A swamp is a good place to hide a body. Florida is full of swamps. I should move to Florida, so I can have plenty of swamps in which to hide the dead bodies.
Okay, my syllogism isn’t perfect, but you get the idea. And that rationale wasn’t exactly what went through my mind when I decided to uproot myself, leave my hometown of New York and move somewhere warmer.
What was on my mind was the need for a major life overhaul.
I lived a crazy/content existence in Manhattan. I had a crash-pad studio apartment in the West Village; an unending crop of nearby restaurants-du-jour; bars, concerts, shows and new experiences on every corner. And I had a job that provided funds for lots of cheeky adventures. Life was very good to me for a very long time. I’m a lucky SOB, and I get that.
Then life intervened, as it often does, and had its way with me. My cousin, who I grew up with like a sister, got sick, very sick, then died after years of fighting leukemia. She was thirty-seven years old. She was, and will always be, one of the hugest parts of my heart. I can’t write about her without crying, though sometimes I can think of her without pain. Sometimes.
While she battled, I tried to live as I had been, but that didn’t work. Life had imploded. Before she’d gotten sick, I’d felt the need for some sort of change building inside me. I plodded through a job that often left me exhausted and demoralized. I grew tired of the bar scene. Friends got married and moved. Life lost its color and zest. I’m not knocking my previous life, but my cousin’s illness reminded me that I longed for other adventures, new experiences, a different narrative. If I waited for life “to happen,” the choice might be taken out of my hands.
I’ve written stories forever, but maybe a bit of Manhattan mayhem crept into my psyche and planted the urge to write out my diabolical thoughts. My experiences have been great fodder, and my cousin was the first to encourage my novel writing. The first to see my potential as an author. Under her encouragement, the bodies began piling up. Then I needed a place to bury them.
“I must soon quit the Scene.” –Benjamin Franklin
After she died, and after a long period of dealing with the initial grief, I felt ready—as ready as I could—for the change I needed. I felt ready to make a conscious choice about the direction I wanted my life to go: to a warmer climate, to a different lifestyle, to a new career.
So with a fair bit of planning, but no job and few contacts, I ditched my rat race and set up a laptop in Florida, land of swamps. And fabulousness. And history. And so much more. There’s plenty to come on all of that, but let me say this: St. Augustine, the oldest city in the United States, is a history lover’s and storyteller’s dream.
My overhaul didn’t happen overnight, nor was it without its share of setbacks, but deciding to change everything has been the best thing I’ve done. Also one of the hardest.
I look back now and marvel at the detours and side roads that brought me here. What if I hadn’t taken the chance to move and to write? Where on earth would I be if I hadn’t escaped? I can’t answer that, not with 100% certainty, but I do know this: I still am one lucky bastard.
If you’d like to share your story of change or inspiration, please do in the comment section. Sharing challenging experiences is cathartic. And sometimes, it’s good story material. You’ll see … check out my next post.
PS—Florida is by no means all swamp. Here’s another St. Aug snapshot, of the Castillo de San Marcos.