At the risk of sounding incredibly, insanely snarky: there seem to be an over-abundance of kids having kids and/or getting hitched in my town. People younger than me. People I remember as freshmen in high-school. People who have legally been driving a vehicle for less than five years. YOUNG people.
And today I have seen not one but THREE baby announcements and one engagement with said young people.
Meanwhile, I am studying abroad in one of the biggest, most thriving cities in the world. I am looking at ten different grad programs and weighing my options. I am applying for huge grants that would allow me to keep following my dreams (without digging myself into a financial hole of doom). I just flew back into the UK from Italy and promptly bought a plane ticket to return to that wonderful land, not to mention the other travel plans I have before I head back to America.
Why? Because I can. Because I’m not changing diapers or planning a wedding when I can’t even afford my own car insurance. Sure, I’ve got several student loans I’d like to not think about, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to pay those back after, you know, I get my degrees.
I may not have my own little family right now, but I love my life. I love the experiences I’m able to have because I’m getting an education. I love the freedom I have without being tied down or worrying about providing for someone else right now. I love not asking for permission from a significant other when I stay with a guy in a foreign country for a week and a half.
I love the fact that I can figure out how to be selfish, quite honestly, for the first time in my life. I can buy tickets to concerts and cross oceans and zip around on the backs of motorcycles because, right now, I don’t have to worry about anyone else.
I am so, so thankful that I can do this right now.
You’re only 20 once.
You only get a certain window of time in which to be young and reckless.
And that all goes out the window when you start growing another human being.
Getting married, having kids…these are awesome parts of life. But they are NOT something I think my peers are prepared for. They are things I know I’m not prepared for right now.
I like buying plane and concert tickets. I do not like buying diapers and baby formula.
Or even white dresses for days that require months of planning.
This is my rant against the small town southern society in which I live. A society that is deeply ingrained in me, a society that I love so, so much. I love the friendliness and the depths of the emotions with which we care for each other. I love the cooking with too much butter, the late night bonfires and pig-pickin’s and the men who swig Jack Daniels straight out of the bottle.
But this small town society is killing itself.
And I am so frustrated because I feel, more than anything else about this situation, that it is just burying the small-towns of the states, and specifically the one I call home, in a cycle of poverty.
Because what’s going to happen when all the eighteen-year-olds have babies? They can’t go to school. Most of them can’t, anyway (and it’s getting harder and harder to find decent jobs without a college degree, it just is). And it is too massively difficult to be a parent and a student AND pay your bills. So you pick.
You’re a parent and you have money for groceries.
And maybe your parents help out. They help you raise this adorable baby child just when they thought they’d finished serving their time as an active parent.
But what happens later? What happens when you want to buy a house and have no disposable income and a ten year old? What happens when you work a job with no benefits and the kid gets pneumonia? What happens when that kid is a senior in high school and wants to go to college?
Where did your life go?
And I talk like this because, if and/or when I become a parent, that’s it. That becomes my biggest job, the most integral part of my identity, because another human being is counting on me more than anything else in the world. And I don’t get to think about what’s best for me without first considering what’s best for the little human I catapulted into a world that, frankly, gives just about no quarter.
I am happy for the people who are happy with their life choices right now. If you’re reading this rant against the ending of youth far to soon, I want you to know that. But I just can’t congratulate the pregnant eighteen-year-old. I just can’t, Because what happens when the initial joy over that ring on your finger, or the white dress, or the baby you made…what happens when that fades and you’re 25 in a too-small apartment, baby #2 on the way and 17 bills to pay while you wait tables or work at the mall?
What happens then?
If you’re lucky, if you’re determined, you keep your head down and you keep trucking and you survive. You pull through. You keep going.
Because life, in the end, just keeps on going and pulling you with it.
But wouldn’t it be better, if you could do more than just survive this one life that you’ve been given?