Poetry has always been a passion for Imani McGee-Stafford.
And now the former post from the University of Texas basketball team has put her words in a book: “Notes in the Key of Heartbreak: Love others as we Love Ourselves.”
“We are taught to search for love outside ourselves from a young age. We watch fairy tales and romanticize relationships in search of the elusive ‘happily ever after’,” McGee-Stafford writes. “However, growing up, many of us don’t experience healthy, loving relationships so, we are sent into the world stumbling through heartbreaks, simply trying to do our best.”
As a child, McGee-Stafford was molested by a family member and raised in an abusive and negligent environment, spending many of her teen years depressed and suicidal. In 2012, she earned a full scholarship to Texas, where she eventually received the support and mental health services she long needed–support that also ultimately equipped her with enough courage to share her story. “Some of us never do the work to make ourselves whole even though we all know that none of us can give what we don’t have,” said McGee-Stafford, who champions mental health through her speeches in corporations, organizations, and schools around the country.
Seeking the “happily ever after” so many long for, McGee-Stafford met her college sweetheart at age 17. By age 20 they’d gotten married. And by age 23, they were divorced. While McGee-Stafford struggled to reach her potential as a basketball player in an elite program at Texas, she says the lessons of love were perhaps her greatest challenge. “Did we love each other because it looked and felt good?” writes McGee-Stafford, who’s entering her third season in the WNBA. “Or, did we love each other because it’s easier to ignore yourself when someone is standing next to you?”
The collection of poems taps into the tapestry of McGee-Stafford’s pain and experiences, and includes favorites like “Dad Says,” “I Keep Praying That You’ll Love Me,” “It Takes A Special Kind of Woman To Walk Away,” “I’m Deleting Your Pictures Off Social Media Because That’s What People Do In Breakups,” and “I Wonder What You Say About Me When They Ask About Us.”
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