My Love-Hate Relationship With Florida

For starters, Florida isn’t a bad place to be. We don’t have to shovel snow, change tires or buy a seasonal wardrobe. Also, our taxes are low, and it’s really easy to get a driver’s license.

On second thought, maybe those aren’t positives.

Unfortunately, if you’re not over the age of 70, Florida starts to seem “meh” after a few years. The palm trees aren’t as impressive as they were before, and the constant heat starts to feel like a curse from hell instead of a blessing.

I remember when I first moved down from Canada. All the kids at my new middle school hated Florida. Everyone talked about how they couldn’t wait to grow up and move to a state that was “actually fun.” I couldn’t understand how kids didn’t appreciate the state with the famous city of Miami and the theme parks of Orlando.

A few years and excruciatingly hot summers later, I joined the Florida hate club. During my junior year of high school, I applied to 12 schools out of state and three safety schools in the state. But, in the back of my mind, I knew I was leaving no matter what.

The back of my mind was wrong. When (the few) college acceptances came in, I was faced with the harsh reality that financial aid doesn’t do much aiding when the cost of tuition is nearly $60,000 a year.

On the other hand, at the University of Florida and the University of South Florida, my SAT score qualified me for a much more financially appealing option. At that moment, the dreams of colder weather and cities with public transport were dimmed by the threats of bottomless school loans.

I ended up at UF, just like the rest of my middle school class that had collectively vowed not to. However, after a stressful freshman year, I appreciated being close to home whenever I needed a weekend to recharge. I also happened to fall in love with my major and the moss trees of Gainesville, so Florida won a few points there.

As I found internships and professional connections throughout Gainesville, it became easy to imagine finding a job in Florida, settling down and accepting my fate of hot summers.

However, there was still always a part of me that couldn’t let go of the out-of-state dream. Even with all of the opportunities that Florida had given me and has still yet to offer, I knew there was more across the border.

I visited Maryland recently for a ski trip. There, I realized I liked spending 15 minutes getting dressed in a million layers so the cold didn’t make my toes a sacrifice. I also loved the roads that had curves and dips. And somehow, I even loved the cold, brisk air that woke up my lungs for the first time in many years.

Maybe the feeling was simply nostalgia from my Canadian childhood. Maybe it was just the adrenaline from the skiing. Whatever it was, it felt right in a way that never felt right in Florida. Now, with less than a year away from graduation, I’m at a crossroads. Do I pick the safe option of staying again? Or do I pursue that “right” feeling no matter the cost? Although I don’t know the answer yet, I do know one thing: Florida, I don’t hate you. I just don’t love you, either.