All relationships have their place. I, like many of my peers, have experienced sneaky links, a couple of situationships, and a committed relationship.  It's just about being honest with yourself and seeing what you can handle.  

Growing up, I didn’t see healthy relationships. My parents divorced and moved on to other partners when I was young. I remember my dad dating a salsa-obsessed blonde who was not too fond of me and tried to hustle my dad. My mom remarried quickly. Unfortunately, he had a Jheri curl. He wasn’t around a lot and later, my friends confessed to me that they thought he was just my uncle or something. I say all of this is to say that the relationships you see as a child have an effect on you because they are your first demonstrations of romantic love.

A lot of what we saw, we have to unlearn. I used to ask the wrong people for the right type of love. I thought if I made myself nice enough, pretty enough, and small enough that I’d receive that love. I thought if I could manipulate and twist enough, I would receive it.  The truth is, you can do everything right. Love yourself, exercise, eat right, meditate, do your homework, and not get that kiss under the mistletoe (fingers crossed for New Year's Eve though). If you do, lucky you!  If you don't, lucky you, too!  

Recently, I’ve been taking time for myself and healing from my past bad relationships. I’m opening myself up to the idea of love again. It’s been nice, feeling whole on my own, and it’s one of the best gifts I’ve ever given to myself. My journey to love internally is giving me hope. I know that the love I feel inside is somewhere out there too. 

In this time of reflection and singleness, I’ve been reading All About Love by bell hooks. In the book, she speaks about how love is an action rather than a feeling. She explains that you do not just uncontrollably fall in love, but rather choose to love. This is important in all types of relationships, whether platonic, romantic, or familial. 

Having said that, here are some insights to help you leave this holiday season emotionally unscathed. 

Know what YOU want and remain firm about it.

For instance,  it’s been my choice to not participate in casual sex. There's nothing wrong with it, I just don’t want that type of relationship, and engaging in it would be harmful to me because I know that I’ll want more. 

When it comes to what is and what isn’t acceptable, that’s up to you. However, remember you deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and kindness in any relationship, and whomever you are with deserves the same consideration as well. What I’m trying to say is,  don't ever let anyone “DaBaby” you! 

I asked some friends, who are currently at different universities, for their relationship advice. Here are their responses: 

Advice from Friend 1

“I think over quarantine is when my thoughts about relationships, whether casual or not, really changed. Growing up, I fed into all the bullsh*t of determining what a good relationship was. Basically, I think I just allowed others' opinions about my life to hold too much weight. What I’ve learned through my relationship is to always be yourself, no matter if you think you have flaws that person won’t like. For hookups and such, make sure you know who you are as a person and what you want out of your sexual or romantic life. My thing is that sex is just sex until you have sex with someone who makes it emotional TO YOU.” 

Advice from Friend 2

“My advice: if you know you get paranoid about STDs or getting pregnant, take the steps to ease your mind beforehand so you can actually enjoy the experience.” 

Advice from Friend 3

“It is easy to get swept up in loneliness, whether due to being surrounded by friends in relationships or with the holidays coming up, but it’s important to make the most of the time you have to yourself. I never knew how much growth could come out of focusing on me! And hey, we all have those random peaks of sexual desires and will want to have a meaningless hookup. That's totally fine as long as you aren’t pushing your comfort boundaries. Keep your physical, emotional, and mental health a priority.” 

To sum it up, don’t expect your sneaky link to be more than a sneaky link, don’t expect more from your situationship, and don't assume your significant will become your life partner.

This holiday season, enjoy and treasure the present moment. In or out of the bedroom, please play it safe. Keep all things in perspective and make honesty between one another more common. 

Elise Tervalon is a Blavity U Ambassador and student at Pasadena City College in Pasadena, CA.