When I was 22, I found myself headed to Fort Lauderdale. I’d never been further south than Orlando, but I knew I liked the beach and that I was getting the best internship that my undergrad program offered. Couldn’t beat that. And the internship was a graduation requirement. Once the six m/onth internship was over, I’d be cleared to graduate and then I’d likely set off to either Nashville or Atlanta. And I’d always liked the beach, so the idea of 6 months of neverending beach access had it’s appeal, along with the ability to move in during the Christmas holidays only occasionally needing a light jacket.
I don’t think I thought much about what I thought of South Florida at the time because to me, it was only ever going to be a temporary stop in my journey – never an indefinite destination. But the thing was, I loved my job. I had to figure out things I had no background in and deal with senior people who were constantly questioning me – and I liked the challenge. I was the only one interning who wasn’t in a master’s program at the time, so I think I was extra motivated to try to prove myself that much more. To show that even though they might have courses I’d never gone through, I could still hang just the same.
And it worked. At the end of the program, I was offered a position to stay on as an employee and my plan for a short stay in Fort Lauderdale/Miami was completely changed.
But no matter what I did, it was never home. Just never worked for me. I tried to meet more people… find a good church… settle in. But nothing clicked. I felt like all I had was my job. I was far away from my family and from my close friends. I felt frustrated like I wasn’t trying enough – that there was something I should be doing that I wasn’t, but the truth was there wasn’t anything I hadn’t tried.
After three and a half years of living there, I looked at myself and realized where I stood. Always a happy person, I’d spent years putting on a front that I was still the same smiling person. And it was a lie. A lie everyonebought but me.
And so, I applied for jobs in DC thinking it would take months to find one, and instead it took only a matter of weeks. Before I knew it, I was resigning, packing up my apartment, accepting a job which was a pay cut in salary, and paying to move myself up to the land where the sun doesn’t shine every day – turning in my infinite selection of flipflops for the more varied attire of seasons.
I moved into the city on the Metro line, handed over my keys in favor of my own two legs, and never looked back. Never returning to the place which had almost killed the core spirit of who I was.
I’ve mentioned I’m putting the finishing touches on a memoir about my time in DC. The beginning has been lacking a certain something. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it seemed like I was avoiding being direct about my emotions. Holding back somewhat as to what brought me to make such a big journey up from somewhere so very different. I realized there are huge sections of time I have no memory of, being shoved so far to the back of my mind subconsciously that I’ve only started to recently begin to recall a small fraction of it.
Now, after almost five years, I was finally ready to return. The Tori Amos show being in Miami Beach this tour was so fitting as I’d been holding out for so long waiting for a reson to return. Knowing I needed to do it. She hadn’t played there since 1996, so it’s fitting that she waited until now.
As I floated out in the water on my raft, I felt completely at peace – with where I am now, where I was then, and don’t regret any portion of the experience. And now I can definitely say I’m at peace with Miami – for me it’ll now be what it should have always been – an escape from my real world.