As many of you know, this year has been a time of me gallivanting across the country to shadow in various departments for work. I was also trying to figure out which local area would suit me best. You can read more about those life experiences in my Business or Pleasure series. After 10 months of work-related chores, I would like to talk about how this will affect me personally.
Florida has been home since my late arrival on that snowy evening. I grew up hiking, camping, and exploring anything that was part of nature. I sometimes felt like my friends and I had invented sword-fights using small tree branches. I knew the dangers of water at an early age, as I was surrounded by it. My dad and would take trips in his small boat and even as young as 10 or 12, I was able to pilot with precision. I remember adventures of hiking through the Ravine Gardens State Park near my dad’s old stomping grounds. My first year of overnight summer camp involved a heat wave where it was 101 degrees Fahrenheit and the cabins only had ceiling fans to cool us. My first car was similar as I survived three full summers without a working A/C. I learned to love having the windows down and getting dangerously close to the tractor trailers on the interstate. The teenage years were full of events that tested my resolve. If anything, I used my “lack of comfort” as a way to brag to my peers. (Even the most modest person has to brag a little, right?)
By the time I was 18 years old and ready for college, I had seen a good bit of Florida through the family trips and Scouting camp-outs. I had also lived a somewhat sheltered life in a suburban neighborhood surrounded by family and friends. Even if you remove religion from the story (not that I ever would), North Florida is much like South Georgia. In the area I grew up, we were taught that hard work is rewarded. A strong work ethic was instilled in all areas of my life as well as a respect for elders. To this day, even if the older person is completely wrong, I try my best to stay respectful. As I have gotten older, I realized that this really only works if the respect goes both ways. However, it is harder for some to accept that the young person has the better idea than the person with 20 years of experience. My upbringing also included a strong conservative push on “how things should run”.
The only reason I mention that is the show the contrast of when I arrived at a public university in a more balanced county of Florida. I always remember what my high school government teacher told us about this idea: in most cases, the higher the education level, the more liberal the person becomes. This goes way beyond politics, obviously. It makes sense however, that when you are exposed to new ideas, you will be able to adjust your conclusions to better fit your new information. Needless to say, that first week of college was very educational, mostly outside the classroom. The first couple years of college were very trying for me as I adjusted to my new life. I am happy to say that my Faith saved me more than once, even as I tested the limits of my standards. I never truly had “rebellious” teenage years in high school, so this was the time that I tested that out. As I think back, however, nothing truly damaging happened. Even with all the freedom one has at 18, I didn’t go crazy. I would call that a testament of my character. Even when I was trying to be the bad kid, I didn’t do it right. Haha.
After two yeas of “freedom”, I moved back into my parents place to save on dorm costs and enjoyed the luxury of knowing my parents as an adult. A lot of people in the United States are encouraged to “leave the nest” pretty early, even in the best of circumstances. I was surprised how quickly my parents adjusted to treating me as an adult. It actually confused me the first couple times. There was a visible switch in their tone of voice and mannerisms. Perhaps I was finally starting to act like an adult in their eyes. During this time, I changed college majors, had a couple different jobs and reconnected at a local church. I starting serving as a volunteer youth minister and Sunday School teacher on top of working part time and taking a couple classes. I was busy.
At this point, I was ready for my own place and a full-time job to pay for it! I loved the whole “living with your parents as an adult” thing, but it was time to strike out on my own. I once again made my way into the strange and urban landscape of Jacksonville. At first, I fell into my same patterns with wanting to experience all the new stuff life had to offer. My co-workers back in Florida would tell you that I did a lot of growing up in the past 4 years or so. Once again, I had to adjust to a politically correct world. My parents live in an area where that idea was thought of as a violation of free speech.
We are now caught up to the current time frame of moving to the great state of Illinois! My parents had let me stay in their guest room for the week between moving out of my old place and moving into my new place. This was somewhat of a “mental reset” and a good reminder of where I came from.
I left their house in the morning and stated my journey north. While, I was unable to stop in each of these places for more than a few minutes, I did observe some interesting landmarks along the way. The first leg of my trip was west, along the Florida panhandle where I was able to say goodbye to my favorite summer camp from years ago. Not too far from there, I turned north and was quickly reminded that this part of Florida and Georgia is very Southern. Before I hit the state line, I observed a giant Confederate Flag flapping in the wind. I had only seen current USA flags in such a size. Not long after thinking about the implications of that flag still being flown in our ever-changing country, I hit the cotton fields of Georgia. I was not sure what was growing at first, but then it suddenly hit me. This was another direct look back into our history. If anything, these two landmarks so close together reminded me of how aware we are in the South of our history. As I pressed on, I thought about how easily it would be to forget the further away from the region you went.
People had warned me about the traffic and roads of Atlanta before, but you never truly understand until you personally experience it. My overall thoughts were “poor design” and “lack of clear signs” causing knee-jerk reactions as the road becomes a whole other road going in a different direction. Past the city, you begin to notice the hills get quite large and you had to watch your speed while traveling downhill on a steep grade. This was even more evident as I entered Kentucky and Tennessee with the winding roads cutting through the mountains. There was even a piece of interstate where there was not a single FM radio station available. This reminded me of when my dad and I took a trip to Zion National Park and the satellite radio went out. The world of music was redeemed when I stopped at a rest stop in Tennessee where they were playing classic banjo music. I laughed because of how perfect that selection of music was for the area I was driving through.
Just as quickly as I entered the land of banjo music, I left it behind as I was greeted by my new home state of Illinois. Now that I was firmly in the Mid-West, I started to see corn and soybean farms for miles. There was one section of interstate where you could tell that they had to buy the land from the farmers and put the road in. This stretch was a single farm all the way to the horizon in all directions. After all those mountains, this was a sight to behold.
The further north I drove the lower the temperature became. I was able to watch the numbers decrease from 45, early in the day, down to 30 as I finally arrived in my new home. The lightest bit of snow starting falling about 10 miles out from the hotel. This was the first time I had seen real snow covering the ground and parked cars. I would later be surprised by what a real snow storm looks like.
So, I have arrived! My life in Florida stays with me as I adjust to the never-ending cold of winter in the Mid-West. I am excited for the new adventure! May I make 1000 memories to match my 1000 miles! 😀
Have you made a big move in your life? What was it like? Do you enjoy new adventures? What are your favorite types?