The Meaning of Life
 by Jillian L. Gushue

    In 1999, I was not only graduating at the age of nineteen, but I was graduating six months pregnant. The month was June, the date is vague, but the feelings are sharp as a hunting knife, to this day.

    In approaching the room, in a line of a hundred or so screaming seniors, my two true friends and I collected our gowns for the graduating ceremony in the music/theater room that smelled like old cheese and sweaty gym socks. We gathered there to practice for the graduating ceremony that would later be held that evening, out on the football field. Marching in two straight lines, my friend Robin in front of me saying that everything would be okay. After this day, I would not have to see any of these people for another ten years or so. "Screw them!" she said in a roar, while Brooke, to the left of me, held my hand. I tried to hold the tears that painfully took over my eyes and the tightness that choked my throat, thinking about what others thought of me. Knowing that Robin had a point; I could not conceive the feelings that I had. The feelings of how would she know what I'm going through. The emotions that rushed through my body of confusion or the embarrassment that I got caught with my pants down, so to speak. And as I think of that moment, my friends did know what I was going through, because they too were going through it with me. I was not only their friend, but I was their sister.

    Some people may consider me to be the quiet type, and some may consider me the surprising type, and some may consider me the lazy type. For one, I consider myself the contradictory type and all the above. I say this because in the tenth grade I stood in front of my English class, giving a speech about teen pregnancy. I said, "If you are not ready to take on the responsibility, you are not ready to do the deed. Sex was a responsibility and what may come is even a bigger responsibility." In order for me to do my speech, I had to interview and interact with teens that were pregnant. I told my tenth grade English class stories of teen parents on their own as well as the age and the difficulties that they had as a teen parent. To this day I don't know why I chose the topic, perhaps I thought it was an easy topic, that's to say the least. After that day, it got around the school facility on what a "wonderful" job I had done on my speech, and to keep up the "great" job.

    Then, two years after the speech, in my senior year of high school, I found myself in the seat of the listener. Except, the speech was too late for me because my ears were ignorant to what I had preached. I was the one, the only one in my senior year, nineteen and pregnant. I had chosen to do the deed and to take the responsibility that was put onto my plate.

    During the graduating practice, I was positioned in an order that placed me in the back of the class for the seating arrangements. The set up was to be boy, girl, but I was seated with three girls in the last row. One of the three girls that I was seated with was a childhood friend. She asked in the most obnoxious way that could only be imagined, "Are you pregnant?" Her voice in a high childlike tone. Blonde hair flowing in the air and all I could see were her ice blue eyes, sending chills through my body.

    Having her ask me that very question made me feel dumbfounded. Why would such a person ask that question? Is she that ignorant? It was like asking, an overweight women when is she due. I responded in the only way that I felt was right, "Why would you ask me such a thing?"

    I threw her question back at her like a football, aiming for her face. At that moment the words in her vocabulary may have not gone above the word, "duh." I'm sure that she realized that it was humanly possible for her to stick both feet in her mouth at the same time. I felt ill. Ill because I thought I was hiding my pregnancy well. I thought that no one had a clue, but the truth was, I was hiding it from myself.

    During the ceremony practice, everyone had to walk up to the podium, acting like we were getting our diplomas. When it was my turn I walked up to the podium, heart pounding, hands quaking, preparing myself, to shake the hand of the superintendent of the school district. I then turned around, with the mid-morning sun shining bright in my eyes and the wind blowing in my hair, I heard a remark that a fellow student made, "Is it true Jillian Gushue is pregnant?"

    That's when my friend, Danielle, did the thing that made her a friend that only I could love her for. She turned around in her seat, propped her small child like hands on the brim of her seat and said in a sarcastic tone, "Some people may be pregnant, but some people look like they are always pregnant." The only thing I could do was smile in satisfaction and walk back to my seat.

    After the ceremony practice was over, everyone cleared the football field and scurried back to the school for the award ceremony. As I was walking back, I once again had my friend, Brooke, to my right and my friend, Robin, to my left, telling me to hold my head up high and never let anyone denounce me or my unborn baby. To this day I have to keep on remembering that my child never asked to be brought into this world, and that no one has the right to ever put either of us down because no one is perfect.

    When entering the auditorium for the awards with my mother and friends, I came in contact with one of my teachers that I had the previous semester. He scanned my pleasantly plumped body with his eyes bugging out like deer in front of a moving car. The look on his face seemed to read, "It's true! She really is pregnant." Or, "What a disappointment." His eyes told me what he was thinking; and those thoughts had to be pretty close to what he was thinking; other wise I wouldn't have felt the way I did that day after I came in contact with him.

