Thomas Wolfe famously said what we always have known, but have to relearn over and over, “You can’t go home.” I know that line. I know it to be true, but I did it anyway.
Florida was a trip. At times I felt like I was on vacation. An extended vacation with few responsibilities, plenty of good times, sun, sex, and sand, but it always felt like there was another world going on without me. At least it makes for a good story.
Summarization of the Last Three Years in Florida.
Let’s sum up the last three years, shall we? I moved to Florida after my divorce and I quit a job about five minutes before I was fired. I was friendless, about to be homeless, suicidal, and my romantic mistakes would be comical if they weren’t so dangerous. I lived with my father and step mom in Perdido Key close to the Alabama state line. I worked retail for awhile. That was a joke. I lived with a horrible man and his moody pre-teen son because life with my Dad and stepmother became unbearable. I thought he’d get me a job or get me started in online publishing. I went through a lot of savings with him, lost more than I earned, and he still never got me that job. I left broke but not broken.
Then I had a delicious summer affair that lasted about a year and a half with an older musician from the coast of Alabama. We were both divorced, but our relationship had all the passion and the transience of an affair, but it was love. He treated me like a princess. In my thirty-nine years, he might have been the only man to have ever loved me. He cured me. He healed some recent wounds from my marriage, and some old emotional scars from my childhood. He taught me how to love. He also taught me how to fuck. God, I had no idea what I was missing not being with a straight man for so long. Our affair was illicit, but I believe it was a Godsend. Who knew that angels came with such big cocks?
After I left that the mean Alabama man and took up with the musician, I got a shitty customer service job with a shitty cable company and finally got my own place. I lived in what I called the “concrete cave.” It was this little duplex made of concrete blocks and tile. It was a dumpy little place, but it survived many a hurricane. I all but hosed it down when I left. It was originally built as a “fish camp” and it was obvious that this dwelling was not designed for permanent residence. I called it a “non-bedroom” apartment because it was an “efficiency” where I put up a Japanese screen to separate the “bedroom” from the rest of the house. The only doors were to the bathroom and a tiny closet. It did have its own washer and dryer and they didn’t require a security deposit. Good thing because my credit was still pretty much fucked after the divorce. It could have been very depressing, but it was hard to be depressed when you live across the street from the beach, sail boats with Christmas lights on the mast, and $1000 a week condos. Every sunset was visual poetry, and my musician lover was a bit of an astronomer and we would look up at the stars. There was hardly any industry in Pensacola and I lived far away enough from the “city” that the stars sparkled in the night sky like my eyes for my lover. Besides, he would take me out for steak dinners, we ate fresh coastal seafood, and he would fuck me until I couldn’t walk straight and then buy me cookies. So, I gained a few pounds. They were happy pounds.
But then, I had to get all ambitious. My Midwestern work ethic would take a break for too long. Besides, I got really sick that spring and really needed some health insurance. I got a good job at a bank in their customer service center and my career was back on track. My Midwestern self does not feel comfortable unless I have a certain amount of work drudgery. I also did not trust love that came so easily or love with a man who could bring me happiness, but no real stability or “build a life together.” We finally parted ways and I took up with a fellow Midwesterner.
I thought this Midwesterner was like me: down on his luck after a divorce and having to live with family until he got his life together. I only lived with family (or with that horrible Alabama man) for about six months. It turns out the Midwesterner had lived with his mother in Florida for more than three years. For some reason, this was not a deterrent. He wasn’t a bad man. He was also super handsome. Handsome men make women do stupid things. I believed him when he said he’d get promoted, finally get legally divorced, and we’d start a family. I once again tried to save someone. I moved off the beach into town and we ended up moving in together. I did get promoted at the bank and I thought I could support the two of us on $30,000 a year. I was wrong. Although I had agreed to it, I resented working so hard just to be broke. He did work to pay his own bills but did not contribute to the household unless I begged. I was short every month. I never did anything, I had no friends, and I began to hate him. It was a foolish mistake. My love for him turned to bitterness and I had pretty much checked out of the relationship way before we officially broke up.
I went “home” for a high school reunion in the summer of 2013. For the record, I HATED high school. I was an overweight, overeager, underachieving smart choir girl who’s only friends were fundamentalist Christians who only befriended me because they were contractually obligated by their religion to allow me to hang out with them. So, needless to say, you can imagine what my teens years were like. Once I went to college, I lost weight, started hanging out with more “artsy” people, and became more “reasonable” about religion. I became Episcopalian. Even at my high school graduation I remember saying to my angst-ridden self, “I hope never to see you people again”. But for some reason, I still went. I missed my baby nieces and it seemed like a good time to go home for a break.
The reunion was something out of an Eighties teen movie. It was like I emerged this beautiful, confident woman like a Phoenix from the ashes when all those people knew of me was the nerdy worm. I was unfaithful and kind of made out with a classmate in a parking lot. I was bad. I know it. I do not justify my actions. Judge me if you so choose, I deserve it. Although I was wrong, that experience taught me that my high school trauma was over and I was miserable in my current relationship. I was a capable, beautiful, independent woman who could have any man I wanted. I broke up with my boyfriend immediately upon my return. I ended up having to break up with him a couple more times for it to stick.
Besides the hook up, which was more innocent in retrospect, I also met up with some good friends who turned out to really love me and supportive of me. I started networking and working to get back home. I fell in love with my baby nieces on that visit as well. They were only 18 months and four months at the time. I vowed to not miss anymore of their precious babyhoods. It is amazing how children make you grow up, even when they are not your own.
I sent out resumes, came up for an interview, and did several interviews until finally, after the first of the year and hiring budgets are reopened, I landed a phone interview with a prestigious financial firm on their banking side. My ambition and will to return was greater than my low self esteem and I went for it. I had never worked harder to get a job in my life. I was hired over the phone. My start date was delayed because of the awful winter, but that was okay by me. The universe smiled upon me, got me a good job that was a significant pay raise over my current job, had career potential, and would bring me home. I also got to miss the “polar vortex” and return in March. I temped for a few weeks. Couch surfed at a friend’s and my mom’s house and then started on with my new life.
I left the boyfriend off at his mother’s house from whence he came. He probably still hates me and is chalking up our relationship as a major fail. I deserve it. I feel badly about it. I did love him, but it just was not going to work out. Our relationship reminded me a little too much like “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman. My experience proves that whenever your life resembles a 90′s folk or alternative song, its time to make a change. Because, as the 90′s songstress Sheryl Crow will tell you, “A change will do you good.”
So I’m home….kind of. More on that later.