When we first arrived in Florida I really did think we have found our forever home. We avoided winter (my wife’s only real priority at any cost), were closer to family who wintered in the area 6 months of the year, had a walking neighborhood and generally felt like we were in place we could call home.
Unfortunately that feeling of home didn’t last all that long.
By the end of our second year, the end of 2016, things really started to change.
First, my parents bought a new place to replace their house in Chicago. It was further north and they loved it. From 2016 on they spend less and less time at their Florida condo until last fall when they were only there a couple of weeks (and after missing a couple of years due to COVID and Hurricane Michael). When my mom died this past April my dad’s trips to Florida were over and he sold their condo last month. Joy’s parents still spend a couple of month around Daytona but even that isn’t what it used to be. Add in the fact that nearly all our friends here have moved away and we’ve felt isolated.
Then comes the politics. I would like to say I’m privileged enough, for my own sake, to not feel it but that would be a lie. I’ve been threatened, yelled at and even spit on by a cop for wearing a mask at the local grocery store. It is to the point where I really don’t care to go anywhere as I know some sort of harassment will occur and I just don’t have the patience for it. Joy hasn’t done much better. Currently she can do her running route without overt harassment, most of the time, but it’s always questionable. At various points over the last 3 years she’s had to change running and walking routes and gets so many crude comments and all that it’s really become background noise.
Finally comes the changing vibe. Most of the places we used to love are gone, often replaced with chains or bars that allow smoking. Even the beach, which we used to love to walk along, isn’t what it used to be. We haven’t been in years as Florida changed its interpretation of its laws in 2018 to allow for private beach ownership which leaves the areas we used to love to walk off-limits.
In all, this place ain’t what it used to be and it hasn’t changed for the better. I could add in the cost of living, hurricanes and relentless heat on top of everything but… what’s the point?
Now that we have a place to move to I’m excited that maybe, just maybe, we’ll finally find some sense of home and community. Chicago wasn’t on our list of ideal destinations (it was actually first on the list of places we said we would never move to) but I think we’re still going to find a lot of things that we simply couldn’t find here.
Wish us luck.