I’ve been thinking lately about how living in Florida for the past two years has changed me. I moved down here knowing no one but grandparents who sometimes didn’t know me. Down here there has always been a deep fear thinly veiled beneath the surface. It was more acute in the first year, but hasn’t completely evaporated. My original fear was about how I was going to make friends, how I could get a job when I have no contacts, and how I would survive in a state that, frankly, read like a different country. After these things were tackled, the fear then shifted to “what am I missing at home?” After a few months the deeply unsettling thought crept in that life back home moved on without me. People got married, they’ve had babies, and they’ve become different people. Even scarier — so have I.
When I moved away from Minnesota I was not utilizing my major, I had bills that felt heavy on my parents’ faces, and my lease was up. I wanted to escape who I was. I had built up an enormous system of the same bars, the same regulars and the same fights. While I’ve realized some of these things are worth returning too, there were just too many bridges that have were burned, too many things that went sour, and I needed to wipe the slate clean. I needed to go somewhere where no one knew who I was, nor cared to ask.
I spent a lot of my beginning days going everywhere by myself. The guy at the movie theater stopped asking if I wanted to upgrade to the large popcorn, the bartender at the pub and I began our own repertoire, and I was able to sit at a restaurant reading alone with ease. It was amazing being able to start from zero and rebuild everything. To figure out how this completely solo version of myself wanted to carry out daily activities. I soon realized what traits of myself were based on my situation, and what stubborn parts of my personality would never go away.
It didn’t come without it’s own cost. Back home everything kept moving. The longer I stayed here, the more obvious these changes became. Easy conversations with some of my best friends suddenly felt strained. I was suddenly not “in” on inside jokes, and big events were sometimes found out through hearsay. Yes, I’ve built up a new group of friends with its own dramas, jokes and events, but it became harder to pick up the pieces of who I had been. Everyday I seem to become closer to this new person, even if sometimes I don’t want to be.
So now I’m on the verge of moving back to Minnesota, and I realize I now have two identities. Both Minnesota and Florida are home to two versions of myself, and in both states I have incredible bonds with people I truly love. I feel divided into two. I’m afraid that this feeling wont go away. That I will forever be looking at the other with a “grass-is-greener” eye, yearning to go back. Needing to be that other person. And the people who took me into this strange state and became my new family, I can’t just toss them out now that I’m moving away.
I cannot be in two places at once, and now I will always wonder what I’m missing in my other life.