snowflakes to seashells

becoming a floridian

the first move made by a hometown girl

I had twenty-one Christmases in Massachusetts. Each Christmas featured hot beverages and frigid air. The northeastern coastal climate breeds hardworking, rough Americans whose hearts are rarely warmed by anything… beside a celebratory occasion (usually reason to drink). The ‘holiday season’ as it is known nowadays is the excuse for families to pack all of their personalities into one heated house, slaving over a hot stove, bargaining for time to hold the newborn members of the family, rotating in a ‘musical chairs’ type fashion for who will get to sit next on the comfy love-seat. Christmas, for my family, meant making the trek to the host’s house for that year in layers upon layers of wool and cotton, in full preparation to kiss forty faces, having memorized our newest story to share with the group, ready to hear what new jobs, relationships, hobbies and trips each of our loved ones had taken or would soon.

This year was very different.

Instead of the usual hustle and bustle of Christmas with a tasteful holiday dress buried underneath the cold sweat of winter, I came to Florida to spend my vacation with my boyfriend Joey in Jacksonville, the holiday itself with my father and stepmother in Orlando. I decorated the tree with Joey and his mother, instead of the usual hassling of my poor mother as she slaves over an eight-foot tree every year, the eventual assistance offered after some well-placed jokes at her expense. I ate a turkey, a second full turkey after Turkey Day had come and gone, with stuffing, cranberry sauce, all of that delicious regret-infused food, instead of the usual brisket with mashed potatoes and homemade apple pie for dessert back home. I spent Christmas Eve and Day with a foreign family who was staying with my father, of Canadian and Chinese descent (quite a bunch), who I broke bread with, shared a roof, and to whom I sacrificed the remote in their week with us, instead of the usual cuddling session with my mother and sister, our full bellies inducing sleep, with a loud, tearful, hilarious opening of presents as we wake up the earliest of any day in the year with the anticipation of opening gifts.

Everything was “instead of,” new and completely uncharted territory. The first Christmas where I couldn’t kiss my Grammy; where my mother wasn’t there to tell me that I am her pride and my sister her joy. The first Christmas where I woke up late, non expectant of presents, uncertain if there would be waffles and syrup downstairs. It was the first Christmas where I realized I was an adult, and that eventually, things were bound to change. Different doesn’t mean negative or sad, it just means you’re apart from what is familiar, comfortable, and habitual.

And that feeling brings me to now: I am a Floridian.

I finished my four years at Merrimack College with Magna Cum Laude, a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing and Literature, and an official member of Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society. I parted with my Merrimack family May 17th, had a wonderfully colorful and delicious going-away/grad party with my close friends and loved ones, and the very next day I made a twenty-two hour drive with my partner and Daisy, my Puggle, down to Jax. Many much regretted fast food meals later, we arrived the 19th, droopy eyed and craving memory foam.

Where did this decision come from, and how did I have the junk to make it?

Here was the plan: Graduate School. Have Joey move up to Boston. Find a job in the literary world. And make some room in my condominium for the two of us, plus the puppy.

Well, if you graduated, are going to graduate, or are so far from graduation that you can’t fathom the truth, here it is: There is no plan. There shouldn’t be. There are outlines, and I know this as a writer, but execution is far from creation. It takes a very special kind of person to perfectly align, pursue, and land exactly what they desire the first try. And it wasn’t that I didn’t have the capacity, grades, or drive to do graduate school; there was more want and need toward continuing my education than not. I applied, waited, and had a revelation: I needed a change of scenery for longer than a month or two; I needed to experience a new atmosphere, like I did when I studied abroad, so I could discover more about myself as a human as well as a writer.

That is exactly what I am doing here in the sunshine state. Discovering, relaxing, saving and dreaming. Most importantly, missing my village back home; the people who breathe life into me when I lose sense of direction and wonder in my pursuits.

The harsh winter played a part. Historical and brutal, I checked out of Boston mentally. There was this feeling of looming stress, even on a warm day when the pleasant springtime smells reemerged I felt removed. I had everything working for me up north; a boyfriend more than willing to relocate, a mother and sister who have always been there rooting me on, Shai, my best friend, who I would explore with and talk endlessly. She’s the kind of friend that you can be silent in the car with without feeling like there’s something to say.

It was all ideal, but I wanted to expand. Not get away. travel

It’s the itch for seeing and experiencing different ways of life. It may feel like a simple thing, living in the heat and sweetness of the south, but it is a world away. There’s a culture shock of sorts I’ve experienced thus far in my transition, one I didn’t going to England. Believe it or not. No, I fit right in when I went to England, but Florida feels like a different galaxy completely. Slower, well-mannered, courteous and freckled. The air is heavy with humidity, the sand is finer and light, the presence of people is weightless, as if people walk with less here. And an important thing I was reminded of is that I didn’t leave behind anything in Boston that was intangible; my struggles, my memories, my responsibilities are all here with me. It is just the environment that has changed, an environment I hope that will shape me and inspire me to continue on my journey to discovering Belle Athena.

Author: belleathena

Novelist, artist, and speculated witch. Founder and Editor-In-Chief of OTHER. Magazine. Proudly born and raised in Massachusetts. Currently located in Orlando, Florida.

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