About a month ago, I made my first trip down to Florida since moving to North Carolina. I was lucky enough to be able to fly down to Florida and surprise my best friend for her bridal shower/bachelorette party weekend. We crammed so much fun into 48 hours, it was insane. I even somehow managed to get the special bonus of having a short pit-stop with my parents. This weekend had everything I needed, and while I was a bit tired from the going-going-going as I waited in the airport for my flight, I was content with how everything had turned out. But then, after I was finally on the plane and the flight was in line to take off on the tarmac, I started to get a bit choked up.
I have to admit, getting choked up about leaving Florida is not unusual for me. For at least a few years before we moved out of New York, whenever I would be leaving Florida to go back to the Empire State, I would get choked up and sad because I truly missed the Sunshine State. I mean, would I miss the 90+ degree heat and mosquitoes? Obviously not. But I would miss my family, my friends, and the Florida lifestyle (mainly parking lots, Publix, and people not honking at you the instant the traffic light turned green).
And while I’m no stranger to getting emotional upon leaving Florida, I think I expected that after we moved to North Carolina, this wouldn’t happen any more. So much of the North Carolina lifestyle reminds me of Florida, and I frequently tell this to people we meet down here. “Oh, you moved from New York City – how are you liking it down here? It’s different, right?” is something we hear frequently. My stock answer is usually, “Well, I grew up and went to college in Florida, so this is much more like what I’m used to, and I love it here,” which is 100% true.
From the first time we came to visit and scope out the area (which you can read about here), I could see the Florida similarities. They had many of the restaurants and stores I missed – Publix, Waffle House, and Tijuana Flats, to name a few. Life wasn’t moving at a breakneck pace. Driving was less stressful and traffic was a minor inconvenience rather than a major headache. It was also strangely comforting to see churches on every corner, which I don’t think was so much about the religion aspect because, obviously we’re Jewish, but more about the fact that that’s just how it is in Florida, too, and that is something familiar.
Besides for these, I even noticed areas where North Carolina went above and beyond Florida. People were exceedingly friendly and welcoming. The open space and greenery seemed to go on forever. In more areas, buildings and houses are more spread out and not right on top of one another.
So why the emotional response? I was out of New York and seemingly had everything I wanted here in North Carolina. I pondered this for a while, and I think the answer simply is that North Carolina is closer and is a good substitute, but it’s still not Florida. I’m still a plane ride (albeit a shorter one) or a 10-hour drive away from the family, friends, and the town that formed the foundation of who I am as a person. There’s just something to be said about a place that you know and that knows you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am truly loving North Carolina. I am happy, thankful, and looking forward to building our life here with no desire or intention of leaving any time soon, but I think I just know now that Florida, even with all its weirdness, will always have my heart.