(sidenote: why does September always run by so damned quickly?)
The fall always gets away from me, as it does most teachers, and I found myself last weekend on a trip that I’d barely had time to look forward to. But it mattered not. I went with my two best friends to Portland, we saw concerts and went to free art museums and ate so much delicious food and went hiking and saw waterfalls and visited Pumpkin Funland! and saw other friends, all of whom have roots in South Florida, and have since become at least temporary Pacific Northwesterners. And took a hot air balloon ride. Excellence indeed.
Also will happen this month: I will turn 30. The trip was taken in part to commemorate that. And T-storm and I have been thinking, a lot, lately about our living situation. One of his two best friends, who often takes his bad decisions and projects them on other people, has informed T-storm that we really should buy a house sometime soon. Because, you know, prices have bottomed out.
When we first got married almost a year ago, I was all over this. However, if we still want to live in Wilton Manors, specifically within walking distance to Primanti Bros, it would cost us $250,000. (Plus, you know, interest and homeowner’s fees, and insurance and property taxes.) But this time, I found some really adorable places, within where we want to live, and seemingly within our budget. I was getting all over it again.
But talking life and love and career such with my girls while in PDX, the reality of the situation crept up on me that we don’t have a massive amount of money to make a down payment, my credit could still use some improving, and just because something’s been reduced in price to the point where it’s a steal for what it is, and you’d like to have it, does not mean you should go out and immediately buy it.
And besides, now that I’ve been to the Promised Land, where not only are there lots of quirky hipsters and the most magical bookstore ever, but the most efficient and friendliest food service I’ve ever experienced, as well as lots of women who don’t place great importance on putting on a face to go out to the grocery store, I get to thinking, “Do we really want to live in South Florida, anyway?”
I mean, come on. Neither of our industries (education and mental health) are well-supported here in Florida, and it’s only getting worse for our fields. We do not ever try to keep up with the Jonses, whether it’s him and his lack of hi-tech devices, or me and my lack of mani-pedis and Coach purses. Cliche as it may sound, a place like Portland where, despite its high-fallutin reputation, there’s a total lack of pretense and an excess of educated people is much more a place for us than South Florida in general.
I got back from my trip on Tuesday, getting home from the airport at midnight, and hit the ground running at work the next morning. I hadn’t had much non-work interaction with, well, anyone but my husband until today when I attended an annual South Florida highlight: Stitch Rock. It’s a gigantic craft fair in an old-school gymnasium in Delray Beach, brimming with tattooed artisans, stylized cupcakes, duct tape wallets, many arrays of hand-crafted earrings, and this year, terrariums. But I noticed a difference. People in South Florida carry such a weight of self-awareness, such a forced gravitas. They don’t smile at others around them usually, unless forced to. Some people are polite, and some are definitely not. This is an event that I look forward to all summer, but after my weekend in a city crawling with both creativity and kindness, it didn’t seem to live up to the hype.
Until I looked down from the second floor to see friends of ours, wearing their twin baby girls in their baby harnesses. Another friend was down from D.C. visiting. It was wonderful to talk to them. And then more friends appeared, even if they disappeared quickly, distracted by tye-dyed slip dresses in the corner. And more friends. I ran into an old friend from college band, and we’re going to have drinks with her next week. After we’d finished with the fair, the friends I attended the show with found ourselves in some sort of lovely office supply/toy store, opening tiny ceramic boxes, all of which contained surprise miniatures inside, and having some truly outstanding conversation.
And while we walked down Atlantic Ave, I felt it in the air. A feeling I’d known since I was a kid. The atmosphere was dense, and it was about to rain. The sky was gray, and it had cooled off just enough to be comfortable. Anyone who has grown up in Florida knows this feeling all too well.
More than anything, that damp and dense, and oddly comforting feeling made me appreciate where I am. And the people around me who mean so much. That feeling in the air has always meant to me that I’m in a place where I’m wanted. Where I am taken care of.
T-storm and I have a cloud of love and support around us, in terms of our families and our friends. While surely we might be able to find good people if we were to move to other areas of the country, it seems silly to toss aside all of the love and support we have here, in our home state, in favor of more adventure. That’s something I’ve always loved about Florida, whether down here or in Orlando – although we might not look or act like the majority of the people here, the people who we’ve found amidst the artificiality of our state are the best you might find anywhere.