I’m nearly 38 years old. When I was 18, twenty years ago, I met a man.

I was in college and he was friends with some of the friends that I had met during the first part of my Freshman year of college. When I first met him, I thought he was a jerk, but I was good friends with his roommate, so I was still around him quite a bit.

Eventually, after a break up with my high school sweetheart, he and I started spending more time together. Eventually, we started dating. He was the polar opposite of “my type”, and I think that’s what I liked about him.

Fast forward to the next year and we got engaged in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart. We would fight occasionally and if I had been paying attention, I would have noticed the signs of an abuser. But, I was young and in love and sometimes you just ignore that stuff in those situations.

It started out as mental/verbal abuse. He was controlling. And mean.

After transferring schools (to Grand Valley) and moving hours away from my family, friends, and support system, things escalated.

Things became so much worse. The mental and emotional abuse increased by tenfold and the physical abuse began.

Eventually, I left him. That was so long ago that I can barely remember how long it has been. But I carried the scars and the baggage from that relationship for a LONG time. And now it stops.

I mean, the baggage is definitely still there. The random things that trigger me to be afraid? Those probably won’t ever go away.

But I AM who I AM because this was a part of my story. And today, Valentine’s Day, so many years later - I’m choosing to forgive. I forgive him for the decisions he made back then, for the pain that he inflicted upon me.

He will never see this (probably) and that’s fine, too. I don’t care if he does or he doesn’t. But, I hope that what happened all of those years ago taught him and changed him, too. I hope that he and his family are living a great life. I hope he's found peace.

Because I am. I've found a partner and a career and a group of friends, all of whom I love. I've made it my mission to speak out for those who can't. And that's enough. What he did was terrible, but I've decided that I can't let the bad feelings that I have harbored for him for so long take up space in my head or my heart.