Dear 17-year-old Brittney,
As your friends prepare for graduation parties and their first days of college, you will be holding your swollen belly, feeling your baby girl kick and contemplating if you have what it takes to be a mom. You will feel uncomfortable in the final weeks before graduation because you can hear the whispers, see the looks, and catch your classmates trying to see if they can notice a baby bump. You will receive a phone call from a fellow classmate letting you know that you will be nothing, because you’re 17 and pregnant. He will tell you how everyone had thought you would be successful, but now you will never have a good man, and that your life is finished. And what’s more, you will believe that. You won’t let anyone know that you believe it, but it sticks with you because you already had those fears, and now hearing those words solidifies your own insecurities.
Don’t worry, and don’t be frightened. You don’t know right now to turn your fears over to God, but you will learn. You will also learn that the trials you will face over the next 10 years will clothe you in strength, perseverance, and resilience.
You will make countless mistakes, fall apart, and slip into a dark hole of feeling alone, unwanted, used, and broken. Your spirit will be broken, and you’ll become all the negative things they said you would become, because you allowed them to label you as such. You will learn that labels create limits. You’ll shut out the people that care about you, you’ll prance around like you have your life together only to cry alone at night or party hard to make yourself feel better. You’ll become a single mother of two by the age of twenty. You’ll pray to a God that you’re not even sure exists (or maybe He just doesn’t like you), begging for Him to take away your pain and the hardships.
The details are grim, and I won’t go into them, because once you decided to break through the chains, a new person that you were meant to be emerged. You wanted to be stronger, love more, give back, and find your faith. You will find that God loves you, forgives you, and always liked and loved you.
You can’t fathom how you will ever see the glass half full, but keep pushing, because you will find comfort in learning that life is messy and hard, but the rewards are so much bigger. You will learn that failing does not make you a failure, and you are responsible for developing your gifts.
And while your adult self will still struggle with seeking others’ validation, you will know that it shouldn’t consume you. One day you will stop letting everyone else tell you who you should be or who you are. You will tell that 17-year-old voice inside to “STOP” when it creeps up on you and tries to get in the way of your authenticity, self confidence, and goals.
You will fall apart again and again, but in time you will learn that only you can pick yourself back up and try again. And while you’re still trying to figure out yourself and how to be a successful young adult, you will have two little girls looking up to you and counting on you. You won’t stop fighting, because you will learn that you deserve the best, those girls deserve the best, and you will know what you’re capable of. You will expect more from yourself and family.
I sit here with a lump in my throat and fighting back tears because I’m so proud of you. There’s still work to be done on the inside, but your life is most definitely not “finished”. You are happy and stronger; believe in yourself and you won’t let your past define you.
Blessings and Love,