Today is our anniversary!
Well. Wait. Not our anniversary like...well it's...I...my...hm. Maybe it'd be better to start from the beginning.
On October 16th, years ago, on a cold windy day somewhere in America, a young girl was jejely entering the worst relationship she could ever imagine. But for as wrong as it was, it was so, so right.
To get the full picture, you'd need to go back before it's inception (conception?). So let's go back. I was a ripe old 19. And when i say "ripe old", I really mean "ripe old." See, from childhood, I had this idea in my head of what I wanted my life to be. You know, that pressure you put on children to determine what their life trajectory will be before you allow them to decide what they want to wear to school in the morning? Yeah, that. So while other children were smartly proclaiming they wanted to be doctors or firemen or weave sellers or whatever else, me I decided I wanted to be a mother.
Imagine. Classroom full of children. Firemen. Doctors. Dentists. Teachers. And me. A mother.
And not just any mother o! Mother of all mothers. After all, I'm a Nigerian. I cannot carry last, if I'm going to be a mother, I must be the best. First in class. Eight children. Biological. Adopt at least three more. Household run like nothing you'd ever see again. Sweet mother tinz. Best of the best.
And I wanted it all by 30.
You know how kids think 20 is ancient? Like, ask a seven year old how old they think their grandparents are. I just spent a week in Texas. My nieces straightfaced told me they figured their grandparents were like...48. Something...you know, old.
When I told them I was 23 the look that glazed over their faces ehn, it's enough to make you really doubt yourself. Twenty-three is really, really old to a five year old. But at the same time, you can't help but look over your many...many years on this earth and examine what exactly you've done for yourself in that time. I mean really. It took this kid like a month to learn to swim. In almost 24 years I still haven't managed to master not getting a run in my stockings.
ANYWAY. I wanted to be super mom by the time I reached old age. Also known as 30 years old. And instead of to grow with and hold on to the dream as I got older...like a reasonable person would do, I held on the age. So by the time I reached 19, I was PANICKED.
I mean seriously. That's no time at all! Nineteen and not even a husband to speak of. All the steps that needed to be completed! Study your books. Meet a man. Meet a nice man. Study your books. Meet a nice Black man. Meet a nice, straight Black Nigerian Igbo Catholic man from a good family. Date him. Study your books. Hide him from mummy and daddy until he's ready to marry you. Introduce him to the parents as a friend, Engagement. Planning a wedding in and of itself takes at least a year if you want your mother to survive it. (All that, "You didn't invite Auntie Nkechi that you haven't seen since birth but she's my friend that I'm super close with and essential to my life and also maybe a governor's wife but is that important, no! Please, you want to embarrass me? You don't want my friends to come? You want me to die? You know God does not promise tomorrow!" takes at LEAST eight months) Then, marriage. babies. Babies on babies on babies.
I was losing a race I hadn't even started!
So...there's a bit of my mindset. A bit of what I carried into my relationship. Honestly, I...I can't for the life of me figure why out it didn't work.
Nineteen. And in he strolled. If I'm being honest and generationally/regionally correct...crip walked into my life. All of everything that I didn't need. And yet, I dropped my guard, ignored the warning signs and gave in to the sound of what I thought was the ticking of my biological clock but in reality was most likely the drum beat of the College Hill intro.
I went through hell and back, and then back...and then back. It took me almost two years to get out of that relationship, and another year and some change to fully get over it. All because of what I thought I was supposed to be, supposed to feel, supposed to live. I was "supposed" to be a lot of things. I'm not actually any of them.
What I am is happy. Whereas this day used to remind me of my failings a girlfriend, it now reminds me of how far I've actually come. A few years ago you would have found me cowering under my sheets, groaning over what I could have, should have, or would have done differently. What should have, could have, would have gone differently if such and such had happened and if the stars aligned right and the chakras were...chakra-ing better that week or whatever.
Now, I'm just happy I'm alive. I'm happy that I made it through in one (mostly?) sane piece, I'm happy I was able to leave it all behind while still growing from it. I'm happy I learned I learned what love is not. I'm happy I learned what I can and cannot tolerate. I'm happy I learned to lean on God when things seem rough. I'm happy I learned to go to Him even when times are good. I'm happy for all the sad ass breakup songs and delayed-onset teenage ass angst and weird fights. I learned so much about myself.
I learned that in the heat of the heat of the heat of the moment, I'm not above a low blow. I learned that I am extremely slow to anger, but once that match is lit...I'm taking the whole house down with me. I learned that I have little to no capacity for PDA. I learned that I have no interest in pet names. I learned that communication is absolutely key.
So for all the bad, there was so much good.
Yesterday, Anniversary by Tony! Toni! Tone! came on the radio on my way back from work, and I was jolted into the realization that today is a day that used to mean so much to me. But instead of crying or trying to find a way to sneakily picture message a shot of myself looking like a visual interpretation of Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" to my ex, I sat and laughed about how far I've come. And so I decided to take back my anniversary...and my happiness. For once and for all.
So today is my anniversary. Not "ours". Just mine. Because today is the day that started me on a journey to loving myself. On my own terms. At my own pace. And it's the best relationship I've ever been in.