Life has taught me that what may be important to me today, may not necessarily be the focus of what is important to me tomorrow. I’m now in a moment of life where I have something, something of great importance that truly will never change, my daughter, Audrey. Audrey is one of the best and most important things that could have happened in my life. I have learned so much with my daughter that I wouldn't be where I am right now if it wasn't for her.
When I was attending high school my report cards read, “Cs” and “Ds,” it wasn't because I was not smart, but because I was lazy. It is the year 2005 and I am barely allowed to attend my graduation with my classmates. It wasn’t until after completing additional courses in summer school that I received my diploma. I transitioned to the local community college, but only to please my mom. In the beginning I took mostly electives and then I just stopped attending school. It was August of 2007 that I received news that would completely change my life. I found out I was going to be a father.
Finding out that I would be a father at the early age of 20 shocked me and left me unsure of what to do. My girlfriend and I were both really young to be having any children, but I believe we made the right decision and I wouldn't have it any other way. I knew I had to get my shit together quickly. I began to realize that the value of an education was the greatest gift my daughter could ever inherit from me. One way to ensure my daughter would understand the impact of an education, was to be educated myself. I enrolled back into community college and started taking it much more seriously. I also worked a full-time job to provide for my family and I fit classes in wherever I could. It was really difficult to balance work, school and a child, but I had no other option. I refused to be just another statistic, a minority, a young father, and minimally educated. I made the decision to deny society the right to define me.
I was twenty-one when my daughter was born. I should have been out there drinking and having a good time with my friends. Having fun and being reckless could have easily been my life if I had chosen a different path, but I did not. The path that I chose was the hardest, but the most rewarding path that I could have ever chosen for myself and my family. I witnessed every milestone, every hardship, every memory made as my daughter grew. If I had chosen a different path I potentially could have missed out on many memories with my family. My purpose in life was no longer for my own, but that of my family. There is no way to explain the feeling I had when I held her for the first time, it was love at first sight. I learned what it meant to love someone unconditionally.
One is not born knowing how to be a parent, one learns as the time goes by. As my daughter grew, I grew with her. As I taught my daughter, she taught me. Growing up she was not your typical little girl, she was never a girly girl. She preferred to brush her teeth with a Spider-Man toothbrush rather than with a Princess toothbrush. Audrey would play with toy cars or dinosaurs before ever picking up a Barbie. Sometimes I felt that she should be playing with “girl” toys instead of “boy” toys. Gender role became a new concept to me and of course I did not enforce it because she loved playing with “boy” toys, it made her happy. She defined to me what it meant to be a little girl in the 21st century. I was blessed with a little girl, but did that mean she needed to love dolls, barbies, and glitter? Absolutely not. Audrey taught me that the world wasn't so black and white. One of the best choices I made as a parent was to encourage Audrey to be herself.
Audrey is now in grade school and the whole gender role is no different. She would rather play soccer with the boys, but she will also play jump rope with the girls. It warms my heart to hear my daughter tell people that the color purple is for boys or girls. No child should feel obligated like something based on their gender and Audrey is an advocate of this. All of this has taught me that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, that you should spend the time getting to know someone before you are quick to judge them. Juggling her school, my school, and my work has taught me so much about responsibility and time management, I’ve learned that my daughter is my teacher. Audrey has taught me what it means to love someone without having any conditions. Unconditional love is the most beautiful thing I have ever experienced in my life. I can truly love someone without having any expectations in return and it is a wonderful thing, although a little love in return is just as wonderful. All the random notes Audrey gives me make my days special. I have been able to grow as a person in the most wonderful ways with Audrey’s help. Seven years ago I would never have imagined my life as it is today.
It is now 2015 I am 28 years old and my daughter is seven. Though it has taken me 10 years since graduating high school to finally be at university level, I wouldn't have it any other way. Audrey has given me the determination and drive that I once lacked. I am officially a full-time student and although I no longer work, the challenge of balancing life continues. As a young parent I had to battle the stigma of a young parent. If I had a dollar for every time I heard I ruined my life I would have a hefty savings account. I believe my girlfriend and I overcame that stigma. My girlfriend has accomplished her associates degree in Nursing, passed her state boards, and is now working on her Bachelors degree. All of these accomplishments were pure determination to better ourselves for our daughter. Audrey inspires me to be everything I am and everything I am not.
Growing up I had no drive and no determination, but life lessons and decisions have made me the person I am today. I am no longer the person I was yesterday, I strive to better my self. As you can see my daughter, Audrey, is one of the most important things in my life. Without Audrey I would not have learned so much about life at such a young age. Without her I wouldn't be sitting here writing this essay. She completely changed the trajectory of my life.