Balancing It All
Baked chicken in the oven. Rice and green beans on the stove. Textbooks and toys sprawled out on the floor. Baby Einstein music playing in the background. Dressed in black yoga pants and a purple Baltimore Raven’s jersey, with a hint of vomit on the collar, Janay Palmer, 24, remains humble.
“I’m still the same girl from high school,” said Palmer.
She thinks she lives a normal life, but to others she’s living a fortunate fairytale out of a Disney movie. What sets Palmer apart from other young 24-year-olds? She has three identities. Palmer is a student at Towson University, a new mother and she’s engaged to Raven’s running back, Ray Rice.
Palmer met Rice when she was sixteen years old. They’re from neighboring New York rival towns. Palmer is from Mount Vernon and Rice is from New Rochelle. They became friends and kept in touch with one another while he was at Rutgers and she was at Westchester Community College. When Rice came back home from school they finally went on their first date at The Cheesecake Factory.
“I was so nervous,” Palmer said. “I didn’t even eat dinner. I just ate a slice of cheesecake.”
The Baltimore Ravens drafted Rice shortly after the two started dating. Palmer decided to follow her high school sweetheart and continue her education nearby, at Towson University. The move from New York to Baltimore was one of the hardest transitions of her life, said Palmer. Little did she know, there would be more hard times coming her way.
One day around 7 a.m., Rice called Palmer laughing. He informed her that she was on a website called MediaTakeOut. On the website was a fake police report accusing Palmer of allegedly stealing a $1,000 dress from The Towson Town Center Mall. Palmer was devastated from embarrassment and decided to skip classes for the week.
“I immediately started bawling,” said Palmer. “I didn’t want people to think I was a thief.”
Rice laughed and asked Palmer why she was crying. He helped her realize that similar situations would continue to occur and she shouldn’t take it personally. Palmer decided not to press charges for libel because it would be a hassle and too time consuming, she said.
It was her first encounter with the media trying to affect her life but, it wouldn’t be the last. The media always tries to portray something that isn’t completely accurate, said Palmer. There have been numerous situations in which the media and people have tried to come in between her relationship with Ray, said Palmer.
“I thank them because I’ve learned to grow thicker skin,” Palmer said. “I’m just happy that Ray and I have a good foundation. We’ve been through a lot, and we trust each other, so as long as were on the same page, the media has little relevance in our life.”
Palmer would soon find out her encounters with the media were of little importance in comparison to what was in store for her future. About a year later Rice decided it was the right time to propose.
“The fact that we are friends first makes our relationship and life as a whole enjoyable. I wouldn’t know how to live without her,” said Rice.
Rice asked Palmer to go out to the car and look in the middle compartment for his wallet. When she went to look in the compartment there was a box with a ring inside. Rice told her the ring and the new 2012 Acura in the driveway was hers to keep.
“I almost passed out when he told me the car was mine,” said Palmer. “I’m just happy I decided to be nice that day instead of letting him get his own wallet.”
The proposal wasn’t the only news of the week. Sadly, Palmer’s great grandmother passed away that week, as well. Then, a week later, she found out she was pregnant. Palmer’s biggest question was whether she would finish getting her bachelor’s degree.
She ended up choosing to go back to school after her daughter was born. Palmer’s mother, Danyette Palmer, is extremely proud of her daughter’s pursuit towards her bachelor’s degree. Ms. Palmer is happy that her daughter didn’t use her pregnancy as an excuse to quit school.
“I’m overcome with joy at the example she is setting for many of her younger family members and her daughter,” says Ms. Palmer
Rice and her eight-month-year-old daughter Rayven are her two motivations for continuing her education. Rayven has forced her to prioritize, manage her time better and focus, said Palmer. She hopes to one day become the bread winner of their family, so that Rice can retire and relax.
“For me to say I can’t finish school because I’m a mother is unacceptable,” said Palmer. “Ray has been through so much in his life. If he can overcome things, I can certainly do so as well.”
Palmer balances her three identities by taking it one day at a time, she says. She’s a Communication Studies major, with twelve credits left, who wants to one day be a publicist for a celebrity. Palmer hopes the Ravens will renew her fiance’s contract. After five years of living in Baltimore, the city has become her home, Palmer says. She hopes to have a son in the future and continue to raise their family in their current house.
“I have a lot to be thankful for,” says Palmer. “I’m aware of my blessings. I try to keep grounded because in any second my life can change in the blink of an eye like it has already done.”
The kitchen is clean. Baby Rayven is tucked in asleep. Rice is watching ESPN highlights. Cozy in her pajamas with her hair wrapped, Palmer gets in bed, but instead of going to sleep she opens up textbooks to study.