Prior to August, I had lived in Orlando for pretty much my whole life. And before you ask, yes, I’ve been to Disney, and I am not the biggest fan (but that’s a topic for another time).
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All my best friends are in Orlando, my family is there, the city was home to me before I could even really know what it meant to have a home. Everything I have ever really known is still there, in Orlando, but around the middle of my last year of undergrad, I started wondering if maybe that was an indicator that it was time for me to go. Sounds crazy, right? I started wondering if I could ever really be the whole person I was meant to be if I just stayed within the bounds of what was familiar.
And in some ways, I didn’t think I could.
If I stayed, I’d only ever go to places I knew and see the people I’d grown up with and hear ideologies I agreed with. I’d never learn about new people’s beliefs or experience the way of living in a different city or learn about myself, sans friends or family or familiarity. The closer I got to graduating the more I realized that I had been in Orlando too long. So, in April 2019, I decided on grad school, and in August, I ran from everything I’ve ever known. Reluctantly, sadly, anxiously, but I still got away.
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I get it, moving from Orlando to Tampa is not that far, but hear me out.
To rebuild yourself from the ground up, to learn what you’re like when you’re alone and unsure of how to navigate the nearest Walmart or where exactly it is that people your age hang out or if this fast-food restaurant that you’ve never heard of is good or where the closest gas station is located, is a daunting thing. To be miles away from familiarity without a single friend or family member to support you can be mentally and emotionally taxing. It requires that you have some kind of boldness, a tiny bit of impulsivity and perhaps some desire to look at your old self in the mirror and figure out who you’re going to be when you, in your anonymity, lay claim to a new city.
For me, that meant that the moment I got here I got organized and started asking myself, who is this adult version of me? What fears does she have to get over? Where is she going? What are her goals? And what do I have to do in this new city to accomplish those goals?
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To be honest, I haven’t been in Tampa too long. Almost two months is not the equivalent of a lifetime, but in these two months, I have reinvented myself with just the slightest changes. For example, I dress a lot better now. I have made a more refined and yet still eclectic sense of style out of the clothes I had before. Now, this isn’t to say I moved to Tampa and developed a Fashion Instagram tier style, but at least you won’t catch me in my old t-shirts. I also drive a lot more now. Driving used to be my most dreaded activity and now if I want to see my old friends that is at least a 1.5-hour drive and unfortunately, my mom isn’t here to drive me to any activity that I want to go to. Oh, and, the version of me you’ll find in Tampa? She’s practically a professional chef at this point. Chef Gordon Ramsay, who? I’m more experimental with food and flavors and what I like and dislike. I’m more of a person here. I am in some ways more outgoing, more involved in clubs and more open to going to events than I have been before. I am down to visit new places and hang out with people I have just met and that’s not always something that the old me would have done.
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Like I said, moving helped me reinvent myself.
Being in a new city forced me to make all the little changes I wouldn’t have even considered if I had stayed in my hometown. I still have a few things to work on and a long way to go, but I’m glad that I’m here. No matter how much I complain or how many weekends I jump in the car and go home to escape Tampa, I’m happy when I’m back. I’m happy to be able to flesh out this new version of me and to see what I can accomplish here in Tampa.