    I took my seat with my mother, my friends and their parents, knowing that most eyes were on me. Brooke and her mother headed the way to our seats. The time for the award ceremony to end seemed forever. The time it took for the students to stand up, walk to the stage that sat in the front of the auditorium to receive their awards, felt like it was on stop. Whispers from behind me, in front of me, and to the sides of me, were piercing my ears. I knew the whispers were about me and that they had questions for me. Braking my observation, Mrs. Marline, Robin's mother, leaned forward, faced me and held my left hand, and said in a stern voice, "Hold your head up high. You chose to keep your unborn child and your health. Never second-guess yourself." The ceremony then came to an end. The tension that built up inside me had eased. I stood-up took a deep breath, held it in, making the morning become faint to my thought, because I was starting my day over at that moment.

    The evening finally came to an end. Family and friends roared in excitement for me and I received my diploma. My family and friends held me up, just when I was going to fall. If it wasn't for their support, I don't think I would have finished high school. High school graduations are supposed to be an unforgettable event. For one, I can second a voice on that topic. Like most high school graduations, my high school graduation was an event that I won't forget. I won't forget the pain I felt from my fellow classmates and my teachers, the way they hunted me down like a small, defenseless animal, for information to satisfy their hunger. I may have been nineteen and pregnant, but I was nineteen and pregnant with a diploma. I look back on that day in June and think about what I've achieved. I graduated with a diploma and with my pride. I've achieved more than most people achieve in a lifetime. I will never forget my feelings that I felt that June at the age of nineteen.

    Chapter 2
    Heaven on Earth

    On September twentieth, of nineteen hundred and ninety-nine a new love was born. What God gave me was a priceless gift of life, a baby boy. His big blue eyes sparkle like crystal and his wide teeth less, smile, brings a silent choking laughter and cry to my soul. On the great day that he was born, it feels as if he reached out, grabbed my heart and pulled me into this labyrinth world where the sun is gold, and the wind is silk, and gravity is not of insistences, and time is no matter. My son Aaron is the apple of my eye by far. Everything he is and does makes me envy him. When looking into Aaron's big, round, blue eyes, it's like looking at a crystal that shines in the sunlight, and his teeth-less smile brings this silent, choking, laughter, and cry, to my soul. Every milestone he makes gives me the reassurance that I too can accomplish a new and difficult task. Just the other day, Aaron was trying to learn how to crawl. It's pretty hard learning something new, but he kept trying and trying and then he finally crawled. Now he can't stop crawling. By him learning how to crawl, gave me the reassurance that I can make it through the difficulties of school and life. I guess it's true that babies know the meaning of life, learning smiling, laughing, and learning how to smile and laugh at our mistakes. Just, by Aaron being himself, makes me crazy about him. He gives me a reason to live. I had nine months to get to know him before anyone else and before he entered the world. How can you love someone that you just met so much? I fell in love, a never-ending love with my son.

    Even though, he's only a baby, I feel that he knows the meaning of life. Each day is a new day. Life is to love, to learn, and to let go. I gave life to my son, he learned to love, and soon I will have to let him go.

    Chapter 3
    Being a Young Mother In College

    Being a young mother in college is hard to manage. To my knowledge there are three effects from trying to raise a child and getting an education at the same time. These effects are: No time to complete things, lack of sleep, and a limited social life.

    Being a mother always comes before being a student and being a young parent means putting my social life on hold. To begin with, there seems to be not enough time in a day to complete my errands. Completions of the simple things such as: reading my mail, paying bills, or even finding the time to eat a meal. It is even harder to complete anything while the child maybe ill or just wants to be with you.

    Another effect of being a young mother, all in the while seeking a higher education, is the lack of sleep. I sometimes find myself up past the second showing of the eleven o'clock news, trying to complete a ten-page paper due that morning, because my son was up most of the night cutting his first tooth or he has an ear infection. Or I'd be up before dawn, trying to complete or tackle my daily chores; of wash, dusting, or preparing of meals for the day that lies ahead; so I can later complete my homework and be with my son.

    Finally, the last effect of being a young parent and having to attend school at the same time; is having to learn to part with my social life. It's hard when you're young and that's all you know of. For example, I'm not able to go to a movie whenever I feel like it, or pack my bags to head out on the road for a road trip, just because I feel like it. Even if I could do as I please, I would have to find a baby sitter. And finding a baby sitter is a task all its own. Being a young parent who is seeking a higher education at the same time is not so easy. But in the end it is rewarding.


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