As I sit at my desk writing this Donell Jones intones in my ears “ But when you love someone you just don’t treat them bad/Oh, how I feel so sad/Now that I wanna leave/She’s crying her heart to me/How could you let this be?/I just need time to see where I wanna be…”
This is not just my iTunes randomly accessing my memory bank; rather it’s a deliberate effort on my part to get into the headspace I need to be to write this post. You see, there is a story behind this song. It’s a story that goes back almost a decade ago now, when I was 21. Back when I was in university and dating my first serious girlfriend as a twenty something. We both loved the music of Donell Jones. So much so that he provided the soundtrack to some of our most intimate moments. Little did we both know that he would also inadvertently gift me with the soundtrack to our break up. Donell sang my stupid young self into a sticky situation.
“Never did I imagine/That you would play a major part in a decision that’s so hard/Do I leave, do I stay, do I go?/ I think about my life and what matters to me the most/Girl, the love that we share is real but in time your heart will heal/I’m not saying I’m gone but I have to find what life is like without you…”- Donell Jones(Where I Wanna Be)
Truth is we shouldn’t have even been dating in the first place. In the beginning we were amazing friends and with the benefit of hindsight I realise that we should have probably stayed just that. But what did I know? She was a vibrant, witty, smart, vivacious and focused woman. And I was just horny little boy, still several more mistakes away from becoming a man. We shared most of the same lectures and were part of just a handful of African students on campus so naturally we gravitated towards each other until one day I found myself in the middle of that boundary setting “What are we ?… where is thing going?” conversation. Thinking only of quenching my lust and without giving it much further thought we agreed to date. It was the only way I figured I would get the booty.
Despite the idealistic view of myself at the time as a romantic, there was nothing romantic about that union on my part at least. I was probably more enthralled by the idea of such a vivacious and vibrant woman giving me the booty. And she had quite the booty too so I am not even mad at my younger self for that. However I am disappointed in my younger self betraying my own views on what I thought romance was and going even further to try and convince myself that that was what we had. It wasn’t. It is probably the first time I can recall that I allowed my ego to make a call that my heart should have been making. It wasn’t going to be the last either.
This was a relationship that was convenient for me at the time more than anything else. At the time I was also working part time to support myself. So come time for lectures I often tired and struggled to always pay attention. But luckily for me I now had a girlfriend I shared most of my classes so I was covered. I could always count on her to catch me up on anything I had missed and often relied heavily on her own personal notes. For most of my second year of university exams I also relied heavily on the cheats sheets she would prepare. And that is how I made it through that year.
Despite all this I still felt I could do better than her. Why? Simple. Ego. Not to mention that I obviously wasn’t in love with her. Also as is usually the case when you are in a relationship you start frequently getting attention from other girls that you weren’t getting when you were single ( I’ve never understood that). And for me this attention was coming from all the different kind of girls of different races and nationalities and it got to my head. I thought was the man and even though our relationship was seemingly fine I wanted out. So what did I do? Well, I basically plagiarised the lyrics to Donell Jones’ “Where I Wanna Be” in my break up speech to her.
“I said I left my baby girl a message sayin’ I won’t be coming home/ I’d rather be alone/She doesn’t fully understand me/That I’d rather leave than to cheat/If she gives me some time I can be the man she needs/But there’s a lot of lust inside of me/And we’ve been together since our teenage years/I really don’t mean to hurt her, but I need some time to be alone …” – Donell Jones(Where I Wanna Be)
I went even further and gave her some spill that went something like “Even Michael Jordan quit the game when he was on top.” The logic I was trying to sell to her was that it was best we go our separate ways whilst we still had fond memories of each other. My naivety and douchebagery is not lost on me.
She begrudgingly obliged me. I didn’t really give her much of a choice. And as karma would have it our relative fortunes would go on comically. I quickly learned that the grass isn’t always greener and that attention I had been getting fizzled out eventually. And she went to date someone else some time after we broke up.
Nothing could have prepared me for what would follow. For the lows and embarrassment I would put myself through all because my ego was shattered that she had actually moved on. There is one incident in particular that’s comes flooding back as I write this.
So there we were out one night post break up and I am acting the fool with my boys. That was until I until I spotted in corner of my eye grinding up on new dude. I still don’t know why but I flipping lost it. I won’t lie, I surprised even myself. But I didn’t make a scene; I just glared menacingly in their general direction whilst trying to comprehend why it bothered me so much. I was the one who ended it. The one who thought I could do better. So why was I was I upset? By now my boys had picked up on the source of my agitation. I remember one of them drunkenly offered to ‘take care’ of new dude if that would make me feel better. I was tempted for a second, but I just as quickly declined and made a bee line for the mens room. My ego was now in cruise control. There was no way it would let her think I was bothered.
My brilliant plan was to pull myself together in the mens room. Now in mens room my ego proceeded to give the man in the mirror an impromptu pep talk. One moment I was holding a glass of scotch in my hand, talking to myself and in the next I was hurling it at the mirror and shouting in frustration at myself “This is what you wanted … what the hell is wrong with you?” As the mirror came shattering to the floor new dude simultaneously walked in. wanted to crawl into the toilet bowl. That’s how embarrassed I was. So much for her not finding out that I was upset that she had moved on.
When a much older and wiser self looks back on this episode all I see is my allowing my ego to call the shots. From entering the relationship to not wanting her to move on, it was my ego that got me in those situations. That is not love, or even being in love with someone. It was selfish, self centred and petulant. But hey I was 21. Surely as I grew older and matured over the years I would learn how to starve my ego and feed my soul instead. Or would I?