My wife, Marnel, and I met in 2002 as graduate students in the Department of Communication, Culture, and Media Studies at Howard University (Ahhhh HU!). She was smart, beautiful, with a large majestic afro that gave her a glorious presence in every room. We were both in our early 20s, and I worked as a server at Ruby Tuesday’s in the evenings to support myself while in school. My ability to date on a graduate student budget was severely limited and eventually resulted in her buying me a Subway sandwich one night after class out of pity.
After a few classwork-related exchanges and meetings, we began dating shortly after. In the beginning, this included a lot of Cold Stone ice cream, salsa dancing, movies, homemade spaghetti, and Marnel, helping me with the APA formatting for my thesis. I always thought of myself as a focused person on a successful trajectory, but I clung to how Marnel shared so many of my interests (faith, art, school, and culture) and had strengths to compensate for areas where I struggled.
While still dating, Marnel moved to California and became a professor after completing her Ph.D., and I moved to Oregon after finishing my MBA. Our moves resulted in about five years of being in a long-distance relationship. We are both products of dual-parent households, and I wanted to replicate the family experience I had growing up. With this in mind, and of course, my deep love for Marnel, on Christmas 2010, I proposed in her hometown of Philadelphia, PA.
We got married in 2011, and my employer at the time was able to support transferring me to live and work in Sacramento, CA. Since then, we’ve welcomed three children into the world. The children rearranged many of our career-focused priorities and created a compelling reason for us to move back East to Washington, D.C. Our growing family also inspired me to transition into full-time entrepreneurship and launch a toy company known as Puzzle Huddle, which manufactures puzzles for children from diverse backgrounds.
Being married to an entrepreneur requires a lot of flexibility and the ability to deal with uncertainty. I shifted from a well-paying, secure corporate position into the precarious life of an entrepreneur. It has been an emotional journey of ups and downs. However, this chapter of our lives is still being written, and one constant that we’ve endured is continuing to push our family legacy forward.
Marnel’s career, our children, and small business have kept things pretty hectic, but we always try to make a daily habit of pausing, praying, and eating together as a family. Throughout our marriage, what we’ve come to realize is that we share a lot of core values: family, faith, education, and culture. With it being so much overlap in our temperaments, interests, and priorities, we understood early on and still do to this day that everything is better with having each other in our lives.
Reflections by @PuzzleHuddle