I was 17 years old when the stick first turned blue.
It was my junior year of high school and I was in Mr. Wright’s English class. We were in the computer lab working on research papers. I was doing research of a different sort.
A friend bought me the test. I’m not sure why it was easier for her, but I guess there’s less shame about the purchase when you know it isn’t your life that’s about to change.
Ironically, it was one of my close guy friends who first suggested I take the test. I’d been complaining about feeling sick for a while. But in the true “it’ll never happen to me” mindset, pregnancy as the source never even crossed my mind.
I excused myself from class, went to the restroom, and oh so gracefully peed on a stick. The rest of that day is sort of a blur. I remember thinking Mr. Wright would send someone to find me because I’d been in the restroom for so long. In all reality, I was only absent a matter of minutes, but when you’re waiting for something this big, time seems to slow down.
In true high school fashion, I confirmed the results of the test to a few close friends with a simple “+”. And then I went back to class.
I don’t remember the rest of that day, or many of the following, really. But I do know that I finished it. I finished that day, that week, and eventually that year of high school.
At the end of junior year, the most common phrase written in my yearbook was this: “you’re the strongest person I know.”
I have always lived my life to that standard, never failing to live up to the expectation of being “strong.” Over the past year, however, I have learned to redefine what strong means to me, and it has been the most rewarding experience.
Sometimes, being strong means admitting that you need help; admitting that your emotions are valuable; admitting that you aren’t strong.
In high school, I was the pregnant girl. Everyone wanted to be my friend because I was the juicy gossip, and then when I miscarried, nobody knew what to do with me. Being strong then meant passing my classes, meant showing up to school, meant pretending not to notice when everybody stared at me and pretending not to hear when everybody talked about me.
But now, being strong means admitting when I’m weak. Being strong means being the best that I can be, no more and no less. Being strong means being honest, even when it’s hard. Being strong means so much more than I ever knew.
Today I’m just thankful.
For growing up.
For surrounding myself in people who love me for me.
For my successes, and my failures.
For the babies I don’t get to hold but continue every day to teach me so much about myself and about life.
For finding a boy in high school who stood by me through so much, and grew into the man who continues to be devoted to me as my husband.
And for being young, because it’s not so much the destination as the journey, and I’ve got a lot more to learn.