I never thought I would be a woman who gave herself up. Travis and I met our sophomore year of college and our love story is like any typical underdog love story. He was the captain of the basketball team and I was the unpopular girl that became his tutor that he fell in love with after months of spending time together. Sounds like something straight out of a teenage angst movie but that’s what really happened. Travis, like most college basketball stars, played at a D-1 school and his ultimate goal was to get drafted into the NBA. At the time I was super excited to just be along for the ride and to be dating a basketball player in general. Travis made me feel special in a way that I had never felt before and because of that I was willing to do anything for him. Naturally when you’re in love with someone, you are more willing to make some sacrifices.
By junior year Travis and I were madly in love, we did everything together. The summer leading into our senior year Travis and I had some big opportunities offered to us. Travis had been invited to attend an NBA pre-draft camp in LA and I had been accepted into a summer medical program at Penn State. The day I got the news about my acceptance into the school, Travis had planned this romantic dinner date for us. He’s very romantic so that’s something he did often. He had set up his dorm room really nice and ordered food from our favorite restaurant in town. When I arrived to his room I was blown away. There were candles lit all over the room and a beautiful table spread. He greeted me with kiss on the lips and a single red rose. From the moment Travis asked me to be his girlfriend he has made me feel like the most special woman in the world. That night I couldn’t stop smiling. In my mind it was the perfect night to tell him about my internship. Then it happened, he asked me to join him in LA for the summer. Without giving me a chance to respond he went on to tell me all the amazing things we would be doing. All of the things he wanted to show me and how much it would mean to him if l came along. I sat at the table with confusion and excitement running through my body. I was honored that he invited me but also confused about what I should do. He informed me that I didn’t need to let him know my decision that night. Although I was relieved by his grace period, I was still conflicted. I knew how important me going to LA meant to him but I really wanted to attend the summer program at Penn. We were a month away from the semester ending, Travis and Penn were both awaiting an answer from me. One night we were out bowling with Travis’ teammates and their girlfriends. We sat down talking and watching the guys competitively bowl. The conversation was centered around spending the summer in LA and how much fun they were going to have. They were so excited to being going to LA with their boyfriends. I just sat there listening to them make plans when Martha asked “So, Jessica are you coming to LA with us?” Still feeling conflicted I replied “I don’t know yet”. She said “well I suggest you make up your mind soon. We are all replaceable and I’ll be damned if I’m replaced by any chick”. The others girls agreed with her statement. I looked over at Travis, he looked at me and mouthed I love you. I smiled and mouthed I love you too. While we were in the car driving back to the dorm, I asked Travis if he would be upset if I couldn't go to LA with him. He took a few moments to gather his thoughts and said “yeah I’d be a little upset but I would understand you not being able to go”. After his statement Travis remained quiet for the remainder of the drive back to campus. We pulled up to my dorm and he double parked to let me out, which was shocking to me because he agreed to stay the night. I asked “are you not coming up”. He responded “no I got some homework to finish and I want to get a fresh start on it tomorrow”. He kissed me on the cheek and told me goodnight. I got out the car and walked in the building. That whole night what Martha said kept running through my head. I tossed and turned all night. The next morning I got up and rushed over to Travis’ dorm building. When I arrived to his dorm suite him and his roommates were sitting in the living room playing video games. I asked Travis to join me in his bedroom. We walked to his room and he closed the door behind us. Travis asked me if everything was okay. I said “I want to go to LA with you”. He rushed over to pick me and spun me around. Me agreeing to go to LA with Travis was the start of me losing myself. That summer in LA was amazing,Travis and I had a blast. Senior year had finally arrived and Travis was being watched by every recruiter in the league. It was a very important year for him. When he wasn’t at practice, we were spending time together. We didn’t really think about life after college which was another problem our relationship faced. It’s like we were living in this fantasy world that we thought would last forever. Graduation was approaching and I had been accepted into the neuroscience graduate program at John Hopkins University. One of the best medical programs in the country. Travis couldn’t be more excited for me. Graduation came and we both walked across the stage with our family and friends cheering us on. That night at dinner with our family, Travis got up to make a toast. He stood up and asked me to join him. I stood beside him with a confused look on my face. He said “this is the beginning of a new chapter in our lives”. He turned to me and said “I am so excited to be continuing this journey with you”. He got down on one knee and proposed to me. My eyes instantly filled with tears and I said “yes!”