Everywhere you go, there you are: Reflections of a two-year “transplant”
In 2019 and 2020, when I started making plans to move from Columbus, Ohio to Sarasota/Bradenton, my friends acted as though a) I was not serious and was just complaining to get through yet another Ohio winter/mud season b) I was serious but would not get up enough nerve or money to leave the city I had called home for over 45 years or c) It was the middle of a pandemic and was I nuts? Or some combination of the three.
Yet it was precisely for many of these reasons that I actually *did* move in late June of 2020. While I had contemplated relocating to California shortly after my divorce two decades before, I realized I had neither the confidence, career stability, or even the emotional cajones to accomplish this feat. A sense that I had much more growing to do, plus still having recently launched children – my son Alex, still in Columbus, had just turned 19 – gave me pause. Plus California simply didn’t feel right – between the expense and culture, it almost seemed like a different country.
But Sarasota was a comfortable and beautiful fit, although the recognition that this might be “the” place for me crept up gradually after several visits on assignment and/or vacation. I remember the exact moment realization dawned – after a dance exercise class on Siesta Key, where my friend and I had rented a condo a few miles away. I went by myself and struck up an easy, spontaneous conversation with fellow Zumba enthusiasts and thought, I could totally live here.
Although a seed can be planted, it needs the right conditions to come to fruition. It seemed as if events conspired to keep me right where I was: Alex’s 2005 injury while in the military and subsequent addiction and on the heels of that, the Great Recession which negatively impacted my earnings. The birth of Alex’s daughter and my granddaughter Hope in 2012 and, several months later, my daughter’s marriage in Chicago fueled a desire to be present much as possible. And then Alex’s sudden, shocking death in January 2017.
Perhaps it was the onset of a major birthday – now or never, did I really want to spend the rest of my life withering away in Ohio? There would never be a financially solid time to move, but if I planned properly and budgeted after I sold my condo, it might be feasible and for once, the housing market was in my (and everyone’s) favor.
Alex was gone, Hope was getting older and she and Alex’s widow had their own lives, and the weather, well, yuck. Ohio’s seasons had been whittled down to three – winter, second winter/summer, and fall and the only one I would really miss would be the latter since Florida’s heat and sun are much more amenable for me anyway. Plus all my single friends whose company I so enjoyed the first few years after my divorce had gotten married and retired, with a couples lifestyle that involved expensive trips and social outings, not a great atmosphere for a single woman.
So I moved. It wasn’t easy, especially at first, when many things were shut down due to the pandemic and I rushed into relationships without thinking it through. But we more often learn from mistakes than what we do right and now, almost two years in, I think I have finally found my feet. It doesn’t quite feel like home…yet, but I love it here as much (if not more) than I did my first night when, exhausted, tired, and sweaty, I and my friends -who insisted on helping me move in the late June Florida heat, bless them – went to O’Leary’s tiki bar for dinner and I thought, “I would be perfectly happy to spend the rest of my life here, drinking wine and eating fish tacos.”
Yes, there are times when I still feel emotionally wrecked from Alex’s death and quarterback everything that went wrong in my life, cataloging unforced errors as carefully as I used to collect cat tchochkes (most of which got sold off before I left Columbus – less stuff is more!). I tell myself it’s OK to feel bad but when I hear Alex’s voice in my head, “Pity, party of one, your table’s now ready” it helps prevent an even greater downward spiral. And Florida has its own special brand of weird, usually entertaining but occasionally upsetting and disconcerting. Yet I’m very happy with the decision to relocate.
My mother used to say, “You take yourself with you, wherever you go.” So I pretty much expected that which helps a lot, as does understanding that a move does not necessarily mean that you are going to become rich, famous, and/or thin, although I am not ruling those out. None of those guarantees happiness anyway but following your own personal path to the sun can get you closer.
Thinking about relocating? Erin Stephany’s essay offers excellent practical advice and food for thought.