Why we need to tell our stories {and raise our expectations}

The moment I realised my life wasn’t over, I was sat crossed legged on the health centre floor.  

Every week, I would walk half an hour with my daughter to this group for teenage mums.  It was far less daunting than the regular toddler group, which would generally consist of a good dose of condescension and a few sideways sneers from the ‘grown-up’ mothers.  But in our young parents group, we’d share about sleep deprivation, breast feeding and relationships.  We’d chat with a health visitor about teething and nutrition, while our babies investigated colourful toys and invaded one another’s personal space.  

Then one morning, one of the staff – Julie – asked me about the future.  When your pregnancy is met with a strange mix of shock and pity, and the general consensus is you’ve thrown your life away, you don’t think a whole lot about that.  The tabloids and the people around you shout it – this is your life now, a drain on society and any chance you ever had was blown out the water.  It doesn’t occur to you that the option of a future is still available.  

I’d completed my GCSEs, with fairly good grades.  I’d made it halfway through my AS Levels, until eight months pregnant – but working two jobs on the side and ridiculously anaemic, I’d had to admit defeat.  I thought that was it, then, my life carved out for me.  So I shrugged when Julie asked me about studying or work.  You can’t do those things with a baby, can you?  Not when you’re a teenage mother.  I’d never even dreamed it was a possibility.  And I thought she had no clue, until the next few words:

I was a teen mum too, you know.

And that was all it took.  That she had been where right where I am – that here she was now, in a good job, making a difference.  This was the first time it dawned on me that society was wrong – my daughter was not an excuse to write off a future – she was my reason to fight for one.  I shared this story with a friend this week, but I wanted to share it here too, for a few reasons.

{One} I think we under-estimate the importance of telling our stories.  Every one of us, in some way, is  further along the same path another is walking.  We often feel like we need our happily every after before we share where we’ve been  – but by being brave enough to share your unfinished story,  you could change the course of another person’s life.  Who needs to hear that you’ve been there too?

{Two} We need to break free from the expectations of others.  Why do we allow them to define who we can be?  I have been guilty of this in so many ways, in all situations.  For years, I self-limited and held myself back, because I’m the teen mum, the single mum, the girl with the messy childhood.  I still do it.  How about you?  What have you ruled yourself out from?

{Three} We must choose to see the potential in others.  People so often only live up to exactly what’s expected of them and so many have no one in their lives believing for more.  Be the person who inspires hope and sees potential where others see ruin.  Be the one who knows God transforms and how He redeems the most broken of lives.  Who could you encourage?

Ruth

February 2014

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