October 15, 2013
There are times in dealing with my students that they will ask me some really tough questions. Sometimes those questions are about “when I was their age.” Those are some of the hardest things to talk with them about. I try to be totally honest with them and at the same time not glorify any of the stupid decisions that I made as a teenager. I know how that teenage mind works, in that right now, to all of them, any adult is “stupid” and they have all the answers. I try to answer to these questions as honest as I can and with enough information that hopefully, it’ll plant a seed of sorts and maybe they will remember it at a later date.
The other day, one of my boys came up next to my desk and asked me, “Mrs. Smith, would you recommend getting married at 18 years old?” Whew! This one blew me away because I really had to think on how to answer this properly. I thought back to my 18 year old self and remembered that nothing any adult I knew said to me about that subject mattered at the time and yet I chose to answer him as honestly and directly as possible.
My response to this young man was: “No, personally I would not recommend getting married so young. You may be like my parents or some other couples that I know and get married at 17 or 18 years old and be blessed to stay with that person for all of your life, truly till death do you part. But, then again, you could get married at 18 years old and be as I was; on my own with rent, utility bills, a vehicle payment, and divorced before I turned 21.” He looked at me kind of strange for a moment. My students generally do not know that I was married before. So to keep up the momentum of my parental speech to him, I kept going answering the unspoken question in his eyes. “Yes, I was married when I was 18 years old. And I whole-heartedly believe that my husband and I were way too young to get married. We were both just babies. We hadn’t had a chance to truly live and see that there were other people and other places beyond the small town that we grew up in. I was still in college and due to responsibilities of life, decided not to pursue a degree past an Associate’s degree at the time and now, I really wish I had gone on while I was going and my mind was much younger. I changed who I was and the things that I wanted to do in life for this person and I have many, many regrets about those decisions.”
My student sat down at that point and studied me for a few minutes. Then he finally asked, “If you could do it all over again, what would you do different?” Well that’s the question, isn’t it? What would I do different if I could do things all over again? I believe that things happen for a reason. I know that I would not be where I am now without all of my “past” that I’ve lived through and learned through. If I did things differently, I might not have met and fell head-over-heels in love with the man I am married to now. If I had done things differently I might not be a teacher and have students ask me these tough questions. Again, I took a moment to ponder my answer to this young man. And I finally told him: “I would love to tell you that yes; I’d go back and change everything. I’d go to the Air Force or the Naval Academy like I dreamed of doing. I would serve my time and then some in our armed forces. I would be somewhere other than here, right now. But, I can’t do that. All of that ‘junk’ that is behind me is what has made me who I am, so would I do things differently, no, probably not. If I could have saved me and my ex-husband the pain and hurt that a divorce causes, that I would definitely change that but no, as for everything else, I can’t say 100% that I would change anything right here, right now. Do I wish that I had waited longer to get married? Yes, there are many times I wish that, but I cannot change what has already been.”
Again, he studies me for a moment and he asks, “So do you think your ex-husband ruined your life?” That one I didn’t have to think about before I answered him. “No, my ex-husband didn’t ruin my life. Things happen with people and as they grow up they tend to change. Notions that you once thought were so important as a teenager don’t seem so important as you get older. So no, he didn’t ruin my life. Did we hurt each other? Yes, we did. But that doesn’t mean that we ruined each other lives, or that we are bad people. It just means that we saw that we couldn’t get along as a married couple and we chose to go our separate ways.”
My student didn’t comment too much after that. I don’t know if he was pondering my words or if he just didn’t want to hear my sermon anymore. I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer to the original question that my student asked, but this was my answer to him. Do I hope that he waits until he’s lived a little before getting married? Yes, I do, for his sake and for his wife’s sake. Both of them deserve a chance to be young and enjoy a little of life before the everyday responsibilities of adulthood take over. I don’t know if a seed was planted with this young man or not, but maybe he’ll think about my answers before diving in head first!