. It was one of the most magical moments of my life. That July, Travis became the Chicago Bulls second round draft pick. When they made the announcement we all jumped up screaming. He was going to the NBA. After draft day, things moved extremely fast. Since Travis had to be at practice, I was responsible for finding us a home and planning our wedding while also going to grad school. That fall after Travis was drafted, we got married. I was traveling between Baltimore and Chicago every week. One day Travis had a big event we needed to attend. My plan was to catch an early flight the day of the event because I had a lab assignment I needed to finish. That morning when I got to the airport, all the flights were delayed due to the weather. I called and texted Travis to give him a heads up but he wasn’t answering. By the time I got to Chicago the event was over. When I finally got home Travis was sleep. That next morning when I woke up Travis was up watching tv. I turned and kissed him on the cheek and said “good morning”. He said “good morning” back. I asked him how the event went last night. He responded “it was okay”. Feeling guilty for not being there, I couldn’t do anything but apologize for missing the event. I expressed how hard I really tried to get here in time. He responded “I understand”. We laid in silence for a while, then he said “I think you need to consider attending a school closer to home”. I asked why?. He said “because I feel like the distance will start affecting our marriage”. I asked what made him think that, he turned to me said “we see one another two days out of the week and I don’t think that’s healthy for our marriage”. I asked “and you traveling from state to state is?”. Frustrated by my statement he defensively yelled “I’m not asking you to give up your dreams, I’m asking that you compromise for our marriage!”. When he said that, all I could hear in my head was my mother saying “Jessica, marriage is all about compromise.” After my first year at John Hopkins I transferred to the University of Chicago. As much as I didn’t want to transfer, in the end it was best choice for my marriage. Travis and I were able to spend so much time together while living out our dreams. Life was good. Then tragedy struck, Travis tore his hamstring playing in an away game in LA. When the incident happened I was in the middle of taking an important test. During the test my phone started ringing, disrupting the class. It was a call from Travis’ agent Scott. I instantly declined the call and put my phone on silent. Then he sent a text that said “call me back now! Travis got injured during the game”. When I read the text I quickly gathered my things and left the class. Scott informed me that Travis had experienced a grade 3 tear and that it would probably take him three to eight weeks, depending on how diligent his therapy is. The teams medical staff had arranged for a physical therapist to visit the house everyday. They provided me with everything that was needed for me to help Travis remain in great shape during his recovery. For eight weeks life was centered around get Travis better. Being Travis’ full time care giver made it hard to balance home and school, but I did what I needed to do to get him back on his feet. By Travis’ fifth week of therapy he was ready to join his team in practice. The same day he returned back to the court was the same day I found out I was pregnant with our daughter Jada. It was a joyous moment for our family. When I got pregnant, life seemed to kick up a notch. Travis was becoming this big star and I was preparing to be a mother so school had to be placed on hold. When I informed my mother that I was stepping away from school, She said “that’s good, now you can focus on your daughter and your husband”. In my mother’s eyes my life was made. She being a woman who has based her whole life around my father. She didn’t understand a woman who had a dream. So her advice was always one dimensional. After Jada was born Travis was so emotional. Jada was perfect. I never knew I could love someone so much. She is the biggest blessing that has ever happened to our lives. When I looked in my little girls eyes I saw hope. I saw that I had allowed myself to live up to other people’s expectations and standards. In that moment I realized I was more concerned about everyone else that forgot about me. When Jada turned 1 I decided to reenroll in the John Hopkins medical graduate program. That same year Travis was working on getting traded to the Knicks. One night we were having our weekly dinner date when He said “so the Knicks have agreed to sign me to a 4 year contract”. I said “that’s amazing babe, congratulations!”. He said “looks like we’re moving to the big Apple”. I said “actually Jada and I will be moving to Baltimore”. Confused by my response he asked “what?”. I told him that I reenrolled into the John Hopkins medical graduate program and it began that fall. He said “Jess, you should have discussed that with me first. Did you think about how this was going to effect Jada?” “I said yes, I did think about how this was going to effect her. I’m doing this for her”. I explained to him that before we got together I had dreams of becoming a neurosurgeon. Then we met, life happened and I found myself becoming consumed in your dreams. I don’t want to look back over my life and regret not following my dreams. As I said those words, tears filled my eyes. Travis face went from angry to sympathetic. He got up from the table and pulled me up from my chair into a big hug. He said “I’m sorry for not supporting your dreams”. That night at dinner we sat down and made a plan. That fall Jada and I moved to Baltimore and Travis moved to New York. I was so excited to be beginning my next chapter in my life. My mother was completely against the agreement but I didn’t care because the day that I looked into my little girl's eyes was when I decided that I was no longer going to live my life through someone else’s eyes.