Authors: Bristol Palin
Not Afraid of Life
My Journey So Far
with Nancy French
To all you underdogs
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcomings, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
Where It All Began
Not Like Other Families
Failing the Test
Van Palin and Other Surprises
Looking the Part
Not Picture Perfect
Already Ben There
Home Is Where the U-Haul Is
There’s Plenty of Fish in the Sea
Shaking What My Momma Gave Me
Seeing Things Clearly
lied to my mother.
“We’re going to go stay the night at Ema’s house,” I nonchalantly said as my friend and I headed toward the front door. Mom was busy paying bills and didn’t really look up from her work. There was only one week left of school, and the weather was warming up in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.
“Okay,” she responded, not suspecting a thing. “Do you need me to drop you off?”
“No,” I said. “Her mom’s in a hurry, but she’s going to pick us up at the end of the driveway.”
“Have fun,” she said casually and waved good-bye.
That deception would affect my life in ways a teenager could not comprehend. It changed my relationship with my parents, my boyfriend, and even God. It would eventually cause me public embarrassment on an international scale and cause many sleepless nights.
But I didn’t know that at the time.
On that day, my friend and I believed we were getting away with a harmless high school lie. Usually I have a very sensitive conscience, even to the point that I can’t leave a store without fixing a messed-up clothes rack. I think, I’m going to fix these or some overworked employee is going to have to do it later and she’s probably already done it a million times today. But on that morning, my conscience wasn’t even really pricked. Apparently, the excitement of seeing Levi outweighed any anxiety I felt about lying to my mom. So, we toted our bags down to the end of the long gravel driveway, jumped in his red pickup truck, and left without any sort of guilt.
As we drove away from my house, I drove away from the ease of childhood and smack into the middle of the weird complexities of serious relationships ideally reserved for later in life. We drove for about an hour, deep into the Point MacKenzie area that is sparsely populated with almost perpetual sunlight during the summer months. We loved it because of its amazing wildlife and natural beauty. My friend and I couldn’t imagine a more exciting night than hanging with our friends in such a setting. In the back of Levi’s truck were tents, sleeping bags, firearms for protection against wildlife, and lots of alcohol.
I never drank—in fact, I knew nothing about anything bad really . . . especially the differences between vodka, beer, and whiskey. I didn’t know that the girly flavored wine coolers were just as likely to get you drunk as the hard stuff, even though they went down so smoothly. And I definitely had no idea what “tolerance” was or how to pace your drinking to make sure you don’t do things you’ll regret. All I knew was that I was with my ruggedly handsome boyfriend who loved me—and we were getting away with a late-night camping trip without anyone ever finding out.
has ever heard this part of my story. By now, most of America knows me as Bristol Palin, the teenager who got pregnant right before her mother was asked to run for vice president on the GOP ticket with Senator John McCain. But what no one really knows is my story—the true story—of deception and disappointment that began the night I lied to my mother and went camping in Point MacKenzie.
We got there around six o’clock. Levi and his friends immediately built a fire and put up the tents by the lake. The tent my friend and I brought was blue, and had just enough space for both of us to squeeze in for a good night’s rest. However, I didn’t end up sleeping in that tent.
The wine coolers tasted sweet, and I slowly surrendered to their woozy charms. I felt young and carefree, and Levi kept replacing my empty bottles from his large stash. The more I drank, the better the crisp night air felt. But unbeknownst to me, I was about to hit a wall—that awful wall—that takes you past a comfortable level of libation—the happy buzz—into the dark abyss of drunkenness.
I remember sitting in one of those folding camping chairs, laughing with friends by the fire.
What I don’t remember is what transpired between the moment when I was sitting there by the fire talking and the moment I awakened the next morning with something obviously askew. Mosquitoes were buzzing around my ears and my head throbbed like someone was using it as a drum. Levi’s empty sleeping bag was right beside mine, and I could hear him outside the tent laughing as he and his friends packed up the camp.
I fumbled around for my phone and found it in a pile of clothes on the side of the tent.
Get over here
I texted my friend.
Within seconds, she unzipped the tent and poked her head in.
“Are you okay?”
“What happened?” I whispered.
“You don’t know?”
