The women of IO live in three different time zones in the U.S. We are in California, Oregon, Utah, and Florida, and we have not even been in the same room together since making IO happen.
We have forged new homes and become familiar with unfamiliar territory. Some of us have relocated across the country, but my moves are more like small leaps across Florida. Recently, though, I have faced the possibility of having to leave the state where I grew up.
My parents raised my siblings and I in the same house in the middle of Central Florida. It’s a rural town of open farmlands, orange groves, and long, winding roads cutting between residential communities and that one place where everyone goes muddin'. I lived there for eighteen years before moving to Tampa, where I stayed during the next four years for college.
My scope in Tampa was small for most of my time there before I had a car (and my driver’s license for that matter—I was a late bloomer), but especially in that first year. I shared a 170-square-foot dorm on campus with my best friend, so home was that room, my trek to class, and the library. I came to think of the university as a bubble for its box-like enclosure from the surrounding area.
After moving off campus, I lived in three apartments, but all within walking distance of The Bubble. The last apartment was my first solo home—a one-bedroom with little furniture beyond somewhere to sit and sleep. It was a depressing place located off of a busy road with few places to walk aside from the complex’s parking lot and the neighboring streets crowded with student housing. None of those places felt like home. How could they? I knew the lease would end and I would most likely move again. So when that last lease in Tampa came to its inevitable end, I moved forty-five minutes away to St. Petersburg, not for school or work, but simply because I wanted to.
It wasn’t the most logical choice. It was forty minutes away from work and an hour and a half away from my family. But for a long time I admired the city. It wasn’t the rural town I came from nor the gloomy, cramped rush Tampa began to feel like. It seemed softer.
I moved, and I have taken advantage of all of its warmth that I could. Today, as I walked toward my building after work, I realized how much I love where I live. Nadia, my pooch, was inside pining for a walk, and Tim, my boyfriend, was on his way home from college.
Moving here was a deliberate choice, not one by circumstance, which explains why it has managed to feel like home even though it’s far from the rest of my life.
Now, I am contemplating where I will attend graduate school. Most of my options are out of state. Sometimes, I forget I no longer live in that small town in Central Florida, especially because of the impermanence of my homes since then. The thought of moving, or not moving, has been particularly central and the months between now and that decision are running low.
A transition to a new home might come, or it might not, but either way, I hope I will feel like I’m home.