Sometimes, I like to reflect on all my past romantic relationships. Now that I have decades worth of experience with the subject, I can see the growth in my selections (and decisions) over time.
Let’s take it back to Little Raya with her first inkling of a crush. I was probably 7 or 8 years old, and I used to spend summers in Rochester, New York, where my parents are from. Mind you, the rest of the year was spent in a predominantly white setting. Rochester—at least where my dad is from—was predominantly Black. I was exposed to many more people with my skin tone, and I loved it.
This one summer, I stayed at my grandma’s house. I always had cousins coming in and out, including one cousin who’s just a year older than me, Chaneisse. This particular summer Chaneisse and I made friends with two boys from the neighborhood. I can’t remember the boy’s name she was interested in, but my guy’s name was Rocky. Was that his real name? Who knows! Did I question it? Absolutely not!
Chaneisse and I would sneak out of the house every chance we had (and there weren’t many) to catch up with Rocky and his friend. That all came to a halt when Rocky and his friend gave Chaneisse and I gold bracelets and my grandma saw. She immediately made us give the bracelets back. We weren’t allowed to see those boys for the rest of our time there that summer, and then off to Texas I went to resume life as usual.
I had crushes throughout elementary and middle school, but my next “relationship” wouldn’t come until the 8th grade, and it lasted about as long as that bracelet from Rocky. This cutie named Ian and I had a class together and would talk regularly. I was having casual conversations, but unbeknownst to me Ian started feeling feelings. He ended up asking me to be his girlfriend. I said yes but get this—it felt weird! I couldn’t really explain it, but something didn’t feel right. So, the next day I broke up with him. (Total sidebar: I recently told my brother that story, and he said, “How sharp that you could sense your feelings, even if you didn’t know what they meant, and act on it.” He was right!)
My next boyfriend came in high school, and this one stuck. We were together for about two years with big ups and downs—at least as big as a high school relationship could have. He was Mormon (don’t ask), so early marriage was always a priority. Not for me. If you know my story, then you know that I only saw myself in California after high school. Needless to say, that relationship ended come graduation.
College was a whole different ball game. Picture this: BOYS (boys, not men), ages 18-22, and how they interacted with women on campus. Whatever you imagined, it was ten times more immature. But of course, my friend and I would dream about having boyfriends. While our expectations were always higher than what was available, we made do with the crushes we did have around campus, and boy, did we obsess. None of those crushes amounted to anything. Looking back, I played a part in that. I didn’t respect myself like I should have, and the suiters followed my lead.
You may remember that one old ghost I had? This was right after graduating college. At the time, I thought I was ready for something when he came along. I wasn’t. That’s why the relationship never worked out. About a year later, when I wasn’t even looking, that’s when he came into my life. We will be celebrating 12 years together this Fourth of July. Here’s a picture of him and I on my birthday trip to Italy last September.
As we move into the season of love (or at least Valentine’s Day), let’s focus on ourselves. Love on yourself, and when you’re ready—whether you’re looking or not—your next great love could be just around the corner.
Take some time to reflect on your past relationships—where have you seen personal growth? What has changed?