“What’s one relationship you’ve had that defined you?” This was a question one of my friends asked me recently. I scanned through my contact list of men I dated and thought about the ones that were “real-life” relationships, ones that actually made a difference and contributed to my womanhood. I thought about the guy I dated my senior year of college. I had broken up with my college sweetheart and started dating another guy right after him. Yep, a rebound. After the rebound didn’t cut it—because let’s face it, they never do—I had a new guy. Let’s call him Marshmallow, Marsh for short.
I remember when I saw Marsh. I was interning for NASCAR at the time. I remember driving past the building and seeing a security guard standing outside and just with a quick glance I thought he looked really good! I remember literally saying out loud to myself “who is that???” I could see he was tall and handsome just by the way he was standing. At the time, I parked on the other side of the building, so I didn’t have a chance to walk up to see him. But as fate would have it, I got the chance to see him face to face. You know the emoji with the smiley face and hearts in the eyes? That was me all day when I first saw him! He was just my type; tall, very fine, looked to be athletic, nice teeth, good skin…I can go on and on with my thoughts of that first meeting. He was sitting on a stool when I walked in the building and I gave him my access card to let me through to the elevators. We smiled at each other and that was that. I didn’t have his schedule or anything so I wasn’t sure when I would see him again. But once again, fate stepped in.
I decided to start parking on the other side of the building where I first saw him standing outside. My car had gotten towed on the other side of the building and a college kid like me could NOT afford to keep bailing her car out of lock up! My walk was long and painful. I had to walk in heels, which I did poorly and still do to some extent, on account of my pigeon toes and low arch. As I’m walking, guess who I see? He was standing there looking cool and casual. Now if I remember correctly, we either talked for a while at that time or when I was leaving for the day…this was roughly 13 years ago. Needless to say, we ended up exchanging numbers.
There was this feeling he gave me every time I heard his voice. He was from Brooklyn and being a NY girl myself and hearing that accent made me melt. My heart would skip a little and I would start cheesing whenever he called. I even memorized his number. Yeah, I was hella lame back then, LOL! He made me feel beautiful when I felt awkward and not-so-pretty on some days. He even thought the way I walked in heels was cute. He gave me the confidence I needed. The fact that I was head over heels for a guy that I only knew for a few months should tell you that I must have been in deep. I wasn’t aware of where we were headed. In another month or so I was planning to leave for Indiana for grad school. I didn’t think we would work being long distance since we didn’t have any weight to our relationship, but he convinced me it would all work out.
And it didn’t. I was in foreign territory in Indiana. I didn’t know anyone, I hadn’t made any friends yet, and I was miserable. Depression set in real quick while I was there and I was on edge. I told him I would transfer back to Charlotte so I could be closer to home and with him. He didn’t want me to make a decision like that solely based on him. I cried a lot in those days. I had never been homesick before or missed my family and friends so much than during my time in Indiana. I remember him telling me I needed to stop letting things get to me and get thicker skin. This was probably the worst thing he could’ve said to me at that critical time in my life. At that moment, things started to change. This magic veil I had placed around him was slowly slipping and revealing to me someone that didn’t care about what I was enduring. He was fading on me, and for a person like me when you start to fade you eventually disappear and any feeling that was there prior are just memories.
Our conversations became shorter and we went from going hours without talking to days to weeks. Finally, February 14, 2007 (yes, I know, Valentine’s Day). It ended. He couldn’t handle a long distance relationship like he thought he could and it was getting to him, no matter how much I assured him I was moving back as soon as I finished grad school. I was in deep despair. I had loved everything about Marsh, right down to his fingernails. We had chemistry, shared a nickname, and never had a fight. My depression went from 10 to 100. I became someone I didn’t even know. By then, I had friends. I never drank as much as I did until I was in Indiana. After the breakup, I decided to channel ripping up his pictures, t-shirts and anything else that reminded me of him into drinking. I went across the hall or next door to my neighbors, white frat parties (please, no judgment) or to the many bars that lined this one strip in Terre Haute and drank heavily, sometimes till I blacked out. I stopped going to church and I didn’t even date, I just…well, that’s not important (it is but it isn’t). My feelings for men changed. I didn’t care about them AT ALL. I felt I was going to hurt them before they hurt me. In fact, that’s exactly what I did. When they got too close, I’d find some way to cut them off, and I was so closed off and guarded to care. What was worse is that everywhere I looked I saw or heard his voice or something that would remind me of him. I knew I was losing it.
I reflect on this relationship because of two things: 1) I’m not that person anymore. I am someone that definitely loves the feeling and idea of love and willing to give my all to someone that reciprocates that feeling. I’m also not someone that intentionally doesn’t care about someone just because of a bad breakup or bad experience with someone. Those men didn’t deserve the energy I was putting out to them, they did nothing wrong. Not all but some. 2) Forgiveness. It’s something that we take for granted and it’s hard to do. Forgiveness is powerful because you have to look it straight in the eyes and deal with it. It took a lot for me to forgive Marsh for adding to what was already a miserable experience in Indiana. I was leaning and counting on him. But I realized, later on, I put too much on him. It wasn’t for him to lift me up when I was down. What right did I have to make someone responsible for my happiness when we had no history, no experiences, no real weight to our relationship? I wasn’t even sure it was an actual relationship. In my mind, I think I conjured it up to be just that, but there was never a formal title placed on our “situationship”. And, I was the homie that he didn’t acknowledge. Later on, he would tell me that I seemed too nice. He had no clue but I had actually made a conscious decision that for him I would not be that feisty chick. In previous relationships, I was a catty, mouthy, scrappy, shit talking chick that made you want to pull your hair out. I never let him see that side of me. It’s crazy to think about that now.
I can look back at my life, my experiences and honestly say back then, I had no fucking clue! I was floating without a care in the world and thinking I had things figured out when I really didn’t. I had to go through that experience to come into who I am now, which is someone that can recognize when they are fallible and own it. Without that, there’s no true peace or happiness to come. There are no perfect parts to my being whatsoever, but a lot of my experiences have shaped me into who I have now become. I give credit to that relationship and the man I shared it with because he taught me so much about myself and gave me more than I cared to think about in those days. He broke the curse that hovered over me that I wasn’t good enough and made me feel as though I was. That “thick skin” he told me to get that irked every inch of my nerves back then is what covers me like a cloak, and I find myself not letting as many things rattle me as they did.
There are going to be people that come in your life for a season. Ones that come to share or provide a life lesson and they’re gone, poof! People are placed in your life for a reason. Now, Marsh has gone on and is married with a family and I applaud him tremendously for how his life turned out. I also applaud myself for not giving up and not subjecting myself to a life of random men but knowing that I deserve someone that will lift me up without me thinking or even asking him to. And for me, my adventure is just beginning with my next chapter…stay tuned :0)