Down the Road and Back Again
Above: Photo @Eliza Alys Young, “Tree Arch”, St. Augustine, Florida
I think I might have been a gypsy in a past life because my journey in this one has been so nomadic. While part of me has longed for a stable place to dig my roots in, my life has kept me moving. Now is no different.
I was born in Cape Cod and spent my early childhood there. Then up to Maine for a while with my mother. Then to Haiti with my father and after he gained custody, back to NY. My father kept a home base in NYC but we summered in Maine (different part than where my mother lived) and wintered a few more times in Haiti. As an adult, I lived in 3 different parts of Maine, Upstate NY, 3 different towns in North Florida, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and now Miami. In each place I moved a few times. In fact in my college years I moved 6 times in 5 years. Crazy I know.
I move for many reasons. To save money, to have more space, to be with a romantic partner or to be away from him, to experience something new and so on. When I moved to Miami, I thought I had stopped, at least in terms of location. The plan was to save money to buy a house and settle here. But as I wrote in this post, with yet another road metaphor, that plan was not as viable as I had originally thought. For over 15 years I had tried to get to Miami, it was my long term goal. Then I finally realized it. Now, next month, I abandon that goal and return with the kids to North Florida.
No, I didn’t fail in Miami, nor am I running away from what is awful here. It comes down to economics, sacrifices and choices. I realized that I didn’t want to do what was required to stay here. It’s just too expensive, too much pressure. I realized that I will always love Miami, just like I will always love NYC (for different reasons), but that I don’t love it so much that I will do whatever it takes to be there. I also realized that North Florida was the unlikely place that I felt most connected to.
I first came to North Florida in 1997 after my mom moved down to settle my grandmother’s estate. I saw it then as a jumping off place, not a place I would settle. But I made friends. I stayed until 2001 which is when my father passed and then I leapt at the chance to leave Florida which I thought was stifling me. I stayed in NY through Sept. 11th and tried to make a go of it in the city. But, I realized, as I am now about Miami, that NYC was asking more than I wanted to give.
My wanderlust not abated, I returned to Florida in 2002 just long enough to sell my house. My friends were still there and welcomed me back for my brief stay. In 2003 I sold my house and moved to Santo Domingo. I am a gypsy…
Close to 8 years later, I was ready to return and back again to North Florida (see a pattern here). The obvious reason I kept coming back was my mother lived there but it was more than that. My friends were there and stayed friends despite my nomadic impulses and I made new friends too. Still, I was not ready to embrace the area as home, yet.
I had always talked about moving to Miami so after moving back to the US, that is where I thought I go. It took me two years and we did it. I thought the traveling was over. Now, for all the reasons I need not repeat, we are returning to North Florida, but this time I see it as a place we can settle in, a place that has been patient in our restlessness and now welcomes us home.
I had a lot of reasons why Miami seemed to be the answer for us but sometimes it isn’t about reasons. In the two years I’ve been here I have made friends but not close ones. I have no BFFs here. They are where I’m returning to. Time will tell if I can settle but I’m ready to. I will miss the multiculturalism of Miami, of the crazy tropical life (not the traffic) and all that comes with it. But I won’t miss the pressure. In Miami my expenses more than doubled. In North Florida I could work a relaxing 4-6 hours a day and comfortably pay my bills. Most important, the people who I most connect with are there and that, in the end, is what makes a place home.