It has been my experience in life that time moves forward whether you are there to see it or not. The marks of progress we witness are dramatic enough, but it is those changes that we do not see that can jar us. It is the latter changes that are up for discussion here. Having spent four years living in West Virginia before returning to my point of origin in South Florida I’m currently experiencing a host of these jarring changes.
South Florida has changed. For those who live here that statement is a bit of a joke. This town is always in a state of flux, constantly shifting and morphing. The people are the same. Always in motion and always in a state of change. Few things stay the same around here, so few that the only constants are the heat, the rain, and the changes. I know this. I. KNOW. this. Deep down in the fibers of my beings I’m painfully aware of this fact. This is a plastic place. A malleable construct. Whatever happens to South Florida it endures. It adapts. It changes to meet the needs of the situation.
What has placed a burr under my saddle is how I’m reacting to these changes. I’m from here. I’m that rarest of creatures; a Florida native. Yet I feel out of place here. Maybe it is four years spent in small mountain towns. Maybe its the months spent driving and hiking alone through isolated mountain communities. Maybe it is time affecting me. Who knows?
It is amusing that the large changes are easy to handle. The old parking lot at FAU turned into a stadium. The new high schools, buildings, businesses, and roads. These I handle with a sense of progress. Even when I find the changes distasteful, such as the loss of a great alt rock station and the death of the concerts they produced, I can stiffen my upper lip and move on. The minute changes are what irks me the most. Subtle shifts in landmarks; a missing tree, that doctor’s office on the corner getting a new coat of paint, that Thai place that is now a Mexican one. Familiar landmarks which are now disorientating.
Adding to this feeling of disorientation is the schism between how this place felt in my twenties and how it now feels in my thirties. In my twenties South Florida was my town. I can’t call it home, it never felt like home. To be quite frank South Florida always felt like something I survived. The fact I had endured all this place can throw at an individual and come out alive marks me as sure as any scar. I claimed to hate it “here” .
Returning home over fours years later I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about this place. Powerful old feelings rise up and leave a bad taste in my mouth, mixing with a new appreciation for the years of memories I’ve made here. It is a strange cocktail, but as long as there is a tiny umbrella in the glass we’ve preserved the theme. I know that this place whatever it ends up meaning to me is sacred.