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Meet Julie Cushing 

by Jennifer Marine

Already a rarity as a native Austinite, Julie Cushing stands out in a multitude of other ways. Take a tour through her Web journal, and you'll be struck by prolific evidence of her fire and gumption. She became pregnant at 18, and is the proud mother of Dylan, now 15 months old. On the heels of some tough times, she's pulled her life into shape, cultivated a healthier relationship with her son's father (partner, Joey) and is now attending college full-time to pursue her dream of becoming a social worker.

While six months pregnant, Julie taught herself basic Web design to "have something to do." Evident on her site is a fierce commitment to being a good mother and to creating a rich and nourishing life for her son.

Say what you will about some of her choices and actions from the past (and she'll be the first one to own up to them), Julie's words are alive with a rare combination of honesty, vulnerability, and moxie. Want to take a peek inside the mind of a woman coming into her own, unwilling to posture? Want to hear firsthand the contradictory, but bravely true rationale behind a devastating abortion?

We've all been there: making hard, unclear choices, sometimes in the face of circumstances we struggle not to be ashamed of. How many of us can say we endeavor to meet our demons head-on and not turn away?

Someday Julie hopes to open her own social agency, to work with teens who have drug problems, teens who are pregnant and need help. We're keeping our fingers crossed that this wise young woman gets there.

Here's what Julie had to say:

Who inspired you when you were growing up and why?

Well, cliché as it is, I would have to say my mother.  She taught me so many lessons just in the way she lived her life. I also learned a few things I didn't want to do with my children! Either way though, she was a wonderful role model, and managed to raise some awesome kids!

You are face to face with your ten-year-old self. You have one thing to say to her about her future, what do you say?

All sorts of corny things like, "Don't care what others think," and "Be happy with who you are." Of course, she wouldn't listen, because she was already a bit of a rebel. I'd want to tell her to take all the time she wants to be a child, even if it is longer than what is deemed acceptable, because she will grow up very quickly soon enough.

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The Countess Galleria / Sarah Higdon

What two notable people would you like to see handcuffed together for a day?

Me and George W. Bush. I'm not that notable, but there are so many things I want to tell him!  Political figures too often get locked into a narrow set of concrete ideas and are unwilling and unable to consider other views.  Hopefully by the end of the day I could get past the nebulous answers and reinforce that there are real people involved in what so many see simply as ideological questions.

What is the biggest contradiction you see mothers being faced with today?

Teen mothers are simultaneously told that they MUST be responsible (which most are), but are also told that they are incapable of raising a child. What sort of inspiration is it for a mom to be talked down to, publicly judged and ridiculed, and then confronted daily with the message that she is worthless and only harming her child? It's no wonder it can sometimes become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What do you see as your biggest challenge in being the kind of person you want to be?

I am so passionate about certain things but sometimes I get very overwhelmed. I fall prey to the "only one woman" trap and start to feel that I can't change anything. There is so much I want to get involved with, I just need to maintain the time and energy.

What makes you most happy about what you give back to the world?

I am an unmarried mother raising a boy. This makes me nervous, but also so excited.  Instead of raising an empowered woman, I get to raise a man that will help to empower others and stand up for those who can't. Even though he is only 15 months, I am working hard to bring him up in such a way that he will be kind and respectful of all people and capable of thinking for himself.

What do you wish you could automatically grant, like a fairy godmother, to mothers during trying times?

A calm, cool nonjudgmental mama friend who can help you with nursing and newborns, will talk you down when you are frustrated with toddlers and fits, and remind you that healthy, cared-for babies need healthy, cared-for mamas.

Thanks, Julie!

For more info, visit Julie's site here.

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