While I was pregnant with Gem, one of the things my mom consistently said was “Jewel, you’re gonna have to grow up quicker.” I was 15 years old. I was in my senior year of high school, excited about being the youngest of my graduating class, and was looking forward to going to possibly any college I wanted. I was very interested in Cornell U.
When I found out I was pregnant I was numb, to say the least. It was my 2nd day back to school and I was in the food court bathroom with some friends. I shrugged it off and said, “Alright, oh well. I still want my burger.” My friend (who shall remain nameless) had the reaction that I should’ve had; she was shocked, a little worried, and was asking “What are you gonna do?” The answer I gave her that day is a phrase I still give people, to this day: “I gotta do what I gotta do.” At that time, I didn’t realize what that actually meant because I wasn’t really capable of taking care of my bouncing beanie baby (my yorkie named Jordi). So what the hell was I gonna do with a baby? I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I couldn’t tell my mom. I was scared, embarrassed, and, overall, disappointed in myself. I asked my high school counselor to do it, and she agreed. She called my mom and left a message on her phone saying that she had some good news to tell her, and that she wanted her to come up to the school to speak about it. I. WAS. SHOOK. Why? Let me explain. Numba wun – What mom is going to be happy about her 15 year old child being pregnant or getting someone pregnant? Numero dos – My mom was already a helicopter parent. That ish was about to go up by 200%. Needless to say, my mother was very disappointed and made it clear. Not long after, I found out what it was like being an outsider to my own family. It was made known, in more ways than one, that I had disappointed them. All of this, metaphorically, destroyed my self-esteem. I fell into a deep depression that progressively worsened over the course of 2 years (2012 and 2013).
Fast forward to 2014. Gem is now 2 years old and I’m living in Nebraska. I was barely working and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was about to be 19 years old. My brother talked to me about joining the Air National Guard and told me about the benefits, and all that jazz. I was digging it so I enlisted. I left for training the following year and I LOVED IT. It was a blast. I finished all of my training in mid-December 2015. January of 2016, I started working full-time in the military and loved every minute.
From 15 going on 16 in 2011 to 21 going on 22 in 2017, I’ve been depressed, felt alone, numb, separated, heartbroken, and have felt a deep sadness that I wouldn’t dare wish on my worst enemy. But in that 6 year time-span, I’ve also experienced joy, contentment, love, happiness, fulfillment, and have seen my self-confidence soar to heights I never thought were possible. Six years. It took six whole years to move out of my rut. I didn’t get out of it. I moved out of it.
Getting out is abrupt. I didn’t wake up one morning, decide I was done being depressed, and snap out of it. I’ve tried that many times and it didn’t work. Moving takes time. It didn’t take as much time as it did for Moses to get to the Promised Land (that’s 40 years, people!), but it took some time. I still have my moments where I question and second-guess myself. I still find myself repenting almost every few minutes because my thoughts aren’t always the nicest and my words can be far from pure. But the beauty of the process is that I have precious milliseconds, seconds, minutes, and hours to continually work on myself and constantly remember that perfection does not happen overnight. I try to remember that the most beautiful form of myself is not the end result; it’s the transformation I go through to become my best self. The pressure, heat, and hard work that mold and form me are far more beautiful than how I look once the process is finished. Looking back at my 6 year journey, I’m amazed and brought to tears because I can’t believe that I thought so low of myself that I, sometimes, refused to even look in the mirror. Saying “I’m proud of myself” is an understatement.
“Good things take time. Stay patient and stay positive. Everything is going to come together; maybe not today, but eventually.”
– Dr. Bilal Philips