I miss it so, so much. I really loved it there. Of the dozens of places I've lived around the world, it was the first one I ever had overwhelmingly positive feelings about. Every single day I was delighted by the same thing over and over: Wow, what a beautiful day--AGAIN! Yet another gorgeous, warm, sunny, cheerful, beachy day. This is so amazing.
It's true that my skin doesn't tan, I'm not into water sports or volleyball, and I couldn't give two shits about anything Disney. Rather, the general sunny attitude, ocean landscapes, palm trees, wildlife, and lack of snow were the primary attractions for me. Ooh, and the insane summer lightning and brilliant sunsets--WOW. My heart races just remembering that beauty.
I lived in Pinellas County for 15 months, and the outdoor experience was incredible.
Meanwhile, I was scheduled to travel to my home state of Wisconsin in early April to host a friend's baby shower. Due to the terrible living situations and the Acutely Shitty Thing That Happened in Florida, I planned to just stay in Wisconsin after the shower.
So here we are, two weeks later. I have no idea why I thought the Upper Midwest would be the best place to recover and regroup and reboot, to seek comfort and encouragement in my dark night of the soul.
Wisconsin: Taste the Despair
Well, that's not true. The idea was that I would recover faster being surrounded by family and friends. I grew up here and most of my loved ones are still here.
Inexplicably, they like this area. Generation after generation, brutal winter after brutal winter, they stay. With few exceptions, they work stable factory/retail/food service jobs, they keep to themselves, lead conventional lives, and don't deliberately seek challenges. They wear jackets bearing bar logos and can fix your car in an instant. Many of them smoke heavily and some even support Donald Trump. Travel, adventure, academics, literature, achievement, enlightenment, cultural and self-awareness, questioning the foundations of civilization?
They're a meat-and-potatoes, no-frills sort of people, which kind of happens when you grow up on a dairy farm with icicles hanging from your eyebrows and one toothbrush to share among 10 kids. "What the hell is a Gucci?" one of them asked me.
And I'm sure they view me as the foolish, irresponsible flake who just won't grow up and settle down. The one who keeps runnin' all over creation for no apparent reason, living out of suitcases, then always coming back when I have a problem. If I would just get a job at the local tank factory, buy a drafty old house, and join a bowling team, I wouldn't have these problems.
I got 99 problems but a 7-10 split ain't one of 'em.
Though darts and pool are popular here, too.
Now if they would just eat that kale quinoa avocado açaí maca hemp pomegranate salad I made and activate their crystal chakras, they'd come over to my way of thinking.
I don't eat salad.
See? My $3,000 comedy school education is really paying off. Thank god.
Anyway, after 2.5 years away, my first week back in Wisconsin was like going 80 mph on a highway when the engine suddenly cuts out. The combustion and road noise and wind stops and you silently coast to a standstill on the shoulder, knowing that nothing good is going on here.
I like peace and quiet as much as anyone, but this silence will dominate you.
Wisconsin: The Boulevard of Broken Dreams
A few days after my return, though, a faint memory slipped through my fingers. It was a distant feeling that slowly welled up inside of me.
Dear god, I had space to breathe.
Duuuuuude. I had forgotten what it's like to not have people constantly stopping in front of me, bumping into me, physically stepping on my toes, and breathing down my neck because they're standing too close. I'd forgotten what it's like to drive for miles and miles with no one ahead of or behind me, and not tailgating me (!!!). I'd forgotten what it's like to sleep through the night without being woken up at 2am by random firecrackers, motorcycles racing down city streets, and subwoofers shaking houses off their foundations. I'd forgotten what it's like to move at this slow of a pace, to be surrounded by stillness and calm. To not have naked meth-heads running around my neighborhood stabbing people.
Because even in the most secluded areas of Pinellas County, you can still hear the distant roar of millions of humans buzzing around like termites. No place there is objectively quiet, even on weeknights. There are simply too many people piled on top of each other, partying. Sex, drugs, and hip hop. The place is always humming.
As in love as I am with the natural beauty of coastal Florida, everyone else loves it too and is fighting for a spot there.
You thought I'd say I love the quiet now, didn't you? Ha!
No. The silence is a nice break, a nice way to readjust my ear. But it still scares me like it always has, and I do sometimes wonder if, after that baby shower was over, I should have driven my broke ass back to Florida, put my clothes in storage, reinflated my car mattress, slept in Walmart parking lots by night, hung out in libraries by day, and visited food pantries for meals until I figured out a different living situation. Like, I know how to navigate homelessness. It's not fun, but I'm not afraid of it, either. And I sometimes think living in a place as beautiful as coastal Florida is worth the sacrifice.
I don't know if you've heard, but it's wildly expensive to live comfortably there.
Here in Wisconsin, I have a job lined up to begin April 24. After I was hired I found out they have a location in Tampa. Hmm, maybe a transfer is in my future.
Then again, I'm not sure. Almost none of the people I happened to meet in Florida seemed terribly smart. Their limited common sense and mechanical/survival skills was maddening at times.
Gah. I dunno. I'm here now. It was a shock to the system to go from sunny and noisy to brown and quiet, but now that hygge and bullet journals are all the rage, maybe my stay will be restorative.