Monday, January 16, 2012

This post is a buzzkill.

Hey, everyone. It's Melissa, the resident lighthearted wiseass. I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer. Trust me. I hate reading dark-n-angsty tales of woe, so I wouldn't ordinarily subject you to one of mine. But this month’s topic is “regrets,” and I couldn’t post on the subject without addressing my teenage pregnancy. Well, I could, but Lorie stole my other main regret, which is allowing fear of rejection to rule my teenage years.

So I’m gonna lay something heavy at your feet. Womp woooooomp.

Before I begin, let me make it clear that I don’t regret my oldest child. She’s a blessing to me in a thousand different ways, and even when I was struggling to make it to class, pinching pennies to afford day care, eating Ramen noodles and dried beans, living in a trailer the size of a shoebox, and wearing my cousin’s hand-me-downs, I never regretted my daughter.

But, oh, how I regret the timing.

Let’s back up a bit. I was a late bloomer in high school Thanks to a rigidly-religious upbringing, I wasn’t allowed to date until after my sixteenth birthday. You know that song Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Kissed? Sadly, that was me. And while I did start dating—and kissing—I held on to my V-Card with a white-knuckled Kung Fu Grip. I wasn’t ready for sex in high school. Actually, that’s an understatement. Sex scared the ever-loving shiz out of me.

But then I went to college and fell in love. Strike that. I didn’t just fall in love—I toppled off a ten-story building and face-planted into love. And those emotions somehow plundered my intelligence. In an instant, I lost 100 IQ points. His opinions became my own. I let him do my thinking for me. I even let him convince me to vote for Ross Perot! (In my defense, Ross did have some pretty impressive pie charts.)

More importantly, I let him convince me we didn't need to use a condom. He said he couldn't get me pregnant.

One month later, I was staring at two pink lines that said he was wrong and I was an idiot.

That’s when my freedom ended, precisely two semesters after it began. I got married (at age 19), gave birth to a daughter, and spent the next few years living in abject poverty—seriously, I sold my plasma for gas money—while doing my best to graduate on time. And my marriage? Let’s just say it wasn’t a happy one. Despite what songwriters tell us, love isn’t enough to make it work.

But it’s not the poverty and heartbreak that fuel my regrets. It’s the loss of my freedom. I missed out on the Selfish Years of my twenties, that magical window to travel, explore my interests, and just be young and irresponsible. And because I started over in my thirties (two sons with a new husband), I’ll never be free. Well, maybe when the baby moves out, but who knows if I’ll live to see that day. Again, I don’t regret the children, just the timing.

I crave those Selfish Years. Hard. And my biggest regret is that I cheated myself out of them.

Okay, enough of my regrets. Now it’s your turn. Did you cheat yourself out of anything during your youth, and do you miss it now?


Jo Ramsey said...

Thank you for sharing this with us, Melissa. That had to have been a hard situation to find yourself in. I was 25 when my first child was born, and I was far from ready to be a parent.

When I was younger, I cheated myself out of living. I developed PTSD when I was very young, and I can't remember a time when I wasn't afraid of almost everyone and everything. I barely dated in high school and college because I was afraid to; I married the first guy who asked because I was afraid no one else would want me (and I was afraid of what he would do to me if I said no).

The self-discovery many teens and college students go through, I didn't experience until I was in my late 30s and had left my first husband, and there's still a lot I wonder about. I wish I'd been a little less frightened and a little more willing to live my life when I was younger.

Melissa Landers said...

I'm sorry to hear that, Jo. Isn't it interesting how afraid all of us were back then?

Anonymous said...

You're story was beautifully expressed and the picture of you holding your child brought tears to my eyes.

My regrets? I have several. I let people step all over me and treat me like I crap in high school. I was always afraid to stick up for myself, namely because I was afraid of getting hurt-physically and emotionally (because that's what was happening at home).
Going away to college was one of the best decisions I ever made. My experiences there gave me confidence, strength, and a feeling of self-worth and introduced me to friends who helped me to see I did matter, was beautiful, and had so much to give. Because of my friends and my college experience I have continued give and get so much in return.

Melissa Landers said...

Thanks for sharing that! I'm so glad you were able to escape to college and find your self worth. :-)

Lorie Langdon said...

Thanks so much for sharing this Melissa. I teared up reading it, even though this was my second time. :)
Your past has shaped you into a brave and beautiful person who I'm proud to call a friend.

Melissa Landers said...

Awww! Now you're making *me* tear up. I'm proud to call you my friend, too. :-)

Amanda Carlson said...


That was an amazing post! Your regrets have helped shape you into the gal you are today, so maybe happy regrets? I wouldn't want you any other way -- wiseass, witty, fun and writer extraordinaire. Debbie Downer is better than Boring Beth.


Melissa Landers said...

:-) Thanks, Mandypoo. XXX/OOO

CareyCorp said...

Wow Melissa! Your post and the comments it's garnered. Isn't it peculiar that we YA authors let somebody or something steal those years away? Something we did, something we felt, somebody with power over us. I think about that a lot as I write, and if I can make just one girl more self-confident I've done something wonderful with my life.

