In 2008 I heard these words from a neighbor; “This is not what I expected from you of all people. You’re a smart girl, but you have ruined your life!” Huh, I ruined my life???

I’m unsure if my eyes were dilated or our conversation’s tone had changed. Let me look again. Hmph, something has indeed happened. Her cheeks were not hot Cheetos red, perhaps raspberry lip-smacker red. Her blue eyes looked like the ocean on a stormy day.

This conversation made a U-turn on a one-way street. My request for assistance to get back on my feet was stopped in its tracks. Shhhh, my mama ain’t’ let nobody stop her show. This so-called Christian woman is not going to stop mine, either!

I did not ruin my life. Brandi Lee's personal essay.My Resilience Says I Did Not Ruin My Life

Re-envisioning this moment as an adult makes me smile. My resilience shone through, my coco shimmered, and my mind was made. This woman was not going to speak negatively about my life. Can I get an Amen for my younger self? She said I ruined my life.

Ruined my life? How? I made it through mainstream public schooling, survived high school, and received a Frederick Douglass scholarship! Okay, I dropped out of college after my first semester but was returning. God has blessed me, and this gift had to be from the one above. No one else in their right mind gets pregnant in their first semester of college, and by someone who made it clear that he wasn’t ready to be a father. I’m prepared to be a single mother. That’s what we do anyway.

I hated that school. It was cold, and I was way too cute to shiver up and down the hills of Alaska. Okay, you caught me again. I wasn’t in Alaska, but you get the point. I didn’t have a car, and the next step was to ski to get to class. Imagine my little pregnant self on skis with a book bag, ha!

Want free birth control?

Here it is… I threw up the best college cuisine three times a day, every day for a semester. Thank goodness for flex pay. I remember passing out on campus and telling my mother I was pregnant after her two-hour drive.

Dear self, I know life is hitting the fan right now, but you got this! You did not ruin your life. I expect greatness from you. Thank me later.

Going Back Home

I went back to my hometown and enrolled in community college. I’m working full-time and just moved into this cute little apartment. I’m grinding! Guys are out here trying to distract me, but I am focused, driven, and providing for my baby boy. I don’t need a man to be a good mom. I see good moms every day. I’m on the right track.

Ya’ll, I swear I wasn’t looking for him. He found me! I’m cute. His eyes would do this thing when he saw me. He was the cutest little teddy bear. I mean, for real—better than those twenty-nine dollar ones they sell at the store around Valentine’s Day. He was so strong, yet so soft. His spirit calmed my anxiety and eased my pain. He enjoyed days in the park with my son and was carving out a path for himself.

Single Motherhood Does Not Mean I Ruined My Life

My anxiety heightened when I realized I was pregnant with my second child without being married. I realized I had an issue with this picture but why? There are lots of wonderful single mothers raising children. Was it because stereotypes say single moms are a burden? Was it the lady with the rosy cheeks saying I ruined my life? Or the older gentleman whom I assisted with his grocery bags telling me that the church on the corner has a lovely program for single moms like you?

Did I miss the thank you? Was my hearing aid’s volume too low? No, that was a complete sentence. What about a young woman makes her look like a single mother? I am still trying to figure that out.

Brandi's son said "My mom is resilience."

Note To Self: I Expect Greatness From You

Mothering two boys while single with an invisible disability is its own lane. Expectations are great for setting goals. But we must always remember goals are meant for passing. Weight is exchanged for strength, and Black women are made of magic. This is beyond my story of encouragement in light of worldly expectations. It’s about self-care and humanity. It’s about checks and balances. Staring at myself in the mirror, saying I expect greatness from you is one way I practice. What do you say when you look in the mirror, or better yet, what does the mirror say when it looks back at you?

Allowing myself to grieve after failing was a vital piece of my healing. I had to mourn the loss of the relationship and the disconnect from the abuse by my oldest child’s father. Then, I grieved again, this time for the loss of another relationship with my youngest son’s father after paying for a wedding that never happened. By allowing myself to move through the denial, depression, anger, and acceptance, I set new expectations for myself and continue to look in the mirror and say I expect greatness from you again today!

Brandi’s original personal essay was written in 2018.

Read more of the Single Mom Personal Essay series.