“What if I want to go to Africa?” That was my response to the surprise wedding proposal and the “cold feet” I was experiencing. It was 1998 and I wouldn’t put my feet on African soil until 2018. All I knew, was that I felt my freedom slipping away with every mention of the wedding.
I’ve been watching, Cherish the Day, a new series on OWN and a lot of feelings have emerged as I watch Evan and Gently navigate their relationship. Throughout my life and relationships, I have been both Evan and Gently, but Gently’s character resonates most with me.
Picture it, 1996 Washington, DC. The country girl meets the city boy and they make a life together…well, sort of. We had a mostly picture perfect courtship, complete with all the good stuff you could imagine. He had every right to believe he had found his wife. However, he had not. At 24, I had never really thought about what it meant to be married. All I knew, from my lived experience, was that I should prepare for life as I knew it to be over. The only problem was that I liked my life just fine! I chose how and with whom I would engage with little input or consultation. In my mind, marriage would bore a hole into my most prized possessions -freedom and choice. But, I said yes. That’s right, Ms. Freedom and Choice said yes.
It was Easter weekend 1998, my then boyfriend and I went to visit my family in Georgia. In true West African form, my dad had planned a celebration and the house was full of people, food and music. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until people formed a circle around my boyfriend and me. He got on one knee and popped the question. With a plastered smile and my mind racing, I said yes, in front of all my family and friends.
After years of reflection, two failed marriages, and therapy, I’ve learned how to articulate what I have always known. I love people deeply -my friends, family and romantic partners. I also love being able to roam, explore and live as carefree of a life as I can afford. Many people find this confusing, unsettling and a host of other adjectives. However, it’s just me. It’s who I am. It’s who I’ve been. I used to think that my life had to be about my loved ones (husband, kids, my parents, etc.), which was a seriously limited view…for me. Now, my life is about me and my desire to share myself with those I love. I believe that is OK.
While the feels are real as I watch Cherish the Day, this line from Episode 6 gives me hope for the future: “I used to think marriage was like a prison, but I’ve never felt so free. When you’re confident in it, you can go and return and it’s there waiting for you.”
With love! #SMDH