Guest Blog by Ayana Fennell
The next step on my checklist of life. I remember my enthusiasm when I first arrived at the Mecca. Naive, hopeful, and eager to live out all of my collegiate dreams: I would maintain a perfect GPA, explore my passions, find the love of my life, and get the career offer of my dreams — in that order.
Fast forward to the present, as I reminisce on what I was told would be the best four years of my life…
Don’t get me wrong. Howard has been one amazing journey — but I couldn’t shake the notion that my experience had been stifled because it lacked that quintessential romance. And after hearing for so long that an HBCU was the last time I’d find “so many (insert accolade) Black men in one place”, I started to believe the hype…and get a little paranoid. In fact, I got so preoccupied with finding the real thing before time ran out, that settling for a close substitute was becoming a grim reality.
Now staring anxiously into what will be my senior year at Howard, I am filled with mixed emotions. On the surface, I’ve done everything “by the book.” I’ve made the grade, maintained a social life, dabbled in a few creative projects, and even deepened my spirituality. But nothing could stave off the gnawing question that continuously resurfaced: Why am I still single? If I wasn’t asking myself (or God) this question, then it was coming from a well-meaning loved one or close friend, puzzled by how someone who seemingly had it all could lack the one thing she wanted the most — or thought she needed.
Like so many others, I had mapped out the life I had been socialized to expect. But even with all of my accomplishments, the emphasis was still placed on the man that I didn’t have.
*Fortunately, that’s where the pity party ends.
I couldn’t fold for another “woe-is-me” think-piece about why at 21 years old, I’ll be alone for the rest of my life.
But what I will say is that these past 3 years have given me some crazy stories that I would’ve never had otherwise. Between the laughs, tears, and melodrama, I’ve garnered enough gems to last a lifetime — proving that sometimes it pays for things to not go as planned. Ironically, the experiences that taught me what love is not, helped me to gradually piece together exactly what love is, and why it’s something I’ll never compromise again.
If you’re anything like me, you love a challenge — especially when it comes to romance. There’s just something irresistible about a guy with a tough exterior and a little mystique. But what happens when your affinity for the “hard to get” becomes self-sabotage? As someone who bores easily, I found it enticing when I encountered someone who kept me on my toes. However, I’m not referring to spontaneous dates and random displays of affection …quite the contrary. In my world, the love language that I had grown accustomed to was a cocktail of neglect, half-hearted gestures, and eventual abandonment.
Back then, being an after-thought was better than not being thought of at all. My half-baked love of self convinced me that in my entirety, I was too much. And after being deemed “intimidating” and “unapproachable” by males for SOO LONG — I gave up.
So for a while I tried to dilute myself and become easier to swallow. Since I had internalized the myth that “all men leave”, I feared that if I didn’t become palatable enough — I would prove myself right.
Thus began the toxic cycle of loveless bonds:
I welcomed emotionally unavailable partners as a challenge and measured my worth within their hollow embrace.
Investing in someone who demonstrates minimal effort seems like a zero-sum game. If anything, the first sign of emotional distance should be a red flag — but for me, it simply meant that I wasn’t trying hard enough. So I constantly tried to overcompensate for the love that they either weren’t willing or equipped to reciprocate. Vying for their affection allowed me to escape my own soul work.
In hindsight, “loving the chase” was just a cop out of the truth that I denied myself. No one should have to beg for reciprocity. Even I knew that. But this was deeper than ego.
When I really faced myself, I realized that I was terrified of the prospect of being loved correctly.
I didn’t know what that looked like or how that felt. Chasing the aloof felt safe and familiar. But risking vulnerability with a man who could potentially treat me right? THAT was scary. Predictability gave me control — I expected to be disappointed, and so I was…every. single. time.
But then it hit me:
I could no longer blame the world for self-inflicted pain.
It was time to own up to the ways that I had enabled toxicity within my relationships. Everything that I wanted from a partner, I would first have to exhibit myself. Honesty, accountability, support, forgiveness, boundaries …— they all stemmed from SELF. And this time around, I decided to become my own sanctuary.
With my senior year in college on the horizon, I can honestly say that I don’t know what to expect — and I certainly don’t have all the answers.
But that’s what excites me.
I’ve abandoned my former checklist in favor of living on my own terms. Timelines are overrated, and I have the rest of my life to find someone to live it with. But for now, I’d much rather save my love for the one who deserves it most: me. And that is a full-time job.
This blog was previously posted on Medium.com by Ayana Faith
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