One year ago today was our very first day as Florida residents. That means that one year ago yesterday, we loaded up our suitcases and took a flight from Newark to Tampa, with a newly teething, newly crawling, over-tired, non-sleeping baby and an excessively anxious dog in tow. So, the kind of flight nightmares are made of. And that hellish flight was not delivering us to the Caribbean vacation of our dreams or any such thing, but rather, it was taking us away from the city we loved. So, not exactly our best day.
It's hard for me to believe a year has passed because it seems like so much longer. So much has transpired and there has been so much forced adjustment that our New York life seems like a lifetime ago. How has it only been a year?
But, it has been a year, and I figured an update was in order. In addition to being a year into Floridian life, we're also four months into Jacksonville/teaching life. Time to share how things are going.
First, the biggest change: Eric's new job. As far as I can tell, it has been both everything we expected and nothing like we expected. We expected it to be challenging, and that it is. Very much so, in fact. I'm sure at times it would be a bit more relaxing to just coast through, but I know Eric thrives under a challenge and so I'm glad he's finally found that in his day-to-day life. I think he is, too. And it is certainly fulfilling and important, as expected. Eric says that each day he feels like there are new reminders of why what he is doing is important, and I know he really just wants to help these kids. And he doesn't just want to help them learn Geometry or Algebra; he wants to help them learn to think and reason and succeed beyond the walls of his classroom. However, that is a very ambitious goal for a first year teacher, and I know that often Eric feels like he isn't very good at this new line of work. Which is to be expected, as he's been teaching for four months and this is hardly a teacher-turns-around-a-whole-classroom-of-troubled-kids-in-two-hours movie (thanks for the unrealistic expectations, Hilary Swank and Michelle Pfeiffer). It is going to take time just for him to perfect his basic teaching skills, let alone to figure out how to attain his higher goals. And he may never actually get there, because it will certainly be a constantly evolving process. But if you ask me (and his test scores, and a myriad anecdotes he tells me about his students that show he is making a difference), he's doing a great job as a rookie teacher in a tough situation, and especially one who also tackled the responsibility and time commitment of coaching football in his first semester. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Eric is a rock star; now the trick is just getting him to believe it. So, it is still a work in progress but I'm very proud of my husband and I think he should definitely be proud of himself.
As for Ellie and me, we have found a variety of activities to occupy our time. We go to story time at two different libraries and a Barnes & Noble store weekly. We hit up play areas at the mall and the St. John's Town Center. We have our grocery shopping/laundry/etc. routines in place. As described in an early Jacksonville post, we play on our porch and take walks around our "backyard." I will say that purchasing a second car has been my saving grace in this shamefully unwalkable city - being able to get out and do something every day is very important to the sanity of a stay-at-home-mom, so I'm glad Ellie and I have been able to find fun things to do and get a little system going.
As for Jacksonville itself, it's...fine. We've been doing our best to get out and explore and take advantage of opportunities and activities offered locally, and I think we've been doing a good job of it. And it has all been fun. But at the end of the day, I think Eric and I both just feel like it's...fine. Neither of us has been particularly overwhelmed with Jacksonville and we're not sure it's going to be a permanent home for us.
I fully admit that much of my lackluster attitude about Jacksonville is largely my fault. I had such high hopes for this city, unrealistically so. For the entire nine months we were living in St. Petersburg, a common thread in my thoughts was "as soon as we get to Jacksvonille..." Any time I felt the least bit homesick for New York or any sense of longing for our former life, I would tell myself, "just wait till we get to Jacksonville." I think I really thought that we would show up here, get our stuff moved in, and instantly fall in love with the city (much like we did in our former home). I had visions of us just feeling like we found the perfect place for us, quickly setting out to make plans to stay here long-term, researching neighborhoods, looking at houses, and settling down. I don't think any city could have lived up to the expectations I had set for Jacksonville. And when I got here and just felt kind of "eh" about it, it was hard to take.
Granted, we have only been here four months. We have at least another year and a half to go here, like it or not. I'm reserving full judgment until we have been here a full year and really experienced life in Jacksonville, in all seasons, holidays, etc. I'm doing my best to keep an open mind and we'll continue to seek out all the fun things we can possibly find. And maybe by this time next year, I'll be talking about the houses we're looking at or our long-term Jacksonville plan. A lot can happen in a year, am I right?
However, if it hasn't already been made obvious, New York is still at the front of my mind. I do not have nearly the closure I had hoped to have after a year's time. Not even close, in fact. And the thing about missing New York is that it's constantly in your face. New York is on the news, in the movies, in books, on TV. The other night, Eric and I were watching a show that ended with a final shot of a guy getting into a cab on West 53rd Street and 10th Avenue in New York City. How do I know that's where it was? Because our old apartment building was in the shot. Right there, on my TV, was the front door of the apartment I loved more than any other. On a day when I otherwise hadn't thought much about New York, it was like a shot in the heart. There is no escaping it. And really New York-centric things like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Rockefeller Center Tree Lighting? Forget it. I watch them, sure, because I'm clearly a masochist, but I do so with tears in my eyes. Is that normal, even after one year?
I just really didn't realize how tightly New York had woven itself into my identity, and I feel like a fish out of water here. I don't feel like a Floridian, and frankly, I'd rather be a New Yorker. I miss everything about that city - the tall buildings, the busy streets, the constant excitement, the fast pace and hustle and bustle. I always said that I wanted to have a big family and I never could imagine raising kids in the city, but since we've been gone, I've started to rethink that: what's so bad about kids in the city? I'd love for Ellie to grow up with the experiences New York can offer. And what's so bad about a smaller family, or living in an apartment forever? Isn't it worth the trade-off?
At this point, I have no idea where we'll ultimately end up. Will it be Jacksonville? I don't think so as of today, but crazier things have happened. Will it be New York? It seems unlikely, but I sure would love it. Maybe it will be an unforeseen mysterious "Option C," some other random city that we haven't even thought of yet. I have a hard time picturing myself ever loving any city nearly as much as New York, but surely it's possible?
So that's where we are as of today, one year after the Big Move: settling in, yet still very much in transition. Despite our mixed emotions about our current locale, our faith remains strong that this is where we are meant to be at this moment and that the work Eric doing is worthwhile. And that's really what the whole point of this move was, so it's hard to argue with that.