Jen J. Danna said...

Thank you for such an honest post. We all make mistakes when we're young, but this one stayed with you as few other choices would. Of course, you never regret your daughter, but I really liked your expression of what you did miss - the Selfish Years. Very nicely put.

I sent this post to both of my teenaged daughters because there's a very solid lesson here. Thank you for that...

J. Anderson Coats said...

This? Was me. 19, a baby on my arm, long hair down my back, the music up loud and my eyes on the horizon.

I hear you on the timing. I want my selfish twenties back. But now that my kid is 13 and ignoring the crap out of me, I feel like I've been paroled.

Do I regret it? No. It was the kick in the pants I needed to rake my sh*t into a pile. Being completely in charge of a small screaming person while trying to write papers and keep the pasta from burning focuses the mind like little else. Down was a long way down, so there was nowhere to go but up.

But it does mark you. It's something you never quite leave behind. Two masters degrees and one debut novel later, here I am still talking about it.

Cheers to you, Melissa. It comforts me to meet others like me, and I hope it helps others like us look to the horizon.

Melissa Landers said...

@Carey, maybe that's why I love to write adventuresome YA. Am I trying to recapture my lost youth and all the cool sh*t I perceive I could have done?

@Jen, you're right: I don't regret the children, just the timing. And if your daughters are anything like I was at their age, they'll probably read this post and say, "I'd never be stupid enough to believe a boy when he claims he can't get me pregnant!" LOL.

@JAC, thanks for sharing that, and many congrats on your success! I know what you mean; it's comforting to hear from others who have been there. Cheers to you too, and enjoy your quasi freedom. :-)

Kimberly said...

That picture brought tears to my eyes as well. Sweet tears.
I had a friend who ended up pregnant our freshman year in college. We had been friends since 7th grade, and although all of us TRIED to remain close to her, it didn't happen. At 18, we wanted to go out and do things. To go on spring break. To go to movies when we wanted to. So we quit asking her. We quit talking about doing those things in front of her until we just stopped putting ourselves in front of her because it made us feel guilty. I regret that. I've since tried to find her numerous times, but it's like she fell off the face of the earth. I think about her often and wonder how she is. But, I completely understand about those Selfish Years. I wouldn't trade them for anything. Even for that sweet picture of you and your daughter.
I plan to let my girls read your post! It's very well written. With heart. With regret. With truth.
Thank you,

Becky Wallace said...

Thank you for sharing your story!

My biggest teen regret is probably going to sound crazy to a lot of you.

In High School I was DRIVEN. I took tough classes, worked part-time, danced 40 hours a week, and yes (gasp...don't hate me), I was the head cheerleader.

Doesn't sound like much to regret, right? Au contraire my friends! My goals and aspirations drove everyone right out of my life. By the middle of my senior year, everyone (especially all the other cheerleaders) hated me. Forcing your goals on someone else is a great way to create discontent.

Yeah...I sucked. There isn't one person I keep in contact with from high school. At all. Period.

However, I hope I learned that lesson and don't make the same mistakes with my children.

Sometimes we just have to make ourselves miserable to figure stuff out.

Melissa Landers said...

@Kim, I'd forgotten all about that, but yes, I drifted apart from my college friends. Strangely enough, though, they all dropped out and I was the only one to graduate. On time, might I add!

@Becky, so you were the Queen Bee, huh? :-) I don't think your regret sounds crazy at all. Our youth is supposed to be the time to take it easy and have fun, not give ourselves (and others) an ulcer, lol!

Jen said...

This post was perfectly worded & I just want to say how much I admire you for sharing something so personal with all of your followers!

Lea Nolan said...

Melissa, thanks so much for posting this. I have several friends who lived the same experience. They love their children madly, but they sacrificed much to have them. You may regret missing the selfish times you could have had, but you'd be a completely different person living a totally different life. I for one, love exactly who you are today!

Risa said...

Melissa! Great blog post! Love the pic of you and baby. Standing ovation for finishing college. Thanks for sharing.

Melissa Landers said...

@Jen, thanks! That's part of our blog philosophy here--keeping it personal.

@Lea, Aw. :-) Thanks, lady.

@Risa, dropping out of college simply wasn't an option for me. I was sick of being poor, and I knew the only way out of that life was to graduate and move on to something better. (Then I became a teacher and started raking in the BIG BUCKS! Hahahahaha!)

Suzanne Lilly said...

I'm right there with you, only I started a mite bit earlier. I graduated high school after my baby was born. I was lucky though. The guy married me and took care of us for a few years. We were still as poor as you can get. But I wouldn't give it up for anything. My daughter is one of the lights in my life. That experience made me the person I am today. Even though I missed out on the fun teen and twenty years, I'm over it now. Life is too good to have regrets. Thanks for sharing this! It takes a lot of guts, (believe me, I know.) Now, as a teacher, (making BIG BUCKS as you say!) I can tell the kids, "Don't let a boy sweep you off your feet until after you graduate college!"

Melissa Landers said...

Haha, that's good advice for your students. Goes both ways, though. The boys need to avoid getting swept away, too. ;-)