING IS NOT THE SAME AS GIVING UP
If there was one thing I learned from being a pregnant teen dropout, it’s that your current circumstances do not define who you are or what you are capable of.
I quit the traditional high school environment, but I never gave up on educating myself or going on to receive advanced degrees.
I quit the corporate sales atmosphere, but I never gave up on building a purpose-driven business or making a positive impact in the world.
When you say no to the things that do not serve your mission, you are saying yes to the things that align with your goals. Quitting a thing that keeps you out of integrity is not the same as giving up.
THE ONLY PERSON TO COMPARE YOURSELF TO
When things get difficult, it’s easy to compare ourselves to the superstar who’s killin’ it out there instead of turning inward to acknowledge how far we’ve come.
It’s dangerous to compare ourselves to others. We diminish our experiences. We discount our value. We focus on what we are not.
His overnight success may have taken 20 years for him to get here. Her seven-figure business may have been funded by a six-figure investment. These superstars, very likely, have failed way more times than the general public knows. But none of that matters.
What’s most important here, they are not you. The only person to compare yourself to is you.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane…
What were you doing 5, 10, 15, or 20 years ago? How have you improved since then? What kind of impact did those changes make in your life? In the lives of people you’ve touched?
- Appreciate yourself for coming this far.
- Celebrate the gifts and talents you have to offer.
- Focus on how your experiences have shaped who you’ve become today.
- Show up every day and do the best you can.
“Remember, you only have to succeed the last time.” – Brian Tracy
Photo: Flickr/ David