The Summer of 2009. Cleveland, Ohio.
I would say something cliché like “my life was forever changed” but that leaves you with the connotation that it was changed in a completely positive or completely negative way and honestly, I’m just not sure.
I was 13 and going to my first Top Teens Conference. I had an amazing time and got to meet some really interesting and beautiful people. I wish it was a yearly experience, but this conference only occurred every two years. Even still, I really enjoyed myself, but that’s not really where our story began. It wasn’t until months after that conference when Darnell entered my life. It all started with a Facebook friend request.
Keep in mind, this was back in the day when Facebook was really it and Twitter was lame. He messaged me and explained to me who he was and why he friended me. Throughout the conference, I spent my time with a girl named Cece, and she had an interesting admirer named Malik from Detroit, so he ended up with us for most of the conference. Malik and Darnell were from the same chapter in Detroit. See the connection?
Well apparently, Malik and Darnell had had conversations about me, and Malik just gave all my information away. But I’m glad he did. Darnell and I would Facebook message all day and night. We would talk on the phone and we even upgraded to Skype (no catfishes over here). I still don’t know how he made me feel so safe from so far away. Somehow this man got me to tell him everything about myself, which I never do. I even told him about what happened to me in Spring of 2010.
He genuinely listened to me, he didn’t judge me, and he was always there for me. He gave great advice (even when I didn’t want it) and he opened my eyes to understanding other perspectives before judging. He was genuine and soon became my best friend.
Our relationship continued to grow and before we knew it, summer of 2011 came. It was time for us to see each other, this time in San Diego, California. I could not wait for what I knew, was going to be an amazing trip. At this point in our relationship, he was more than my best friend, he was my confidant, my shoulder to lean on, my everything. Really. I had every intention of marrying this man in the future. I knew that it got no better than him.
We soaked each other in for as long as we could before some petty girls decided they didn’t like the attention I was receiving. Two of the girls that I was sharing a room with weren’t happy that, essentially, we were doing the same thing, but my man was just with me and not entertaining all the other girls. Rumors started to fly and everyone knew my name and who I was. Guys were starting to make themselves known, saying and doing things to me as if I made myself available to them. I’ve never felt so ashamed, embarrassed, and seen. Every move I made, person I spoke to, was news and everyone knew about it. What they didn’t know was I had been emotionally intimate with this man for 2 years before we ever did anything. We had built a very strong foundation for our relationship before anything physical occurred. Throughout all of the craziness, he kept me and made me feel sane. If anything, it made me want to be around him more.
Update: Last I heard the main two girls that were out for me, both ended up pregnant within a year and didn’t continue with school.
Moving forward, our relationship didn’t change. We talked about marriage and there was nothing anyone could tell me, he was going to be my husband. I couldn’t imagine life without him. We weren’t stupid, we knew that long distance was hard and neither of us wanted to hold the other back. We agreed that we could do whatever we wanted to, so long as after its all said and done, the two of us would be together in the end.
I was in my senior year of high school when I began thinking about the bigger picture and if he and I could really make it. By this time, he disclosed to me that he had been diagnosed bipolar. I remember that night, googling as much information as possible. I wanted to do whatever I could to make things easier for him and I wanted to be educated for the both of us. He didn’t like to talk about it and with our only form of communication being a phone, I never really knew what was going on in his head. Although he wouldn’t say anything, I could tell. Sometimes he would get in a mood out of nowhere, but for obvious reasons, I couldn’t outright ask. So I did my best at these times, to not be upset with him, stop whatever our argument was, and change the tone of our conversation.
I realized that this was going to be harder than I thought. Long distance took its toll on every aspect of our relationship. As I got closer to graduation and thinking about my future. I realized this wasn’t going to work. My first sign was realizing that after all this time, he never learned my love language, which is the reason I always felt like I made him more important to my life, than I was to his.
The second sign? When I realized the importance I placed on higher education wasn’t the same as his. I can remember thinking to myself, “what if we have kids, is he going to tell them, they don’t have to go to school if they don’t want to?” All of my thoughts centered on, “how can we have a family together if…”
I couldn’t allow myself to continue to get my hopes up when he promised to visit me and didn’t, when he’d forget my birthdays and important events, when he’d tell me something instead of showing me. It was the little things. If I didn’t call or text him, we’d go weeks without talking. It felt so one-sided and for a long time I was willing to live with it because he was giving me the things I wasn’t getting from home, but senior year, I decided that wasn’t enough anymore. I deserved someone that reached out to me because they missed me or I was on their mind. I was left with feelings of being a burden, nuisance, and unwanted.
Our relationship deteriorated while I was in college, it was nonexistent. He recently made a reappearance in my life, but that was a complete shit show. It went from a crazy girlfriend hating me for being his friend to him hating me for not wanting to be more than his friend and I honestly had to just back away from it all. I wasn’t ready to release an almost 10-year relationship with someone I cared so deeply for, someone I had wanted to marry and was willing to give it all up for. The stress was just too much for me and it seemed as though there was no way for me to win, but that’s usually how it goes. I always lose.
I wish him the best in his life and all his endeavors. I will always be there for him if he truly needs me. I have nothing but love for this man and I will always cherish memories with him. I will always love him.
What I will not do? Choose him over me.