In early 2010 I made the decision that I was tired of/done with living in Louisville (and also sick of the cold weather) and was ready for a change. At first I thought the smartest option for me was to move to Ohio to be closer to my friends and to the guy I was madly in love with (who didn’t feel the same – but who also didn’t have the decency to tell me that).
It wasn’t until after a trip to Tampa for Spring Break in 2010 (and the realization that things in Ohio probably weren’t going to go as smoothly as I thought) that I began seriously looking southward as an option for relocation. The only city where I knew anyone at all was Tampa (even if the only person I knew was my ex-husband who I, conveniently, get along with very well) and, since I am not independently wealthy and because it was in the middle of a recession when finding work was next to near impossible unless you lived in the location, Tampa was where I set my sights.
So I started saving every spare penny in Louisville – I didn’t do much except work and save (and play World of Warcraft), started researching what I could DO there (I decided I’d try to get a teaching certificate), and figuring out how much money I’d need. By September, I was ready. I put in two weeks notice at the job I was working at in Kentucky, weathered the storm of dissenters – one, in particular, who asked, “Well… what happens if you don’t like it there but you get stuck?” (My reply: “I can think of worse places to be stuck.”) And on October 6, I boarded THE plane that would change my life.
Oh, I won’t lie and say I didn’t have second thoughts when I was sitting in the Birmingham airport on a layover – especially when I ran into a client from the place I’d just stopped working for back in Kentucky. It was as if Louisville was making one, last, desperate attempt to keep me there.
But I kept going, I boarded the second plane, and when I finally flew over Tampa at night, saw the city scape and the bridge lights that were accented by the twinkling dots of boats in the water, I got excited. I’d sat near the front so I could be one of the first people off the plane (which worked), walked to the little train things that take you from the concourse to the common areas of the airport, and called my parents to tell them I’d made it (and to wish my dad a happy birthday – admittedly, leaving Kentucky on his birthday was probably not the best thing I could’ve done).
I hit the ground running… found a job in a month, then another job a couple of weeks later that was a better fit for me than the job I’d found (and it had benefits too – the first one didn’t). That was a huge deal, see, because in Louisville – in the interim between my last semester of grad school and the job I’d gotten, it had taken eight months to find anything. To even get one job offer. In Florida I found two in a very short period of time.
Anyway, I started that job on December 1… as a receptionist for a small software company. I figured it’d be a good holdover until I could take the test for the certification and then get a classroom. Florida had other plans. Within a week of working there, their Technical Trainer quit and I was offered her job at a higher pay than what I was getting as the receptionist. I took it, again figuring it would only be temporary, but discovered that it was something I enjoyed and was good at. I am not (or at least wasn’t then) very adept at software and computers – but it turned out that my layman knowledge served me well when I started to train other people. I didn’t use technical terms, I could talk to them as one novice to another. It worked… and I was very successful.
My coworkers, too, became close friends – and drinking buddies, since we were allowed to drink in the office. The owners gave us wine and beer, and introduced us to Cake vodka (Three Olives, please, not the rip off other stuff). We started a WoW guild, spent afternoons and evenings (and weekends) shooting the shit, and I’d never been happier (and sometimes drunker) in my life. In 2012, a little piece of software that our developers coded got picked up by a much larger company and 11 of us were transferred with that software to the company. I got the biggest bonus of my life, severance pay, and a 40% salary boost. And I still got to work with my best friends – who were now, at this point, more like family.
I built a big network for modeling – and did a ton of it here. My best work came from photographers I found (or who found me) in Tampa. Work I helped produce here has been award winning, and one of the photos has even been internationally published.
Dating-wise? Well… it was entertaining. Most of that is documented here. I won’t reiterate it all… you can read it if you’re so inclined. But let’s just say I never found “Prince Charming” – or if I did he was more of a “Prince Charming/Florida Man” combination, which I guess is expected – I got a lot of stories out of it anyway.
When I left Florida (for a very short time) in 2014, I can only claim that I was out of my mind. I thought that what I’d built here could be rebuilt somewhere else. I’m not going to talk about what did (and didn’t) happen there, except to say that no matter how much I tried to uproot it, my heart stayed in Florida. My success did, too, because I did not find anything anywhere close to as awesome as what I had built in Tampa. Within two years, I had to come home. (And this is why I don’t really count the time that I spent in Louisville again as separate from the ten years I’m claiming in this post – home is where your heart is, and my heart was never there.)
So I came back, hoping to get it all back. To see if the magic could work a second time. It did. I didn’t exactly get to go “home” again, but I found a job I liked and got several promotions and raises, got the lead in a play (a two-person play, no less, that dealt with some very complicated subjects) and my photo was in the Tampa Bay Times.
And when the job I got that brought me home went to shit, I found something even better with the same sense of community I had at the place I worked when I first got here in 2010… and I’m doing Tech Training again (and a lot of writing – I can actually say I write professionally now). It’s my niche. It combines writing with performance, it’s something I like, and I am really, REALLY good at it.
And so now, here I sit. “Stuck” in Florida, thanks to the pandemic (and I still stand by my original statement that there are worse places to be stuck), in an apartment that sits above (I like to say on top of) a tree – so I finally have accomplished my dream of having a treehouse. Working my pretty sweet job with a promotion on the cusp (whenever HR gets their shit together – also delayed due to the pandemic). Sitting in my home office, surrounded by my ever-expanding Star Wars toy collection. Modeling on weekends when I want to, but because I am no longer broke, accepting only the jobs I want (rather than the jobs I have to take). A master of improvisation, working on novels, ever-honing my writing (and gaming) abilities. Just generally enjoying life (even though most of life, at least what life looked like back in December and before, doesn’t look the same anymore).
It’s been a good decade. Moving here was a risk, but one that has paid off in very high dividends, and I have no regrets (except maybe that I ever left it to begin with – temporarily or not). I’m happy here. I’m satisfied with my decision. And while I may leave sometimes to go visit other people and places, I feel more at home here than I have ever felt anywhere else.