I’m not going to throw a lot of statistics at you, but I came across one that stopped me in my tracks: 2% of teen moms finish college by the time they are 30.
I had my first child at 15 and my second at 21. I came across this statistic just a few weeks ago. If I had known this during my college years, I probably would have felt like the odds were against me. But here’s the thing: I already knew it would be hard. I felt those odds. I lived those odds. I didn’t need confirmation that I was one of the few.
I already knew.
But knowing, now that I have my college degree; that I am one of the 2% lifts my spirits. Lifts me to do things that seem like I could never do that. Whatever THAT is.
Because being of the 2% means that a whole lot of folks told me it wasn’t going to happen. More people will tell you, without openly saying, that you will fail.
And I just didn’t listen to them.
You shouldn’t listen to them.
I jumped over the obstacles, like you will.
Crushed through the barriers, like you will have to.
I’m a writer by trade. It’s what I studied in college. As a writer, I’m terrible at math. My brain just doesn’t operate in the 1 + 1 department. Sure, I can write you an essay or tell you a story about anything, but math? Forget it.
Half the battle, like I said, is showing up. But once you’re there, the obstacles continue. I’ll never forget one of my writing professors, the person who was supposed to be my mentor, my rock, the person to help my dreams come true, told me that I should work for the IRS.
It was a blow.
You mean, work with numbers?
How was I supposed to become a writer if this college professor believed the words I strung together were so terrible that I should seek out a career that I knew I couldn’t do?
So, I did what I have always done when faced with an obstacle: I didn’t listen.
Sure, there were moments where I practically begged for guidance. For anyone to please show me the path.
SHOW IT TO ME!
Just tell me how it’s done.
And I will follow.
But in the back of my mind I kept telling myself: you have something to say, you are a writer, that professor is just a grumpy old man, don’t listen. Do. Not. Listen. To. Him.
While in college, I began writing the journey of my struggles as a young mother and college student. When I wasn’t reading, finishing papers, or being mom, I was writing about being a mom. What it was like to go swimming with a toddler, stay up all night to write a paper, everyday life.
It was boring. And it was terrible writing.
No one but my sister and an amazing group of other young mothers read it.
But I was listening to myself and writing! And I also learned a few things: like how to write so people will pay attention, how to edit a website, how to shift when the Internet changes, how to create an e-newsletter, how to, when you’re stuck, build supportive friendships that push you through sleepless nights and doubt. Especially when all of your friends are being young and single and unattached or your parents are unsupportive.
By writing, even if it was terrible, I was listening to myself – making noise – and crashing through barriers.
I was demanding to be heard. To prove to whomever, whatever that I was going to be right. I would make it. I would be the 2%.
After college, even after I thought I had made it, I was crushed by crippling times. This was supposed to be my time. I had made it. This was supposed to be the time I no longer needed food stamps or Medicaid. I was the first one to graduate college in my family.
But, I realized, I had shown up.
Half the battle.
The rest of it was finding out who I was, what I wanted to do, and how I was going to get there.
Actions, so to speak, were louder than words. Louder than listening to myself. And that’s where listening to yourself really means confidence. Saying I will do this and then going and doing it is all about confidence.
Confidence is knowing that you are going to fail and not giving a damn because it all leads to exactly where you want to be. You don’t have to know how to get exactly where you want to be on the first try, you just need to find one way to make it happen.
I stopped trying to make myself look good on paper and I started being me.
What does that mean? It means I stopped trying to be perfect and started putting myself out there. It meant not taking a traditional route to becoming a writer. It meant ditching everything I thought I knew and what I had been told to do. It meant finding a path for me, not for everyone else.
Most of all it meant having the confidence to trust myself; that failure was okay because I was that much closer to where I wanted to be.
And listening to myself brought me to blogging and then writing columns on some of the biggest websites for women. It brought me to, just two weeks ago, performing one of my written pieces among not one, but two bestselling authors — one of them telling me that she loved my writing. Then, two published books.
I am a professional writer.
With a college degree.
Those are the things that I am now.
How can you take what you want – success – and make it happen?
Show up: it’s half the battle.
Do not be afraid to try things by yourself. Or go places by yourself. Do not wait for permission to take a step closer to exactly what you want. If you do, you’ll always be waiting.
Whatever you’re passionate about, that’s what you’re meant to do. Everything else is a stepping stone.
If you’re saying: what I really like can’t possibly be a career. Then, I think, you haven’t failed enough. Failure moves you one step closer to exactly what you want as long as you have the confidence to back it up.
If there is a secret to how to make it as a teen mom it’s this: hustle.
What do I mean?
No matter what we’re doing, we’re always doing something else. This isn’t called multi-tasking, it’s called hustling. It means getting it done. Moving that much closer to exactly what you want. It means moving forward instead of looking back.
Whenever I had a traditional 9 – 5 job, it means I would write until the wee hours of the night. It means that as a college student, I was also a mother. It means as a writer, I’m also a publisher that manages a team of writers for my own company.
It means that no matter what I am doing, I am putting myself out there to be successful. To meet the right people, to write the next blog post, to shoot the next video, to become everything I have always wanted to be.
There’s a plan for you.
It’s in motion right now.