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I am naturally introspective — it's the heartbeat of my writing and part of the reason I can retell, relive and re-share some of the most poignant and insignificant aspects of my life. The series of late-20s revelations I’ve written have been a side effect of being quarantined with nothing but time to reflect on life, or perhaps cause I'm jumping into a new decade with my 30s pretty soon.

Who is in my life, who is not in my life, the people, places, mentors, coworkers, friends, foes and everything in between has shaped me to be the exact person I am at this point. None of this has been more true and real than when I think about my love life, and all the peaks and valleys I've walked in with different partners over the past 10 years. With the sounds of Jhené Aiko, Kehlani, SZA and Bryson Tiller crooning about the exes of yesteryears with some of their most recent drops, anyone can be driven to flip through the photobook in their brain. In my case, my photo book is full of men who have influenced and shaped my romantic life, whether by who I was as a partner, who I am now and, most importantly, who I continue to grow into in the future. They have all been a part of the growing pains and even been the catalyst for some of my most meaningful transformations.

Those men will never hear me say thank you, but in the spirit of kicking my 20s to the curb, let's revisit lover's lane and what I learned during the journey.

To My First College Boyfriend

Oh, what a gem you were. I loved that you were the first guy I dated who showed me the importance of kindness, patience and being a gentleman. I think our Greek coupledom made dating that much more fun, as I navigated my first year of college and being a part of an MGC sorority.

What I still appreciate about you is that we remained friends long after our breakup, which was simple and uneventful. We just didn't work and that was OK. I'm so happy that you found happiness with a beautiful new wife and that to this day I know we can always support each other.

Without you, I wouldn't have known that breakups don't have to be chaotic, painful or with scandal. They can be something as simple as acknowledging you are not a good fit and you go your separate ways. You were gentle with me and were able to be a friend when I needed it. There is nothing more valuable than a partner who can wear both hats.

To The One Who Helped Me Understand Generational Curses

I think you will forever live in infamy among my friends because you were a big game-changer. You were the kind that earns their own nickname, like "He Who Mustn’t Be Named," making you a legend in your own right. You were my first idealized notion of love with a man I so desperately wanted to see the good in, despite everything that said otherwise. The quintessential bad boy with a heart of gold that only I could see.

Thank you for leaving me because you knew you couldn't be a good man to me at that point in your life. I wanted so desperately to be the one to tame you, but had no idea at 19 years old men aren't tamed like animals; that type of change is an individual choice not motivated by one single person. You were the first true heartbreak that showed me learning the content of a person's character, actions and words is a valuable combination that helps determine a partner.

I also appreciate the importance of you apologizing four years after the fact when I was moved on, healed and in a place that I could accept the apology even if I didn't need it anymore. Nothing felt better than seeing that apology and knowing I was far from the person who had craved it so long ago. It showed me I was truly past a situation that I never thought I'd get over. To say you made a lasting impact is an understatement.

To The One Who Showed Me The Importance of Adventure

You came and went like the wind. You were my Nicholas Sparks romance novel come to life, with our long-distance romance that weathered time zones and countries while I pursued my Masters in grad school. God, we were so different, but we had such a passion for each other. We were magnetic and it made every flight worth it.

Thank you for being the first relationship that showed me the importance of fun and adventure. The nights were long, the text messages endless and we had so many failed Skype sessions that it was comical. You showed me the importance of recognizing where a person is at in their journey and how different paths don't always lead to a grand romance, no matter how hard you try to make it work.

I still can't believe I only physically saw you 17 days out of the whole year we dated. Crazy. To this day I say, because of us, I know I can do long distances. But also I acknowledge it takes work, patience and having end goals that meet in the middle. With your closing of one chapter and my starting a new one, we were never going to find that pivotal sweet spot to take us from point A to B.

To The One Who I Wanted To Be The One

God, it's going to be a while before I can think of you and not want to simultaneously scream and cry. You were the only guy I was ready to make the big jump for — you know, moving in together, changing my last name and hearing wedding bells. I don't think there wasn't anything I wouldn't have done for you. We were the hometown fairytale I never planned for — the childhood romance that bloomed into fruition as adults; a sweet love that was later riddled by toxicity and chaos.

I don't have a lot to thank you for because I'm still wading through the water looking for the lessons. Losing someone you love is soul-crushing, and living without them is even worse — especially if you thought they’d always be around. I've known you since I was 12, but if I gathered anything in the fallout from our relationship, it's that I have to be OK with knowing I was able to pour and invest in you with my whole heart — even if you couldn't reciprocate that in a healthy way.

I wasn't perfect, but I loved you so much and I gave you the best of me even when I couldn't give it to myself. And I know without a doubt that nobody will question my devotion, adoration, or commitment to you. I think you just weren't ready for me, as made evident by your choices.

I tell myself all the time that when I get through this — the crying, the longing, the missing, the reminiscing — who knows who I'll be on the other side. I have to remind myself daily that even though my plans didn't work with you, I know God has a different plan, and I have to trust in that. Our demise helped to empower my faith and relationship with God, if nothing else, because when you experience the loss of someone you were ready to start a life with, you have to believe there has to be a grander plan in store for your love life if this wasn't it.

Man, I wanted you to be it. I was given the capacity to love truly and deeply, and someday the right person will receive that.

I say goodbye to all those men, all along with my 20s. Thank you for our experiences and what they have taught me. I think my 30s will be less riddled with the growing pains of dating, and filled with fruitful and meaningful relationships. Who knows? It may even be the decade I find my forever person.