Where I’m Going, Where I’ve Been
July 2015 and Lakeland is still home. Year six of Southeastern looms ahead, six more months until I’m through, finished with the satisfying checklist of degree requirements and firm deadlines. Senioritis hangs heavy and has for the past year and a half. I can’t find the motivation for my old ways of impressing the professor with my punctuality and thoroughness in the beginning of courses so they are more willing to give grace towards the end–now I get emails at the start of week one asking if I’m even going to join them, for there are twenty-three replies in the “Meet the Class” discussion board and I have yet to share my favorite verse.
Lakeland summers reek of settling. We live with people we’d never thought of as friends, we take any jobs available, we eat a lot of Hungry Howie’s. The fireworks are continually rained out. Everyone’s schedules are somehow opposites. Everyone is married now, and they all have yards to take care of.
I live alone this summer, in an apartment with skyscraper ceilings and no vent over the stove. You don’t miss it until you don’t have it. I’m still learning the difference between being alone and being lonely, though I find that sitcoms make excellent companions when the loneliness wins out. I call my mom, my grandmother, Taylor in California, Ruthie two streets over. I miss the past both near and far–the 808 back porch on rainy days, Pink Rabbits in the living room, the Halloween we almost broke up, the day in January we did. The numbing pain of waking up at five a.m. to brew coffee for strangers or to roll back over and sleep, bye, have a good day. The certainty of two weeks, two months, two years ago, when I was sure, when the “you” of my imagined conversations would of course answer because I’ve not done anything wrong here, so why would you leave?
Seasons don’t change in Florida. We have bright green, green, dark green, hot, rainy and hot, and hot but occasionally lukewarm. The kitchen in the restaurant stays at eighty-eight degrees regardless of the outside weather, a fact we all hate but never seem to actually question. When at a loss for words with the girls I work with I can always say “ugh, so hot in here, why?” and know that the silence of the next few seconds will be filled. They’re my college roommates for this season, a pile of faces that wouldn’t be together were it not for random housing assignments or the fact that we all live within a drivable distance, are available five nights a week, and have been deemed at least moderately attractive by Mr. Dunbar. They’re the most normal people I’ve ever met.
I’m struggling a little this summer. No more than summers before, especially the summer I lived in High Springs and didn’t have a license, but maybe not any less. The struggles grow in proportion to your ability to handle them, I think. Maybe I invite them in, maybe as I’ve grown up my problems have too, earning interest like the student loans I try not to think about. Maybe I’ve neglected to care for parts of myself, maybe I’m rotting away, maybe infection is setting in. I should go to church; I should go to the dentist. I could try living holistically, I could go vegan, I could stick to my New Year’s resolution and finish a book each week. I could improve, all the while letting my struggles flourish alongside of me.
I’ll drink more water tomorrow. I’ll run to each half-mile point, or at least keep up with Rachel. I won’t roll my eyes as I walk away from tables who don’t understand that “medium plus” is not a way to order a steak, and I’ll definitely tell the kitchen your exact order, but we’re all going to make fun of you, so just order like a normal person, you’re not going to die, your forty-two dollar filet will taste fine even if it’s medium minus, I promise.