On Friday two sweet Yearbook ladies came over to interview me about it. They asked the "right" question (in Journalism that's the key - asking the right question!) and I felt weepy. Long story short, this is a long version of what I had to say to those ladies, and now to anyone willing to read this blog entry.
One of my students recently produced a story about young moms. One of the girls interviewed openly talked about the ridicule and comments she's faced at school and in other places in her life. It cut me deeply. Was I a young mother, no. However, I am very close to a woman who was and still is by all regards a young mother.
I watched my mom starting at a very young age put her wants and needs on hold for my betterment. She didn't push me off on to her parents or other people to raise me while she chased collegiate dreams or parties. While other kids were out having a blast on their 21st Birthday, she was probably knee-deep with three-year-old me begging for attention, Captain Kangaroo, and mac-n-cheese.
My mother would put off things like appliance purchases to put a saxophone in my hands, She'd skip trading in her car to offset the costs of a new one so that I would have a set of wheels when the time came. When it came to being selfless, she 99.9% of the time was. However, I always knew there was an expectation upon me not to waste all that she had given up to raise me UP and above any situation we faced.
While I was far from a really studious student in my younger years, once college hit I was a new woman. I took every class as seriously as possible. I never changed my major. I never failed a course. The ONE course I had to drop, I was a wreck because I felt I had failed her and wasted her money, but I knew I wasn't going to make it if I stayed enrolled. It was totally over my head despite the multiple tutors I hired. I watched all these people around me dropping classes (paying for a class they weren't finishing!) and changing majors, I couldn't understand how they could waste their parent's money and time like that.
While many of my classmates and sorority sisters were out on weeknights, I often wouldn't. I tried to stick to "going out" on the weekends. To say I was almost obsessive to graduate in four years with at least a B average would be an understatement.
The same obsession started in my job hunt, then my career, and also my Graduate School experience (a 4.0 finally, by the way). I always felt this need to not let all those things my mom had given up go to waste.
So now, as I told those young women who interviewed me for the Yearbook, I almost wish I could take my name off any "awards" I get and replace it with my mom's name. I am who I am not just because she chose to have me, but because she chose to RAISE me. I am who I am today because of every minute of energy she poured into me, every arguement we had, every chore she gave, everything she put off in her life to give me more, every laugh we have shared, and every thing she is.
Back to that girl my student interviewed about being a young mom... I was thinking of her so much and then ran into her in the hallway a few weeks ago. I had to hug her. I had to tell her it'll be ok. You keep being a good mom to your child and it will all be ok. I told her I know from personal experience that the road may be rough, but the outcome can be amazing.
So, for now in my heart the 2015 Missouri State Journalism Teacher of the Year isn't Michelle Turner... it's a beautiful young woman named Susan.
Enjoy this moment, mom. You've more than earned it. Consider each letter of this a clap that builds to a standing ovation for you... as a few of my tears of thankfulness hit the keyboard.
I love you, mom.