I woke every Saturday at the crack of dawn and longboarded down to the coffeeshop to open up. I had a column in the local paper. Everywhere I went, I sang to myself, “I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T…do you know what that means?”
I had my own apartment. I had my own job. My gang of friends only a text message away. I would high-five the old man who lived below me. I had inside jokes with customers. I made goofy faces at the toddler whose mom I had served coffee to since she was pregnant with her. I knew where to buy individually wrapped Pop-Tarts. I knew where to find bulgogi in a predominately white town. I had taken the Florida life and made it my own. Like a gator in a chlorine pool. Yeah, this is home.
But there was one thing lacking.
Day-by-day, I sat in my cubicle at my fulltime job and…just…felt…stuck. I was bored. So bored that I asked for more responsibilities. More training on new skills. But even when I got it, deep inside, I knew it was time to move on.
So I started job hunting.
In the search preferences, I plugged in one place: Sanford, Florida. Two years later, I loosened it to Orlando. I turned down Wednesday night ramen with my friends, poetry open-mic at the coffeeshop, and women’s Bible study at my church. Just so I could devote one evening a week to job applications.
Weeks after my three-year anniversary at the company, I stood in their bathroom stall with my face in my hands and my phone open on Gmail. I did it. I got an offer. A legit job offer. But it was in Boston. I felt extremely happy and extremely sad. I have to move?
I had to leave my life here. No more spaghetti-strap Sundays on the lake. No more bulk-buying gummis at Family Dollar with my neighbor. I had to say goodbye to my first apartment. Goodbye to Gatorland. And the coffeeshop! I can’t describe what it’s like to walk into a public place and see my friends right there, waving at me.
As I complained to my friend, he said:
“If you want to stay so badly, then stay.”
But I still left. I put in my resignation letter, terminated my lease, and packed up. That was a month ago. Now I’m four weeks deep into my new job. And I love it. I work remotely from my parents’ house in rural Massachusetts, occasionally scrolling Facebook groups for Boston roommates. It’s not the i-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t life I used to boast about. But I get to gorge on Mom’s cooking and I get to binge-watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with Dad.
And I’ve realized two things:
- I still wish I hadn’t left Florida
- But I love working.
I love being challenged. I love learning new things. I love caring for my career. Back in Florida, between slinging lattés and guzzling boba with my friends, I spent forty hours a week at a job that, somewhere along the line, stopped fulfilling me. I applied and interviewed for lackluster local jobs. Now I have a job that fills me with purpose.
Leaving Florida meant choosing my career over my community.
Most days I regret it. But there are those mornings at my desk, before I open Skype and start work, when I feel a small fluttering in my stomach. I feel something…something like excitement. I think about what I left in Florida. The people and the places. And I make myself to believe that I will have that again. Somehow.