In movies, losing your virginity is a big deal . . . a candlelit experience with romantic music, roses, and declarations of true love. I’d said—repeatedly—that I’d save sex for the first time on my wedding night. Brought up in a Christian household, I was determined to do things in the right order. Dating first, followed by an engagement, a beautiful wedding night, a romantic honeymoon, and—only then—the figurative baby carriage immortalized in the kids’ “first comes love, then comes marriage” taunt.
That’s why the next sentence that came out of my friend’s mouth hit me like a punch in the stomach.
had sex with Levi.”
Suddenly, I wondered why it was called “losing your virginity,” because it felt more like it had been stolen.
“No, we didn’t,” I insisted.
My friend didn’t argue with me, because I could tell by the evidence in the tent that all of my plans, my promises, and my moral standards had disappeared in one awful night in a series of bad decisions.
And Levi wasn’t even there to help me process—or even confirm—my greatly feared suspicions. Instead of waking up in his arms (which happens in all the movies right before the girl walks around the apartment in the guy’s buttoned-up business shirt), I awakened in a cold tent alone as he talked with his friends on the other side of the canvas.
I didn’t realize this was a sign of things to come. But I did know one thing.
I was going to marry Levi. I had to now.
s a person who was raised to believe that sex should be reserved for marriage, I wasn’t sure how to handle the fact that I royally betrayed my parents’ and my moral code. I wish I’d confessed my sin right then to God, accepted the full forgiveness of a heavenly father who loved me, and never spoken to Levi again. Instead I tried to salvage this situation. I tried to fix it.
After all, my own wonderful dad had lived a pretty tough life compared to mine before my parents were married. Similarly, Levi could turn into the godly man I knew he could be. And I naively assumed I was just the girl who could show him the way.
As I sit here in my parents’ home in Wasilla several years later, I realize how stupid that must seem to readers who saw parts of my drama playing out in real time. You may have followed my mom’s meteoric rise to fame and political prominence, only to have the gnat named Levi Johnston constantly spreading false accusations against our family. You may have seen an on-again-off-again engagement in the media and wondered why I’d put up with someone who cheated on me about as frequently as he sharpened his hockey skates or as frequently as he filled up his old truck.
The truth is that my teenage brain believed I could pick up the pieces of my shattered moral code and glue it back together. The secret that I’d lost my virginity became the unfortunate guiding compass throughout the rest of high school.
Why am I telling you—and my family for the first time—this personal information?
Statistics show that my story, sadly, is not a unique one. Seven in ten teens have had sex by the time they turn nineteen, frequently in spite of their best intentions and moral beliefs. Since most people don’t marry until their mid-twenties, young adults are at increased risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases for nearly a decade.
Just as a person afflicted with lung cancer might feel compelled to warn others about making the same mistake, I feel it is necessary—and helpful—to be candid about how I ended up making some pretty foolish decisions.
I know honestly dealing with problems publicly can make a huge difference in people’s lives. In fact, recently, I got a message from a stranger who messaged me through my Facebook page.
I have no idea if you remember me, but I met you last year right when I found out I was pregnant. I honestly believe that if it weren’t for you I would’ve had an abortion. You have become somewhat of a hero to me. Hearing your story has encouraged me to fight and try to create a good life for my son. Just wanted to send some thanks and stay strong!
When I read that, I realized people are deeply impacted by other people’s decisions, and somehow, in God’s amazing providence, I played a role in saving a baby’s life.
Though I’m not an emotional person, I cried as I read her note and vowed to be more candid about my experiences.
Maybe my story was told on a national stage because that teenager in Texas needed a little inspiration to encourage her to keep her baby. If that’s what it took to save that baby’s life from an abortion clinic, I’d do it fifteen more times. All of that heartache and public humiliation would’ve been worth it.
But I have a suspicion that my story will impact many more people to reconsider how they date, when they have sex, and what they do if they’ve already made some pretty terrible decisions. I’m not a role model and definitely not a preacher. I’m just a normal girl who couldn’t hide her problems from a gawking world and learned a few lessons along the way.
Sometimes, not being afraid of life in all of its imperfections is the first step toward a better future. That’s true of my own life. But before I tell you about the behind-the-scenes scoop on my mom’s vice presidential bid, that two-week engagement announced in
and why on earth I agreed to be on
Dancing with the Stars,
you have to understand where my story began.
In a little place called Wasilla.