He’s the King, I’m the Queen (my dad called me Queenie). He was a student at St. Vincent St. Mary and at the age of 25 he left for Miami. I was a teacher at St. Vincent St. Mary and at the age of 25 I left for the Carolinas. At 29 he wrapped up his career in Miami and moved back to Cleveland. At 29 I wrapped up my teaching career in Rock Hill and moved back to Cleveland. I got divorced, I was out of my marriage contract. I was a first round draft pick turned free agent, just like LeBron. There was only one difference. The offers the men of Cleveland were giving him were far better than anything they were sending my way.
We all remember the day we got broken up with. I was sitting on my couch in South Carolina, I was anxiously awaiting the moment I’d get to hear LeBron profess his love for Cleveland on national television. It was just like a movie, this was the love story every girl dreams about! LeBron was going to go on TV and gush about how much he loved Cleveland, talk about commitment and a bunch of other mushy stuff that only Cleveland would care about- we all got sucked in, we wanted this moment and then BOOM, he dumped us. Cleveland was Elle Woods and no amount of bending and snapping was going to bring our man back. We had to let him go.
I remember after I moved my mom mailed me a box. I opened it and pulled out broken pieces of Precious Moments figurines, I had collected them for years and they had all shattered during shipment. I was livid, I never asked her to send them to me and I knew it was her way of getting rid of me, I knew she thought I was never coming back. I’m sure LeBron had the same feeling when he saw his fans burning his jersey. I was so angry I vowed that I would never come home, I know he did the same.
It may seem like a silly comparison, figurines and jerseys. But it wasn’t so much about the material things as it was the people we loved the most that weren’t giving us the support we needed. Not that they didn’t want to, they just didn’t know how to because they didn’t understand.
Nobody really takes time to understand each other through a breakup. What nobody understood at the time and what LeBron and I couldn’t explain, because we didn’t even know it ourselves, was that we had a job to do. That job was nothing anybody could see, because all of the work that needed to be done was on ourselves. We weren’t the people everyone expected us to be and we needed to leave to become the people WE wanted, needed, and were meant to be. LeBron left Cleveland and came back a man, I left Cleveland and came back a woman.
You can’t forgive someone for that. You can’t forgive someone for stepping away from something they’re not ready for, it doesn’t require forgiveness, only understanding. Sometimes we need to step away from the things we love the most to become the person we need to be for that relationship. I tried to explain that to people and they all argued with me, swearing that it was forgiveness for the way he did it, not for leaving. But I disagreed, because when you go through a breakup you don’t forgive someone for the way they broke up with you, you forgive them for leaving.
When I moved back my friends told me I didn’t belong here, that I needed to be in a big city. For a while I agreed, for a while I didn’t feel like I belonged. I would tell people that I liked to blog and wanted to write books, maybe a TV show, maybe a movie and they would just stare at me like I had three heads. I knew they wanted me to say something they could grasp, like I worked at the Cleveland Clinic and enjoyed going to the West Side Market on the weekends, because people from here understand that. For a while I thought about heading to a big city, a place where I’d be accepted for following crazy dreams, a place where it’s normal to be a writer. But truthfully, I don’t mind being different, I like doing something that’s not considered the norm. But something didn’t feel right about leaving, something would be missing if I left and went to a big city. I just didn’t know what it was.
I walked outside the other day and saw a friend sitting at a picnic table reading a book about Cleveland. He not only gave me a mini history lesson, but a lesson in what I’d be missing if I left. He had just quit his job at Quicken Loans in order to focus on launching his own startup. We had spent countless hours at bars talking about our dreams and goals and he was actually doing it. I was so proud of him and I couldn’t help but admire him for taking a chance. It took guts. That day I realized I didn’t belong anywhere else, I was exactly where I needed to be. Home. Cleveland. A place where people knew what it meant to be all in.
I’ve learned in my three years of dating that LeBron would eventually do what every guy seems to do when they leave a relationship. They all come back. He could have let the press take care of the announcement, which would have been the equivalent of a text that said, “I want you back.” But he approached the relationship like an adult and he gave us a letter, a letter that wasn’t an apology but an explanation. After reading that letter it was evident that he had become the man he wanted and needed to be for the relationship. LeBron was ready and so were we. Figurines may have been broken, jerseys may have burned, words may have been exchanged, but it wasn’t enough to keep either of us away. We were all in.
Cleveland may not have the swankiest clubs, the tallest buildings or the brightest lights. But we have passion and a whole lot of fight, we have that fire. And that shines brighter than any light in any city that I’ve ever known. It’s what brought me back, it’s what brought LeBron back and it’s what made Cleveland take LeBron back.
People ask me why I won’t go on a dating site to find someone and the answer is simple. I want a story. I want LeBron James and Cleveland. But relationships, great relationships, are all about timing and when the time is right we’ll both be able to write that chapter about the day we got the ring. THAT will be the greatest chapter in each of our love stories. That’s a chapter worth waiting for.
Until then, it’s good to know we’re both finally home, where together we reign.