I have an odd relationship with the state of Florida. On the one hand, it’s a state with many gorgeous hidden treasures, like the manatees lurking under clear freshwater and hidden Mickeys in Disney World, but it’s also the place where my family spent an agonizingly long month waiting for the Eastern seaboard to warm up when we drove around the country for a year.
It was a self-imposed prison barred with cold weather, but even so there was some odd charm to it.
When I was younger, my family and mother’s parents would convene at my grandparents’ place near Pensacola as many times as possible over the course of a summer-camp-and-swim-team-packed summer.
It was always the beach that came between me and my obligations, and my mother would lobby for the beach each time. I’d mope and rebel a little, but honestly how much more privileged can you get if you’re complaining about going to the beach instead of gaining valuable work and swimming experience?
Of course, it wasn’t just the beach. It was the quality family time that came along with it, time that continued into my college spring breaks, much to my work-oriented chagrin.
Somehow, even though I traveled four states away, my spring break synced up with that of Greenville County Schools two of three times, so I spent two of the three supposed-to-be craziest weeks of my life playing paddleball with my brother, discussing the ins and outs of my courses with my father and reading on the pool deck with my mother.
During the other one I got kicked out of the Flora-Bama, played beer pong on a deserted stretch of state park beach and drank lukewarm orange soda on a freezing night while crabbing.
I loved it, even in the midst of all my angst, and now I’m about to voluntarily return to the state that’s seemed like a trap of laziness for so long.
My grandparents offered the space in their condo as a place to spend a final summer in a college state of mind, and I took them up on it. I applied for a job there this past week, everything is accessible by bike and come on, living on the beach for a summer? It’s dream everyone’s had, even if you hate sand or water.
There’s something comforting about living somewhere so oriented to nature. Everyone lives near the beach because of the water. If not, there’s no reason to take the coastline hurricane risks and higher cost of living.
Knowing that everyone around appreciates the same thing, this undeniable force of nature creates as community with interchangeable parts. The family with three kids two floors above you might be replaced the next week by a couple who fights all night, but both will find calm moments dipping into the ocean after a long walk.
Maybe it’s the sun that bleaches out all the normal thoughts and all that’s left behind is your judgment of a man with a former weightlifter’s body and sunburnt shoulders strutting past with a woman whose hat covers almost her entire face but her accent travels to where you’re sitting. And that’s the only thing you worry about for the next five minutes until you decide to get into the ocean.
After Hurricane Ivan, I remember construction workers excavating the pool in front of my grandparents’ condo and turning it into a sandpit full of tile shards. I spent countless hours in the pit, scaling the mountain of sand in the middle and creating houses out of tile for imaginary people with jobs they’d commute to in shell cars.
There was something simple about turning huge upheaval into a playground, and that’s the thing about Florida. It’s a tropical state with both ecological clashes and appreciation between humans and nature. A vacation state with a solid local culture.
I’m ready to spend three calm months on the beach, detoxing from three intensive years of college and readying myself to launch headfirst into my version of the real world.
And if you know anyone near the Florida/Alabama state line looking for a babysitter, let me know. I’m not planning on lounging around every day, swear.
I’ve got a profile on Sittercity they can check out.