Michael Jennings wanders through an unfamiliar hall brimmed with hardly familiar faces. Attending yet another new school is met with — to put lightly — bitterness. Ahead he sees Seantiana Tompkins; her welcoming and fierce spirit strikes fire with Michaels’s outgoing and comedic spark. After months of friendship, they fall in love. Now, over a year and a half later, their connection is so strong they invented a word for it: suspire. ¨To us it’s a higher ranking than love… You’re my sun and we inspire each other, they’re the bright to life” says Seanti. So, what sets this pair apart from the overwhelming mass of students whose relationships fail, or who’ve lost hope for love all together?

Before their meeting, these two understood all too well the struggles teenagers encounter in the face of vulnerability. Seanti, an African American in a predominantly white high school, watched her first kiss demean her tone by calling her disgracefully dirty slurs across campus. Michael has been cheated on twice, making it difficult for him to trust in others. But this relationship began not with instant romantic attraction, instead, it was the simple intention of spreading kindness and friendship. Michael says, ¨Seanti was instantly right there from the moment I came to this school and she’s been a really great friend the entire time I’ve known her¨. 

Then, covid separated them for months. Maintaining a relationship through the screen can feel infinitely distant. Michael says it felt ¨like I was never going to see her again”. “Personally,” Seanti begins, “I felt like I was losing him in a way… like he was slipping through my fingers”. Texting can also make communication difficult and at times unclear. She says that ¨I would be unintentionally a lot colder towards him because I thought he would progressively stop liking me, so I was shutting myself out in a way.¨ While it wasn’t easy for either of them, they decided their love was more powerful than any space between them and chose to persevere. In the end, Michael says that “it just made us stronger and showed that we truly care for each other”. 

The reality is, there is no secret to love. Everybody experiences and shows it differently and, despite media portrayal, there is no one size fits all. “It’s a tough thing that you constantly have to work at,” Michael says, “You wake up in the morning you have to decide to love that person that day”.  It isn’t just saying the words ´I love you´ and sweet dates at the park: it requires commitment, patience, and unconditional appreciation. To “[embrace] the imperfect things about a person”. He continues, “We have our ups and downs just like any other relationship, but it’s just the way that we bounce back from that experience that really matters. Those small things that make the bad situation better, even just a slight bit more tolerable”

Seantiana says the most important thing to experience in a healthy relationship is that “you’re constantly evolving with that person”. She continues, “Don’t start a relationship just because you want one, it’ll come to you at the right time and it will help you be better”. Michael advises: ¨Never shut yourself down and tell yourself that you’re not worth being loved; everyone deserves love”.