Essay: A Goodbye Letter to South Florida, My Second Home

south florida

(This story was written in 2014 and repurposed for The Lysst.)

A Goodbye Letter to South Florida, My Second Home

My dear South Florida,

You beautiful, flashy, little thing, you. Thank you for being kind to me. For the first year of our relationship, I wasn’t sure how I felt about you, but they say that love can be gradual. You were my gradual, day-to-day love.

Two dorm rooms, three apartments, one house, and three cities later, I am forced to reminisce a little.

You were stubborn at first—but maybe it was I who dug my hooves into the sand. I was at a major turning point in my life; I was a heart-broken, small-town girl looking to find happiness in a place I didn’t even know. I knew nothing about you, but somehow I innately knew that you were what I needed. And you were.

You showed me what people were like. Real, crazy, amazing, different people. Not just the ones I grew up with back home in my high school graduating class of 200, but, rather, people from all corners of the world—people who were all in this same place at the same time that I was. You’re known for your cultural diversity, South Florida, and now I understand why people say that about you. At first I didn’t know how to handle it—you shocked me—but then I grew to love this and every other crazy thing about you.

south florida
Photo by Alyssa Ruane

You have an odd sense of style. In the northern parts of your reach by Palm Beach, you’re bright patterns, shift dresses, and conservative cuts. The farther south you extend, into Miami’s spicy urban core, the less clothing, the better. Having spent years in both of these areas, my closet now resembles that of a preppy, chic, underground gypsy-hipster who dances on VIP tables at nightclubs. Thank you for helping me express myself without judgment, and thank you for letting me wear white pants year-round.

You’re kind of an ass. You honked at me for not illegally driving through a red light,  so I learned how to honk back. You didn’t know my name like my old town did, and you didn’t really care to hear it, but I learned how to introduce myself anyway. You didn’t smile at me, but I realized you like it when I smile at you—so I did it anyway. You didn’t trust me, and so I learned not to trust you either. You told me sleep is for the weak, and I realized, sometimes, I am weak. Thank you for giving me a backbone while simultaneously showing me how strong I am.

Above all else, though, you are beautiful. You already know that, but sometimes it’s nice to hear. Sweet, sunny SoFlo. You helped me fall in love with the sand and salty air. A river gal born-and-raised, I thought freshwater was the only water for me. But river water doesn’t crash against the shore at sunrise when you’ve been awake for far too long. River water doesn’t stick to your skin or cling to your hair, reminding you that salt is intrinsic to our being. Thank you for your beautiful beaches and serenity during my toughest times.

Sometimes when you have a good thing going, you wonder when it’s all going to crash around you. This is too wonderful, you think, this can’t last. And so it goes with relationships like ours. I have memories riding in my friends’ cars with the windows down and permanent smiles plastered on our faces—palm trees parading our freedom. Our hearts were so full they could burst at any moment.

I cherish those times more than most—much more than the times I just didn’t know about you. You showed me sides of you I wish I could unsee. During those darker days, I realized you were temporary, and yes, my love for you faded. Our final year got hard again, and that’s when I decided it’s time to part ways for a little bit. We both knew it was coming. And I hate to say it, but: It’s not you, it’s me.

You were the second place I ever called home. Home. It’s been five years, which simultaneously feels like a lifetime and a fleeting daydream. I know I’ll be back time and again, but I have to move on and see what else is out there for me.

I am leaving today, taking with me my nostalgia, my new backbone, and my ridiculously eclectic wardrobe. South Florida, you were more than I ever thought you could be for me, and for that I thank you. You will always be a home to me.

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