I left Tampa last week. I don’t know if I’ve left it “for good” but I have for the foreseeable future. This was a decision that was a long time coming. And there were a lot of reasons that I came to that conclusion (none of which had anything to do with another human, in case you’re curious). But it all boiled down to this: I needed a change. That’s become increasingly apparent for over a year now.
I thought it would be harder than it was to leave. I mean, sure, the last couple of weeks leading up to the abscondence were kind of rough. I went to my old haunts, had some of my favorite foods there for the last time. Kept asking myself, time and time again, whether I was doing the “right thing” – knowing that the train was already in motion (and had been since August) and that there was no stopping it now – even if I wanted to.
Every time I’d feel a little bit of apprehension, I’d just go home and pack. I did this until my living room looked like a well-played Tetris game. (Fun story: this was the move I was probably the most prepared for ever… and definitely the one I was most packed for. It pays not to procrastinate.) A reminder that this was happening, that I’d chosen it, and this was what I could control. I spent the last night in that apartment in my bed, sleeping on top of a really soft blanket spread across my mattress, covered by an old comforter (my bedding had already been packed too), STILL doubting myself.
I expected the reality of the decision would hit me when the movers had loaded the truck I rented, after I turned in my keys, and as my friend drove the truck out of town with me following behind in my bug. I kind of prepared myself to cry, or to at least feel some pangs of sadness but instead I felt nothing but relief. The further away I got from it, the freer I felt.
Don’t get me wrong – Tampa has always held a lot of magic for me. I still feel it there; it’s still flowing if you know how to tap into it (and I did). It was how I knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it was time to leave. I used it to determine exactly where I was headed. And, once I’d figured that out, it was the same magic that cleared the way for me to propel myself forward.
As I drove away, I left so much behind – but in a good way. There are still a lot of good memories there, sure – there always will be. But all the good memories I had in that place became overshadowed by the not-so-great ones. If I’m honest about it, I was the one who brought the “cancer” into the way that my life played out in the second half of my tenure there. I thought that getting the source of it out would be enough, but as it turned out, I had to leave too. Maybe it’s exile. On the one hand it could certainly be described that way… but on the other hand, it’s also a new beginning.
Because it’s time to start over and, to do that, I need a completely fresh slate. Or, in theatre terms, I need a new “set.” A new stage to play out new stories. A place where none of the old or bad memories ever existed. In fact, a place where I have no memories at all. Somewhere that gives me the chance to practice all of the things I’ve learned and experiment with all of my “conclusions” from the last couple of years. It’s a chance to craft something completely different.
A lot of people call what I’ve done “brave.” Maybe it is. I don’t know. I don’t think about it that way. It’s a new adventure… stemming from simply doing what I have to do (as I’ve always done).
I have no idea what this next year is going to look like but I know it’s got more potential than I’ve seen in a really long time. I also know that it’s going to be whatever I make it.