My Floridian Learning Curve Continues

They say it takes just 21 days to create a new habit. When you really consider how short that segment of time is, it seems entirely possible to not only reinvent your life, but to gracefully cope with its changes, too. Think about it, you could be a whole new you in less time than it takes for one month to pass the calendar.Well, I’m 365 days into my humid and huge life change. Exactly one year ago this week, I became a resident of the sunshine state. And I must admit, I’m feeling more comfortable here in Florida than I ever imagined.

No joke, this state is beautiful. Flowers adorn most trees; lush green dominates the landscape; the clouds move through the sky with a quickness that changes the horizon throughout the day; nearly all architecture is painted with a hue you’d see in a sunset; the only thing prettier than the ocean on the eastern side of the state is the gulf on the west; and the sand here is pure quartz crystal making it literally cool to your feet on a warm day. Even the oak trees here are steeped with more history and age than most infrastructure found in the western states. And they’re all draped with this awe-inspiring stuff called Spanish moss. The moss resembles pale green scratchy bundles of shaved fabric that a bohemian would surely sew into a scarf. From the moment I laid curious eyes on this flowering plant that consumes oaks, power lines, telephone poles, and even citrus trees, I felt a little more at home. No exaggerations necessary – to this desert girl, this place is enchanting.

That being said, a geographical move this big doesn’t come without some serious adjustment, a lot of which just sort of became normal with time. For instance, delicious sandwiches are called hoagies. Don’t you dare say, “sub.” With the exception of Miami – which is its own party planet in and of itself – no one dresses up. Ever. I look like a damn beauty queen most days, but I can live with that. It rains throughout the year with little to no warning and its downpour is fierce. Thunder is like a daily soundtrack and there’s more lightning in Clearwater (a beach destination near Tampa) than anywhere else in the nation. No one drives fast, but hardly anyone drives like an asshole either – so it’s manageable. The grass isn’t velvety like it is in Arizona, but it’s abundant, and I like that.

Before moving here, I promised myself I wouldn’t get homesick. I was relocating to a gorgeous place with a great man – what was there to gripe about? One calendar year later, while I am bummed to have moved to a state with an even worse NFL team than my hometown and my palate is yet to be amazed by anything delicious, I’m proud to report that I wouldn’t want to be anywhere but here.

I don’t know if where you move to ever fully replaces where you came from, but I want to make new roots here. I want to have a love for where I live my life. And so my Floridian learning curve continues! Here are some truly Florida things that I’ll be contending with this year (again):

Time zone phone problems:

I’m not even a morning person, yet I spend the first portion of my day just waiting for my friends in Arizona to wake up. Even worse, I’m often cutting them off mid story because I have to go to bed. A two to three hour time difference may not seem that large, but when life is filled with careers and babies, we need every spare minute we can get. Tick-tock, I just want to talk!

Money to move:

Florida is home to numerous toll roads. Whether it’s an elderly person collecting cash in a busy Tommy Bahama-inspired shirt that failed miserably because it just looks like Florida scenes spewed all over it, or a camera snapping shots of your license plate, and then sending the bill via snail mail, you’ll pay to move about this picturesque state. The only upside to this cash inconvenience is that London often scores treats and I now have visual confirmation that my car really is as cute as it seems.

Interstate lingo:

Floridians do not say the word “the” before any numbered highway. It’s just “275” or “75.” How incomplete is that? Color me fancy, but I’ll be taking the 41 to the 275 to the airport to France. Consider this a die-hard habit.

The weather will slap you in the face whether you like it or not:

This. Place. Is. Beyond. Humid. No filter, no dramatization: come warmer months, it’s a fucking sauna. Every time I deplane in Tampa, I grunt, “Oh man, it just hits you!” Makeup will disappear from your face in the most blotchy, unflattering manner; sweat will seep through your clothing and slide underneath your jeans; and your body will ooze with more moisture than you can manage. Hair you ask? I literally had to start bleaching mine again so that it would need and use the moisture for good, not for ugly. Since it’s impossible to transport myself to a colder locale or transform into a popsicle, I’m still busy trying to reconcile the fact that I’ll be very sticky and less pretty all summer long. “Damn it!” screams my vanity. Come winter months though, this place is borderline heavenly. I’ve got December on my mind.

Vampires do exist:

In the form of thumb-sized, jean penetrating, persistent, and bug spray tolerant mosquitos, of course. I don’t think I’ve ever prayed for an animal extinction until now. Even the welts on my legs are screeching, “die!”

Lateral landscape:

The very fact that there’s nothing to look at off in the distance stills breaks my heart. This land is flatter than a champagne bottle left open on the hotel nightstand for three days. There was this day we drove through the green and I thought I saw a hill – I was overcome with joy to say the least. I began jumping up and down in my seat and touching the window with my pointer finger like a child. I asked to hike it immediately. Much to my dismay, Mark informed me that it wasn’t a mirage nor was it a hill; it was a landfill. I still appreciate the way he let me down easily.

Invisible Tees:

In my opinion, desert golf courses are especially spectacular. There’s something spellbinding about the way flawlessly manicured kelly green grass nestles into contrasting brown boulders and sand that are speckled with saguaros, each one reaching to the sky with their own unique pose. Despite that last statement, I swear I’m not obsessed with golf. I’m not even a golfer. Although, I suspect I’ll take it up sometime soon because that’s what retirees do around here. I just think that since my dad spent most my life building golf courses, I have a great appreciation for them. So you’d think I’d be pumped to be residing in a place that has more golf courses than any other state in the nation, yet I remain uncharmed. Floridian fairways seem to get lost in all the green this place has to offer. You can drive right by one and not even realize it. There’s got to be a new beauty about them that I’m yet to discover; I’m looking forward to this revelation.

This just in though:

I unwittingly discovered a Circle K the other day. Beer Cave and all! I know it sounds gross, but I felt very at home – so much so that I almost got an ICEE just for old time’s sake. I can now navigate my local grocer with ease. And I must admit, I’m enjoying learning all the local business and law firm TV jingles. Overall, progress is being made.

Day 366 as a Floridian:

Armed with bug spray, I declare this flat, green, beachside land mine! Learning curve – you’ve met your match!

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