Thursday, April 28, 2011
No Control, But You Can Rebuild
Nature has a way of humbling us all, I believe. There is no control over the weather, which is a continual reminder of how little control we actually have, a delusion I used to revel in much more frequently. Amy: good friend, fellow writer, and IC alum writes a beautiful blog called Ten Square Miles. Her response to the Tornados touching down in Alabama where she, and her now husband, taught and lived for two years reminded me of my own time living in Florida. Now, by no means is Florida the south by any stretch, but it certainly isn't New York. Born in the Bronx, growing up about an hour north of NYC, and attending college in central NY, I am a New Yorker.
I never realized how regionally proud I was until I moved to a little town just north of Tampa, Florida. My boyfriend of almost seven years at the time and I really had no idea what we were going to do now that we were no longer college students. His family was moving to be closer to his grandmother and I was ready for a change. So we caravanned down to Lutz, four cars deep; I drove with Tasha, the boxer, in my backseat curled up with her stuffed monkey. I had only been to Florida once before, for a week, the prior year for Thanksgiving break to visit the area, which consisted of being at his family friend's house, drinking a lot and smoking a lot and not exploring much at all. I remember my mom's dad died during that trip, and she called letting me know and that she would be flying out to Illinois. I was never close with him, or really any of her family, because they are scattered across the Midwest and West coast.
I remember finally arriving after getting lost somewhere in Georgia where men riding along the side of the road in what looked like golf carts threw an empty beer can at my car, I'm assuming, just at the sight of New York plates. We pulled up to the gate, yes you read that correctly, the gate and his mother punched in the security code. First house on the left of a small gated community where all the houses looked pretty similar if not identical. At first I was excited, a fresh start, a new place, new adventures and I thought one step closer towards creating a life with a man I loved. We moved down about a month after Hurricane Katrina. I think only people who haven't lived through hurricanes and tornados on a regular basis, who hadn't had first hand experience time and time again, would move into an area so soon after Katrina where the possibility is much greater.
I tried to settle into my new life in Florida; fire ants, lizards, alligators, palm trees, bright large sunny skies that seemed to stretch bigger and brighter than I'd ever seen, rain that poured down so hard and quick the wiper blades on the car didn't go fast enough to keep the windshield clear, confederate flags flying on monster trucks you need a ladder to climb in to. I didn't have my own space, for myself, or for my beau and myself and he didn't seem in a hurry to find our own place. What was supposed to be a temporary stay with his parents turned into six months, turned into eight months; I'd find a job work it for about a month and then become bored with the work, resentful at him for not doing anything to try and move out of his parent's place and lonely with no friends other than some of his family friends. After living in Ithaca, NY for the four years for school, moving to Florida was more of a culture shock that I was prepared for. I missed the community aspect of having a regular coffee shop you frequented where you ran into people you know close or casually, I missed having seasons (even though winter wins in length in central NY), I missed my friends, my family, open-minded people. Don't get me wrong, there were things I enjoyed about Florida: the Florida Aquarium, the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, wearing a tank top to Thanksgiving dinner, the sunsets over the ocean were amazing, seeing dolphins swimming, but those were happening few and far between, my day to day life was sucking the life out of me and I felt lonely more often than not. Maybe it was the town, maybe it was the fact that by my eleventh month not enough had changed, maybe it was the lack of cultural community (Florida is a mess of people seeming to escape their lives from elsewhere, or old people waiting to die), maybe I just missed New York, maybe it was the timing, timing tends to be everything. At least there weren't any big hurricane scares during my time there, but unlike my friend who I mentioned in the beginning, I don't have any ties left there. Well, the beau mentioned in this piece is now an ex-beau and I know from the power of the internet that his parents are still down there, but after eight years of being apart of that family, ending the relationship, ended all communication with all of them.
As I finish writing the storm has climaxed with thunder and lightning and the rain has now stopped; the birds are singing, the air is still cool, but the sun is out. I'm reminded that this idea of home is one I explore in a lot of my writing and is the theme I want to explore further in graduate school and in my writing. Though a house torn apart from a storm is devastating, you can rebuild; emotional tornadoes are much more difficult to rebuild from.