I grew up in a tiny town in Wyoming listening to stories of life on the ranch, Catholic school and running moonshine. Awesome fodder for drunken family stories later in life!
I did the stereotypical “small town” thing as a teenager and I got pregnant, got married and left home, all by the time I was seventeen. I was told by many (including my high school counselor) that these actions would forever shape my future. They were all absolutely right, but not in the way intended.
I was required to attend a support group for pregnant teens. I went once. It was during that one meeting I realized I was not, nor would I ever be, like the rest of the girls in attendance. I had self respect and dignity. I also had hopes and aspirations for my life and now for my baby. I was responsible and mature well beyond my seventeen years. Life during those early years was by no means easy, but I lived each day with such determination that it would have been impossible not to achieve everything I wanted to.
I finished high school by going to night school. This was mandated by the school. Apparently, I carried some sort of “screw up your life” virus and they didn’t want the rest of the female students to be infected. Little did they know that I was on my way toward breaking every statistical theory with regard to the life effects of teenage pregnancy.
I was told statistics showed that within a year I would have another baby; I would be on welfare and probably on drugs. Excuse me? I am a Kleeman. Haven’t you ever heard of us? We are a very strong, solid clan of crazies with not a lame duck in the bunch. The family goes back generations to the Great Emigration (as I like to refer to great (not sure how many “greats” to add here) Grandfather’s entrance into the United States). We travelled west and settled one of the largest cattle ranches in the state of Montana (obviously long story short) – (still in existence today and still a working ranch!). No Kleeman in their right mind would ever bow to such malarky as “statistics”.
I got my diploma and enrolled at the University of Wyoming. My mother helped me find a suitable child care center for my daughter and then (thankfully) helped me pay for it. I suppose I could have applied for public assistance, but honestly it just didn’t feel right. I set my life on a particular course and I was going to figure it out. I declared my major in Psychology with a minor in Education and I attended for three semesters.
My husband (at the time) graduated early and we moved to San Diego to start a new life. I never went back to school. Instead I went to work at the local grocery store and tried my hand at a career in real estate. That was about the time the bottom fell out of the market in Southern California and there was no way I was going to make any money trying to sell houses. So, I got a job leasing apartments for a property management company. That one, seemingly small, spontaneous decision set the stage for a 20 year career.
So here’s a recap: nice Kleeman girl gets pregnant and moves away, starts college, gets yanked to the big city, works in a grocery store (doing horrible things like cleaning the meat room – UGH!), lands a great job leasing apartments, has baby number two, gets divorced, marries Mr Right, moves away again, has baby number three and now lives each day a proud product of the previous 26 years.
I sincerely hope that schools are not still touting statistics to pregnant teens. Young women with lesser strength of character and self esteem than the crazy Laura Kleeman will never make it through such emotional beatings. What they need is support and postiive reinforcement. They made an error in judgement, true. But this one decision in life can easily be a tremendous positive and motivating force. —– This has been a public service announcement —–.
Thank you for allowing me a moment on my soap box!