As a pregnant teen, I was told a lot of things. ‘You won’t be able to finish school. You’ll never be able to support yourself. You’ve ruined your life. How could you let this happen? You’re not with the dad? No one wants a girl with baggage. You’re damaged goods.’…
Encouraging stuff, no?
I also faced a lot of very real statistics that made these things seem depressingly true.
…only half graduate high school…phew, got that one done already…only two percent get a degree by age 30…30? I’m gonna be in college for the next 11 years?…my kid will have double the rate of a prison sentence or becoming a teen parent themselves…guilt guilt guilt…the list goes on.
These words and stats permeated my brain and occupied my thoughts so much so that they slowly but surely settled in and became facts. The inevitable. The price I would pay.
It’s been said ‘whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re usually right.’
So what if teen moms heard a different chorus?
One that rallied for education, and healthy relationships. One that advocated for growth, maturity, and making bold moves. A voice that said Hey, it’s gonna take about 5000% more effort than your average young woman, but you are not average. You’re exceptional. You have dreams and drive and even though motherhood came as premature shock, it is not a slamming door on all you’ve imagined for yourself. It’s an alternate route. A steep, and turbulent route, but a route nonetheless.
This voice exists, and it has a name: Fristers.
I arrived for my first meeting as a teenage college dropout, with a six-week-old I was trying to learn how to love (but focusing more on how I’d be able to return to school in San Luis Obispo, obviously in denial), stringing along an unfaithful ex, seemingly doomed to become what I was told I’d become.
Day one we were setting goals, making dream boards, sharing fears and experiences. In this group of girls who could relate to my experiences and hardships, I was no longer singled out, weird, or viewed as a disappointment. In the weeks and years that followed, an organization that initially was my soft shoulder as I dealt with the changes in my life, soon became my cheerleader as I bet I could beat the odds. First with an Associates, then a Bachelors, then a job, an apartment, my own Christmas tree to decorate with my daughter. They were my accountability partner as I worked toward goals we set and checked in at each step. They recognized my progress — academic, emotional, parental, you name it — no matter how small. Fristers was my resource of parenting foundations and encouragers throughout that maze called motherhood. Most importantly, they did not pity me; they celebrated me. They refused to coddle, and rather challenged.
Today, as a self-sustaining college graduate, I represent less than 1% of teen moms. And because of the life Fristers has helped me create, I was able to take a journey that would have been impossible had I followed the trail of statistics.
July of 2016, I set off on a 225-mile backcountry adventure through the high Sierra mountain range on the John Muir Trail. For three weeks I slept under the stars and carried everything I needed on my back over seven mountain passes and climbed over 46 thousand feet of elevation. It was a goal I had dreamt of for years. In my preparation, I began to reflect on what had brought me to a point in my life where it had become possible, and I truly believe things would have looked a lot different had I not found Fristers. I truly considered the hike as much theirs as it was mine.
To me, this hike represents the dream of a teen mom, a dream most of us have been told is out of reach. And yet my story is one in hundreds of young mothers who are choosing to take the road less traveled with Fristers cheering them on every step of the way. They are with us through the valleys and the rain, when the way forward seems never-ending, frightening, even impossible. When we lose momentum, lose ground, or even lose hope, Fristers is one of the few things that cannot be lost.
In the literal sense, Fristers played a huge role in me finding myself atop the highest mountain in the lower 48 states. But it’s only because one Wednesday night, in the fall of 2010, I decided to sit around a table with other young mothers like myself, and before long I realized I’d been scaling mountains since the moment I became a mother.
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