Thursday, September 13, 2007

This I Believe

This is my essay that I did along with my students. In a few days (hopefully) I will have them on a website as audio files and you can listen to them.

We make choices every day. Sometimes they are the mundane things like deciding what to eat for lunch. Sometimes we have more important ones that can affect our future. Sometimes they are life changing. I believe in the power of choice because it is an essential part of who we become. The choices we make often define who we are. Most people have a basic understanding of right and wrong, good or bad, moral or immoral. Lines often blur in some areas but generally we have basics down like murder is wrong or stealing is bad. I know it doesn’t mean that people always abide by the things they know to be right and wrong. Murders happen and people steal. But it comes down to a choice one makes. Some choices aren’t a clear cut good or bad, right or wrong, but the choice we make can have a huge impact in our lives.

In the spring of 1990 I was a sophomore in college and I found out that I was pregnant. I was unmarried with no plans to marry the father of my child. I had to make a choice about the future. I figured that I had three options. An abortion – which could be a quick, but maybe not an easy fix. Adoption was another choice. I could have the child and give it do a deserving couple that might be able to raise it better than I could as a single parent. The third option was to have the baby and struggle with raising it on my own.

After considering the options, I decided that I needed to take on the responsibility of raising my child. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew that I couldn’t give the baby up. That choice changed the course of my life. I knew that I had to make something of myself in order to survive. I had to make other choices along the way like getting on welfare. But in making that choice, I also decided that I would not become a statistic of someone who lives off the system. I decided it was temporary until I could graduate.

Raising a child on your own while being a full time college student isn’t easy. For me it was a matter of simply survival most days. I realize now, that it was an essential part of my character development. I wanted to be able to prove to others that I could be a success despite the hardships I faced. I had to focus and choose my career. I made more effort in my classes because I knew my grades could show a potential employer that I was worth hiring. I did everything I could to move out of the system of welfare and into mainstream society. I thought that once I achieved that, I could consider myself a success. But what I’ve learned since then is that success isn’t defined by how much you accomplish, it is often how you respond to the choices with which you are presented.

The choice between giving my child up for adoption was not a clear cut choice regarding one being right and the other wrong, but because I made the choice to take responsibility, it made me a more responsible person. It made me face some of my fears. It made me grow up. It made me the person that I am. Sometimes I think that if I had made another choice, I might be in a very different place. I might not have finished my education because being a single parent afforded me the opportunity to receive grants and finish my education. But regardless, I know it was the right choice because I can’t imagine life without my son in it.

We are faced with choices every day. It’s difficult to know in a single moment if a choice we make can change our lives. But there will be a time when you have no doubt about it… although we usually see it in hindsight. My decision to be a single parent wasn’t easy, but it strengthened my character and that is why I believe in the power of choice.


Anonymous said...

that success isn’t defined by how much you accomplish, it is often how you respond to the choices with which you are presented.

Yes. There are choices. And you have to decide. Some even do not see the points where to decide, where and when a decision is needed.
CHoices are presented by other parties, they may be well-meaning or not - and thus in a way a manipulation is done. The real job is to decide on one's own, what means to see on one's own. It is always perception and trusting in it, that is: in oneself. And that is what we have to teach to people: The ability to trust in themselves, in their own judgement, perception, seeing. And the means to do that, the tools, the instruments is words, sentences, the ability to SAY something, to form sense-full coherent lines ... Rhetoric is THE fundamental cultural technique. To see, to perceive, come along, and all form the central idea of enlightenment: self-thinking, Ausgang aus der selbstverschuldeten Unmündigkeit.

Aaah, yes, at two o'clock in the morning it all makes sense ... sorry.

Terri said...

well said Jennifer!

Terri said...

or well, I should have said "well written"!

EoNe said...


It is indeed true, even though we have choices to make sometimes we made the wrong choices and the right choices. I agree, our life is partly shaped by the choices that we made in the past, but we shall not blaming and cursing for the choices that we made in the past. Is it worth all the energy ? All we have to do is to make some adjustment and tweaking of bit here and there to make it a better choices. Learned from the choices we made so that we can be a wiser person each day. The story of the pregnant lady,she had choices even before she knew she got pregnant, but she made the choice of something that result her of bearing the consequences. Move ahead and not looking the back..coz we will never be back in the future :)..ciao