Growing up, I hated Florida. From the weather to the culture to the politics to the people, it was all bla. I couldn't wait to leave. And so, post-college (some things still mattered), I moved to Los Angeles (with its own heap of steamy shit, no less). Every time I'd get off the plane at Tampa International Airport -- to see my mother for some holiday or wedding or whatever -- I was instantly grumpy. Everyone waddled with the extra weight of dining at chain restaurants and the weather, even in its chilliest incarnation, was terribly humid. And this is from where I came. This was, still, a source of my identity and that, quite frankly, killed me. I'd try to enjoy regional cuisine and the luxury of my family's backyard, but it was all in vain. I did, after all, live in California, what with its plentiful beaches and blue skies and fresh seafood, and, thus, Florida offered nothing other than a poor man's version of what I had out west. Then I moved to New York. Then I experienced my first winter. Then everything changed.
I'm writing this in Florida. It's early March and in the mid-seventies and super sunny. I'm sitting outside in a bikini, drinking iced coffee and smoking a cigarette. The wind rustles through palm trees and there's a faint trickling of water in my mother's lagoon-style pool. And, for the first time in a long time, I'm happy in this suburban sprawl. What I could never appreciate as a teenager with something to prove beyond the confines of Florida's mediocrity has given way to the weather. The misery of a New York winter has made space for something a little more sedate and, for that, I am grateful.
Maybe this is what growing up looks like. Instead of clinging to the antithetical, I can now, like my dog laying belly-up in the sun, bask in the glow of the simple life. I no longer need to be doing something to be satiated. I don't need to fight against the current of Florida's culture, proclaiming transgression as if it were a clipped-out coupon of my identity. I can finally accept that my rearing-years are long-gone and, as such, Florida is not an enemy against which I must fight. I can finally relax and enjoy the respite of my release.
I grew up really religious. I prayed every night and could easily drive myself into a tizzy when casual thoughts turned to the contemplation of eternal damnation. Then Ani Difranco and academia happened. And that was that. I wasn't an atheist, per se, but I was pretty damn close. Then yoga happened. At first, I couldn't even muster an ohm. It seemed so ridiculous. I'd keep my eyes open and look at all those silly hippy-dippy types singing off-key. I'd never be one of them, I thought, I'm too smart. Yoga was exercise, an easy way for a flexible person to work up a sweat and gain a few muscles. Until it wasn't. Ohm-ing started to feel good. Really good. Then chanting happened. No way, I thought, not in a million zillion years. That's way beyond the limit of my intellectual leaning. I might as well run away with a Pentecostal preacher. Then I did a yoga teacher training and viscerally -- yes, viscerally -- experienced the transcendent power of chanting. I'll never forget my first time. It was the middle of the night and I was driving home from work. For some reason (the specifics, of course, elude me), I was in a foul mood. It was probably about a boy or, maybe, about my general disdain over the unfolding of my life's narrative. I tried listening to my favorites songs. It did nothing. I tried crying. I had no tears. Okay, I thought, let's try this chanting-as-mantra shit. I starting singing the Gayatri Mantra. Before I knew it, I was in my driveway and had parked my car, but I couldn't stop chanting. So I didn't. I stayed in my leased Prius (yet another projection) and maintained my off-key singing (yes, I had become just like the other assholes). Twenty minutes later, I walked up the stairs and did my nightly, pre-bed routine and felt really fucking good -- better than any residual effects of drugs or drinks or late night snacks. This thing worked. The cynic in me temporarily subsided.
Still, in the years leading up to the now and despite my yogic predilections, I've always felt I had to proselytize my anti-establishment ideologies. It was not enough to live a certain way. No. I had to polysyllabically verbalize my current state lest someone might confuse me with every other sap taking the most commonly traveled route. But here's the thing: there is always a struggle and a need to perform when the external takes precedence over internal leanings. That's the trappings of youth. We think we have to fit some predetermined mold of cool or smart or whatever instead of simply accepting our idiosyncrasies. However, it is our dorky passions that make us more appealing to anyone we meet of similar character. Thus, I'm fervently trying to reveal the most candid me -- all of things that make me who I am -- so to be an authentic expression of who I hope to be.
This is not to say I've reclaimed the residual sentiment of Christianity or that I'm packing my bags and moving back to Florida. No. It's a little -- or a lot -- more convoluted than that. Instead, I want to allow my journey to serve as a story. I am no longer ashamed or embarrassed by the girl I was or from where I came. It is those experiences that have shaped me into the woman I am today. It is those very things that make the realizations of my desire a little -- or a lot -- clearer. It's kinda like dating. You have to weed your way through a lot -- not a little -- of scumbags and douchebags and every other derogatory bag before you finally realize with whom you think you might want to share your life. It is the information harvested and stored in the roots of yourself that informs every other decision. You can only sleep with so many assholes before you realize that maybe, just maybe, there's something to the nice guy. There's something to someone with whom you feel comfortable enough to share your most intimate, unhinged self. Coming to terms with your core takes confidence. And conviction. And sticking to your guns, no matter how much they mirror the nineteen year old version of yourself that you've been trying to ignore for the better half of a decade.