At one point in my life all I wanted was to not be a statistic.
Craving attention and searching for the validation I longed for from my father, I gave my “innocence” away as a teenager. I didn’t wait until marriage.
I was diagnosed with depression before I even had my driver’s permit.
I got pregnant at 19. I almost missed being labeled as a pregnant teen but alas, here I was. Pregnant and 19. Even worse, it was my second pregnancy something I carried in shame because I was supposed to be the good girl. Apparently I didn’t learn a lesson the first time around. It is something that I am reminded of every time I go see a doctor in the OBGYN department and they ask me, “How many times have you been pregnant?”
Three. One miscarriage. Two births.
I got married at 20. Pregnant. And separated soon after.
At 21 I was a single parent reading baby books, college text books and divorce documents.
Then there was that small period of time where I gave in (in young shame-filled eyes) and signed up for the WIC program and for food stamps. I didn’t want to. I was embarrassed. But I was living with my mom and she was helping us as best she could. I also knew that my baby’s well being was more important than my pride.
Oh and then, there was that time when we “lost” our private health insurance and my baby and I sat for hours in the county doctor’s office. Every visit took hours.
A young, single black woman — I had been dubbed a “baby mama” and stripped of promise. To many, my life was over. These are just a handful of the stats that haunted me for the majority of my life because I felt like I knew better. Some of these things I’ve never typed for the world to see. Tears stream down my face as I type them. A release. I am no longer haunted by what once was.
But my story doesn’t end there, somehow I persevered. I was in college when I got pregnant but I went back. And after I went back I even made the Dean’s List a few times. I graduated, I returned and got my Masters and again graduated this time with honors. During that time I worked part-time, went to school full-time, maintained internships and threw myself into mothering with everything I had. She was my saving grace having changed the course of my life (for the better) and for that I am so grateful. My child was not going to pay for her mother’s poor choices. I knew God was merciful but I also knew that I had to do my part.
I understood that we lived in a world where my past decisions would be held against me, perhaps held over my head, as I traveled through life. In time I would come to realize that I was more than a series of poor choices. So much more.
Soon after I found myself again identifying with the latest statistics one of them blaring in my face the months leading up to my wedding day.
You’ve been married before. You got divorced remember?! And according to statistics you’re bound to do it again.
See, the data, as cited by Your Tango, says “More than 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce.” The likelihood for divorce increases with each marriage. The odds clearly weren’t in my favor. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the fear of divorce rears its ugly head when marriage feels awfully hard. I don’t want to do this again. The man that I am married to is the man that I want to grow old with. He is the man that I choose to love each and every day. And how blessed am I that he chooses to love me back.
But there’s a thing about odds, a thing that my past shows me if I allow myself to see it. People beat the odds every day. I know because I beat some of them myself. And I plan to do it again when it comes to my marriage. I mean, the fact that we recently celebrated three years of marriage says that I am in the process of doing just that. For many of us when we read statistics an inner alarm goes off. Will that be me? Unless it’s a statistic we find particularly promising we don’t want to be one.
19 and pregnant
Single black mother
I was a statistic.
Remarried (still black:)
Mother of two on earth and one in heaven
I am a statistic. (And as I had already learned, so much more.)
Whatever label is placed upon me no longer matters. I have chosen to stop being at war with my past. There will always be some aspect of my life that will make for some good data (or gossip). But my hope is that my children can look at me and see that while society may have chosen to label me I chose not to let those labels define me. I chose to work hard and fight for my future and for theirs. And because I’m determined to beat the odds when it comes to divorce (not simply because I don’t want to be a statistic but because I am married to the love of my life) I’m fighting for my marriage too.
Statistics provide information and the greatest surveys and studies often go beyond just tossing out data and perhaps offering some insight, a solution or even resources. What they don’t provide is a blueprint for our lives. And they certainly don’t determine how our marriages will play out. We determine that.
Your marriage isn’t in the hands of researchers and analysts. It’s in the hands of you and your spouse.
Next time you read an article that suggests your marriage is doomed remember that odds don’t have to be in your favor in order for you to beat them. And each and every day people do just that. Sure, more than 60 percent of second marriages end in divorce but not all marriages do. For some insight on how to avoid letting divorce statistics dictate your fate visit Your Tango.
Photo source: personal photo