As I drove a moving truck full of my belongings across the Florida state line today, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past year and the lessons it taught me. So not wanting to be selfish by keeping those to myself, I’ve decided to share them with you.
Lesson #1: Every inch of your body is capable of sweating | I moved back to Florida in July to begin a job at a law office and quickly discovered it was the absolute worst time of year for someone who loves the cold to arrive. I had heard the term “oppressive heat” in the past, but being in Florida during the summer added literal meaning to that phrase because walking outside felt like I was casually strolling through Dante’s seventh circle of hell.
I quickly found that no matter how nice I looked when I left my air-conditioned apartment, after a few seconds in the muggy heat, I would become a red-faced, sweat-splotched guy whose hair looked like a balloon had been vigorously rubbed against it. It was not a cute look, but I came to expect it and stopped trying to fight it. So if you saw me sweating near you in a Publix, I apologize for my offputting demeanor.
Lesson #2: Hurricane preparation is a fun way to see how those around you would act in the Hunger Games | Dorian was the only major hurricane threat I experienced in Florida, but let me tell you, it was enough for me. My friend who had grown up in the south gravely warned me to prepare by purchasing water jugs and filling my car with gas, but my “I’ve survived blizzards” self ignored her. That is until I began to see the panic set in around me. I was driving home from work the weekend before the hurricane was predicted to hit the coast, and I noticed that gas stations were beginning to hang signs that said “no mor gas” and “save urself.” Quite frankly, it was unnerving, and it made me realize that I needed to swallow my pride and fill my gas tank. I miraculously found a place that still had some and was able to fill up for an only slightly inflated rate.
In addition to the gas shortage reminiscent of the one in 1974, I concluded that water was the number one commodity for people. I went to Target for hurricane supplies (Twizzlers and a portable charger so I could watch Grace & Frankie during a power outage) and saw that all of the water was gone. I mean, there wasn’t a La Croix can or even an Aquafina bottle to be found. That was slightly alarming, and I began to worry that I would die of thirst when the deadly hurricane struck. But my small-town practicality soon set in, and I purchased redneck water jugs. That is what I called the two large plastic containers that I planned to fill with water once the hurricane began bearing down on my apartment. In the end, I never needed to use them because the hurricane moved away from the coast, but I was certainly prepared to weather the storm with my candy and tepid tap water.
Lesson #3: Beach walks are wonderfully restorative | I can now honestly fill out a dating profile saying, “I love long walks on the beach” since walking up and down the sandy shores of the Gulf of Mexico became one of my favorite pastimes. I am not a shorts and suntan type of person (mainly because I don’t love my legs in shorts and turn an unforgiving shade of lobster red after any exposure to the sun), but I wanted to make the most of my proximity to beautiful beaches. This led me to create a habit of going for two-hour beach walks every weekend, and it soon became the highlight of my week.
Sure, I looked like a sea hag searching for sand dollars to compensate for a long lost love, but I didn’t care. I would listen to music or podcasts and walk along the shore with the waves crashing over my feet. It was incredibly peaceful, and it made me appreciate Florida so much more than I had during the blistering summer months.
I have many more lessons that I’ve driven away from Florida with, and even though I used it as the punchline for quite a few jokes, I will miss aspects of it. And I can confidently say I am going to look back on the past twelve months spent living in Florida with fondness, knowing that I made the most of the past year and will always have a place to return to when I want to escape the cold.