One summer I met a tall, broad-shouldered, handsome man. Jerrod was 6’5”, towered over me, and I was convinced his was strong enough to pull a truck. I was in heaven. I thought God had shined upon me and brought me this chocolate gift. I was a chaperone for a special camp for foster kids, and Jerrod was working at the same camp with the sports team. We spent the weekend exchanging glances, flirting back and forth, poking fun at each other—he was into me, and I was into him. I thought I was going to float off that campus. Before leaving camp, we exchanged numbers and began to talk. Finally.
We went on a few dates. We held hands, laughed, and talked about life. I had stars in my eyes. Jerrod checked all the boxes for me. Plus, he was filled with a tenderness that made me feel safe. I remember once we went to a waterfall; he picked me up, sat me on the stone ledge overlooking the falls and kissed me. It was so romantic. Everything was going really well until a week later when he told me we weren’t going to work out. We hadn’t dated for long, but I was still bummed. I knew I wasn’t a supermodel, but would I ever be enough? The girl next door eventually got a man, right?
I was already a late bloomer—late to have my first kiss, late to date. By the time I was ready for a relationship, I was kissing frogs and planning weddings in my mind with guys who weren’t ready to be serious about me. Jerrod’s words were like other guys I encountered. The “it’s not you, it’s me” speech gets old, and before long you begin to wonder if it really is you.
Each “No”, “I’m not ready”, “You’re great but—”, or “Let’s be friends” caused my self-esteem to tank a little more. Maybe there was something wrong with me? Maybe I was too much? Their words were cemented in my heart, and I spent long stretches being single, trying to avoid further hurt. After one particularly painful breakup with an on-and-off-again boyfriend, I knew I needed to make a change.
It took years of growth, trials, and pain, to free myself from the lie that I was unlovable. I carried the rejection from Jerrod and others like him deep within my soul until I decided one day to release it. I was driving from Atlanta, Georgia, to Greenville, South Carolina, to visit my brother, and as I drove through the tree-lined highway I began to pray. I was ready for a change. I was ready to meet my person and I was tired of believing the lie that I was not enough. By this time, I was balling and wiping my tears so I could see the road, but there was no traffic. All the lanes freely flowed. Freedom, that’s what I wanted. That day, I changed my expectations for myself—healing was no longer optional, it was required. Letting go of the sting of rejection opened me up to a journey of self-love and acceptance. I had to fall in love with myself.
I wanted to enjoy my life, so I decided to get out of my comfort zone. Instead of waiting for a partner to do things with, I did things by myself. I went to new restaurants by myself, saw new movies by myself, traveled alone, and treated myself to spa days. But more than tangibly spoiling myself, I spent time in therapy and started to heal. I began to put the negative self-talk to rest. My soul needed love and affirmation, not shame and guilt. I had to believe that I, a Black woman, was worthy of love and belonging. Loving myself in this way allowed me to receive a love I’d never experienced before.
I entered my 30’s a slightly hopeful, yet pessimistic romantic. I knew I was loveable and worthy of being loved, but dating was hard and a pandemic only made things harder. During the most painful and unpredictable year, I met the man I love. Nothing was planned, nothing was as I envisioned it, and all of it was beautiful. It was beautiful because I was ready for love.
I knew what it took to make myself happy. I had learned to embrace my beauty. I was clear about what kind of treatment I would accept or reject, and I was less afraid of rejection if that came along. I made peace with who I am, and I understood that I may not be the right person for everyone, but I would be the right person for someone. I was thriving all by myself, and unconditional love simply enhanced my life—it did not define it.
Now I’m engaged to this incredible Black man, and this year I will finally have what I’ve been longing for. The holidays will sting less because I have my fiancé to share them with. And after years of sorrow, I am reminded that eventually the sun does come out and joy does come in the morning. I am basking in the goodness of promises fulfilled. And when I wonder if I am worthy of such unconditional love, I look in the mirror and say, “You deserve to be loved like this, sis.”Leave a Comment