Why Running Into Your Ex Can Be The Best Thing Ever

Before you let an ex-sighting freak you out, read why it could be a blessing in disguise.

Love & Relationships

Life is a funny thing. A few weeks back, when the whole story about a Charlotte-based beat-master being discovered by Meek Mill went viral, I smiled. For a few reasons, actually. First, it was another reminder of how your passion will pave a way, oftentimes in ways (and at times) that you never would predict. Second, it was also a reminder of the power of social media. One tweet, by a guy who had 10,000 followers at that time, caused not only Meek to find Trizzy but Billboard, BuzzFeed, The Jasmine Brand and so many other publications picked it up, that it really is too many to count. The third reason why I found the story to be pretty dope is because the co-producer of the song that Trizzy sampled—"In My Mind" by Heather Headley—was created by a friend of mine, SHANNON SANDERS, an award-winning producer who recorded the original, original version 20 years ago this year (check it out here; it's pretty dope too!).

Now watch how all of these dots connect, because they do. With all of the hype that surrounded the song, I went back and watched the visual for the Heather Headley version of "In My Mind". For one thing, the song is still bangin' all these years later and two, honestly, for nostalgia's sake. It took me back to late 2006 and having a breakfast meeting with SHANNON. I had mentioned to him that I had a book that came out two years prior and, because India.Arie wrote the foreword for it and he was her musical director at the time, he wanted a copy. After checking out the first couple of chapters, being the big brother to me that he is, he teased, "Who was this guy you were all in love with?" After providing a few details, he said, "You mean...[so-and-so]?!" (I'm leaving the name out on purpose.) "I've done some work before with him. He's a cool brotha." Lord, how small can the world be?!


Ever since SHANNON found out that my first love was a former creative client of his, whenever I would see him, SHANNON would sing the chorus to "In My Mind" (see how all of that came full circle?). And you know what? Until I ended up running into my ex, a whopping nine years later, that song made me believe that it was gonna play out a lot like the lyrics did—having a difficult time seeing him with another woman, running into one of his relatives and it choking me all up, feeling like no matter what was going on, I would always consider myself to be his lady.

Boy, music can have you out here creating all kinds of scenarios that aren't even close to reality. That's how powerful it is.

But here's the thing. When I actually did run into my ex—randomly at a Kroger's and yes, he was with a woman—while I was in complete shock and, because he was my first love, there was a bit of a "jump" in my heart and stomach. I didn't feel what Heather—or SHANNON, for that matter—sang about. He has always been fine, but it wasn't the kind of fine that I recalled or was even super drawn to; he had changed some. The woman he was with caused me to SMH, but not because he was with her; it was because he's never not with a woman (that was a part of the problem that we had in the first place). One of his cousins lives in the same area that I do, so I tend to run into him every few months or so. He always says something slick about me and my ex being destined for one another.

Ironically, the last time he said something along those lines, it was while running into him at the same grocery store, on my ex's birthday. My casual response was, "Tell him 'Happy Birthday' and that it's probably time to settle down and get a wife." And by "wife", I did not mean me.

So again, while both versions of "In My Mind" claps, bumps and does whatever word the younger-than-the-millennials would use, running into my ex actually did not bring forth the experience that that song speaks of.

Hmph. Come to think of it, none of my run-ins with exes have. I remember running into an ex at a church function, chatting it up for a bit and thinking to myself, "Wow. We have nothing in common anymore." I ran into another one and asked myself, "Did you always look this way?" because I didn't feel one ounce of attraction. Not one. Then there's the ex that I saw at the mall who totally made my stomach turn because, even though he was with his wife and one of his children, as I walked past him, he found a way to wink at me while his spouse wasn't looking. Then there's the one who, when we first ended our situationship, I was mad at both him and God (not necessarily in that order either), but when we met up to discuss what happened and where things stand now, I realized that, no matter how much I loved him, I had been spared—and then some.


And all of those instances got me to thinking about what a lot of women used to write and tell me back when I was running a single woman's blog. That out of all of the things that they dread happening to them, they'd rather get a pap smear, see their dentist or work an 70-hour work week than run into an ex of theirs; especially one who they really cared about or one where the break-up was hard or even devastating. If that's you, I hear ya, loud and clear. Still, unless ole' boy was abusive or a stalker, I'm actually hoping that you do because, from my personal experience, that can play a significant role in the healing/closure/full resolve process.

I'll use the ex that I saw at a church function as an example. When we broke up, it was pretty difficult for the both of us. So difficult, in fact, that I was quietly hoping that we could avoid each other forever because, while the relationship had definitely run its course and needed to end, there was a part of me that thought that seeing him would still be painful. If I had only processed all of this in hypotheticals, a part of me would have remained stuck. Not so stuck that I couldn't date someone else but stuck in the sense that a part of my heart would've still had a bit of an unhealed wound on it.

I didn't actually know how healed I was until we locked eyes, then walked up to one another, then awkwardly hugged it out and then tried to hold a conversation for 15 minutes or so. It was then when I was like, "Wow, that season is truly over and yes, I am really over you." Before running into him, I assumed that to be the case; actually seeing him is what confirmed that to be so.


In the Classic Amplified Version of Scripture, there is a verse that says, "The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly of the Lord [even the events that seem accidental are really ordered by Him]." (Proverbs 16:33) It's a reminder that everything happens for more than a reason; there is a purpose to it. I mean, just think about all of the things that have to line up in the Universe in order for you to "run into" anyone who you don't have a daily dealings or intimate relationship with. And so, if you see your ex at a gas station, a concert, in a parking lot or anywhere else, don't take that to be random. Also, don't find a way to run from the situation either. This is a customized opportunity for you to look your past, that's all up in your present, directly in the face and figure out where you are with everything.

If you still need to heal, now you know that.

If you actually want him back, now you know that.

If you are truly over him, now you know that.

And as G.I. Joe used to say, "Knowing is half the battle." Now you can truly assess the next steps you need to take, instead of listening to Heather Headley on loop—or worse, totally avoiding the song altogether because it puts you in shambles every single time you hear it. Not only that, but another wonderful—yes, wonderful—perk of running into an ex is, once you do, you no longer have to fear doing it again. Although I'm not out here seeking out the exes of my past, I certainly have no issue seeing them, giving them at least a head nod and keeping it moving.

I now have total peace that what is done is done. "Running into them" helped to give me that.

So, if you do happen to run into your ex, don't run from the moment; embrace it. I promise you that if or when it happens, life is trying to teach you something. And, if you're open, that however-long-exchange between you and your past can get you ready for something that's about to go down in your future. "Ready" in a way that you truly didn't know that you needed to be.

You'll be able to hop into your car and play "In My Mind", either version, on full blast, and hear it as being a dope love song. Nothing more, nothing less. Because you now know, that you know, that you know that you are fully, totally and completely over your ex. Congrats!

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

How To Get Closure If Your Ex Won't Give It To You

Why Staying Friends With An Ex Is Okay (& Healthy)

How To Reclaim Your Time After A Bad Breakup

Have You Brought Ex Baggage Into Your New Relationship?

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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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