When I was at the gym earlier this week, I ran into a former high school student of mine named Michael. He was 18 the last time I saw him and had been wrestling with some pretty heavy stuff. Michael was a senior in high school when he found out his girlfriend was pregnant.
He didn’t have a stable job or a real plan moving forward, and there wasn’t really anybody in his life who could guide him through his uncertain future. I remember listening to him and encouraging him to be hopeful, to know that his future was in his hands. Still, at the end of our classes together I have to admit I thought things looked pretty bleak.
That’s why I was so surprised to see Michael absolutely beam as he told me about his two-year-old son and that he was nearing his third wedding anniversary. I have a child the same age, so we reflected on the profound joys of fatherhood by swapping the standard stories about sleepless nights and our kids’ hilarious comments. He told me in those three years he had established himself in a respectable job and made a difficult career change so he could move his family closer to home. It was so refreshing to see the joy he had found in family life. I could tell that things weren’t easy but that Michael was working hard. He was clearly going above and beyond to provide for his family and build a future.
It would have been pretty easy for him to write himself off as a stereotypical ‘deadbeat dad,’ assuming he would never amount to much before he even tried. But instead of giving up on his dreams for success, Michael took a courageous path by fully committing to finding a way to provide for his family even when he didn’t feel fully prepared.
Michael’s still figuring things out, but so am I. Despite all the challenges, it became clear as we talked that he wouldn’t trade his family for the world.
I’m not saying that we should return to the days when every pregnancy meant the couple had to get married, regardless of their compatibility. But it was inspiring to see a man who is beating the odds when it comes to the results of teenage pregnancy. He’s got a lot of work in front of him, as does every family man, but Michael knew that he had bigger things for his future than surrendering to stereotypes. Seeing the man he’s become, I’m now convinced he has a brilliant future in front of him!