Everything was big. The change. The drive. The sale of my first house, my little blue ranch at the end of the street. A brand-new city, with brand-new feelings. Even the sky in Tampa seemed bigger than in Schenectady. With the Catskills to the south, the Adirondacks up north, and the Helderbergs all around, the part of New York State I called home for the last two decades was surrounded by gorgeous mountains and lakes and forests. It was suburban and rural, a three-hour train ride from New York City in a world filled with horses and wine country. I was born in New York State, changing cities for undergrad and to buy my house, but always living within the same 200-mile boundary.
I had been considering relocating for some time, but I was put off by the challenges I invented in my mind. I was single and my house would need some work before I could sell. I had an older horse that I couldn’t move across the country, and she was my everything so I couldn’t leave her. And I had nostalgia; that wave of comfort and familiarity and safety that washes over you when you’re home. And for me, New York was home. Jay-Z’s hit “Empire State of Mind” rings loud in my head, and for a while those streets inspired me, too. Things changed suddenly for me, though, when my mare got sick and we lost her. I lost myself, too, and hard. It was the sudden end no one asked for of a 6-year relationship, longer and much more intense than I had felt with most human partners. I struggled to breath, shallow, insufficient breaths and deep ragged ones.
There wasn’t anything holding me to this place any longer, in fact, the opposite. It was time to try. The first part of the year was spent fixing up my house and researching cities to move to, warm places with big communities and happy people. I listed the house and came to Tampa to find an apartment. Up until that trip, it had felt like I was working on one big checklist. Repaint the house, check. New landscaping, check. Stage the house, check. I was doing things incrementally and not letting myself think too far ahead, lest it all fall apart and leave me cold and alone in New York. But once I came to Tampa and fell in love, the situation became real. I found an apartment and flew home full of excited dreams. Pulling down my little street and seeing the For-Sale sign posted in my yard in front of my blue house was butterflies again. It was big.
Staging the house was my favorite part (fresh flowers and clean counters every day!); leaving with my cat for showings was my least favorite 😊 It is exhausting and exhilarating; each one could be the one. Who’s next to love my house? Amid the house sale, I had some other big changes. After returning from a conference on a high after giving a successful presentation on goal setting and meeting with students and international colleagues, I learnt I was being laid off from my company of 15 years. That is its own story, but let’s say it was big! The next day I received the first offer on my house.
As the house moved through contract and I packed all my things into a Pod (with thanks to great friends helping to load the heavy stuff and an amazing boyfriend on the other end to unload it) things became real! I stopped sleeping (not my biggest talent to begin with) and threw myself into the final house prep and move. My plan was to send the Pod ahead, it would take about two weeks to reach Tampa because of Thanksgiving in between. Somehow, I was able to coordinate it to arrive the day I was starting my lease, so I planned for my arrival to match. I spent 4 days driving because I was traveling with my cat and 6-7 hours in her carrier was about her limit to maintain kitten sanity. The drive was big for me. I had never driven across the country, let alone in a Mini Cooper convertible packed tight with my important things and my cat as co-pilot. We made it, though, with lots of Liquid IV and off-key singing to the radio.
I love all the big things here, like the gorgeous weather, bright sun, palm trees, and the view of the bay from my apartment. Happily, I’m finding I love the little things too, like watching the wind swirl through the mangroves, pirates everywhere, strawberry season, and seashells crunching underfoot littered on pathways around the city.
Big is the new normal here. Big sky, big sun, big goals, big dreams!