Is He REALLY The One Who Got Away?

Sometimes the one we thought got away, didn't. He was past preparation for the future. No more, no less.

Her Voice

There are two T-shirts that I wear that automatically let me know if I'm speaking to a 20-something or not. One is a shirt that has Dylan McKay on it (an original Beverly Hills, 90210 role that was played by the late Luke Perry). Another is a shirt that says, "I'm Just a Whitley in Search of My Dwayne". Whenever I'm sportin' either of those, it's pretty common for folks under 32 or so to ask me what my shirts mean. Wow. How time flies.

I thought about my second shirt when I sat down to do my Wednesday night ritual recently; one that consists of watching Queen Sugar. My props to you, Cree Summer (who used to play Freddie Brooks on A Different World, alongside "Dwayne" and "Whitley"). I'm aware of your quirky hippie role on a 90s sitcom, your comedic parts in other shows, and your voice-over resume (which is so impressive that one video takes a entire hour just to get through it all!); however, I don't recall seeing you in something that showcases your acting chops via the more dramatic side. But listen, as Nova's former professor (and lover) Octavia Laurent, you (clap) did (clap, clap) that.


Maybe it's due to my past pattern of not realizing that I have an opportunist in my path, oftentimes until it's too late, but I could sniff your agenda from the very moment you stood up to ask Nova a question at one of her tour stops. You had "get something from you" energy all over your tailored suit. But clearly, there was something in Nova that felt like you were the one who got away (at least on some level), so she took you with her on some of her other tour dates. Sometimes our nostalgia—especially emotionally and sexually—will have us longing for something and/or someone that we really should leave as a past memory. I think that's why I think I surprised my own self when I heard a loud "HMPH" come up from my belly when Nova finally said in your last scene together, "This is a sad day. I suspected but now I know. I've outgrown you." Whew.


Outgrowing someone you love, or at least once loved. That is such a heavy and complex topic that I'll have to circle back around to it another time (trust me, I will, though). But for now, when those words, that declaration, came out of Nova's mouth like the brightest light bulb moment, my mind went to the man who used to hold that title in my own world.

I'll be the first to admit that if there is one thing that I used to have a real knack for, it was picking fruit before it was ripe—you know, choosing the right man at the wrong time. Is that even possible? Oh, trust me…it is.

Sometimes someone can have all of the right qualities, but they need more time alone to mature and evolve. It is literally like eating a watermelon or a peach before it ripens; it has everything within it to be very good; it's just not fully ready…yet.

And when it came to "him", when he told me that he loved me, desired me and couldn't really see past me when it came to what he needed to do for his future (which was a part of the problem, to tell you the truth), and so he had to let me go, at least for now, because I couldn't think of one thing about him that I didn't want in a man, lover or spouse, he earned the title that so many of us have given to at least one guy—the one who got away.

Hmph. He actually held that title for about 15 years too.

That is until I got the nerve to look him up and give him a call. To this day, he's got one of the most impacting and masculine voices that I ever heard (lawd). After an eight-hour-straight convo, while I still totally understood just how and why he earned the "got away" position in my life, as he started to share with me what the past several years had been like for him, we didn't really seem to complement each other as much as we used to. His spiritual views couldn't be more different than my own. His perspective on relationships was a bit Twilight Zone-ish for me. While once upon a time, we would talk about our goals, dreams and even values without any hesitation or reservation, I found myself thinking, "Don't even get into it" in direct response to some of the things that he said. Don't get me wrong now, I'm pretty sure that the sex would've been better than ever (le sigh), but beyond the memories and the dormant passion, I'm not sure what else we would have…now.

Once we reconnected, we stayed in touch for a couple of months or so. He was just that fine, a part of my heart missed him just that much and the walks down memory lane were so sentimental that I think when it came to the phrase "the one who got away", I was so focused on "the one" that I didn't give as much credence to "away". In the midst of all of my romanticizing, I had to accept the reality that the time apart gave us both the space to become, who we were now. What catching up did was reveal to us both that while there would probably always been an uncanny connection and a bona fide chemistry, we didn't complement one another anymore.

He didn't "get away". He was simply gone. Because he needed to be. Even all those years ago.


That last part? That is why I'm sharing all of this with you. Because I know that at least 70 percent of the women reading this article have given some man the "you're the one who got away" title and position in their own life, and because I know that doing that can prevent you from fully giving your all to someone else, if you feel like there is some man who got away, ask yourself why is that. Is it based on some solid evidence that you have in your present life or a handful of memories from your past?

And if you believe it so wholeheartedly that, even you have to admit that you are a little emotionally stunted, maybe you should do what I did and look him up. If he's married or not interested, he's not the one who got away; he's the who needed to be let go. If he's interested in reconnecting, he won't be casual about it; if he clearly communicates that the last time he lost you, he'll make sure that he won't let that happen again. In fact, if that's the case, you probably would've heard from him first (some of y'all will catch that later).

But more than anything, be open to the possibility that the one who got away, got away because both of you needed him to. You didn't let him escape so much as the Universe removed him from your path because, had he remained, you wouldn't be quite the woman you are now and he wouldn't be quite the man he is now—both of you, being what you need to be, for someone else.

My friend, what life is revealing to me, more and more, with every passing day, is what is meant for us is presented to us. The love of our life is not exempt from this fact. Love doesn't "get away". At the right place and time, it comes boldly, clearly and eternally towards us, determined to never let us get away from it.


So, as someone who used to use the title, I get why you would too. Yet I hope my own experience will cause you to rethink still putting that kind of energy into the atmosphere. When it comes to the true "love of your life" and "meant to be", unless he comes and you push him away (which is also another message for another time), "the one" and "got away" don't exactly go together. The one doesn't do that. Love—and both of your life paths—won't let him.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

Why You Should Be Grateful 'He' Didn't Choose You

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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