A friend of mine shared these words, "Bloom where you are planted", with me after I had moved to Tampa. I am not sure where the phrase originated, but like a petulant weed, it started popping up everywhere! I resisted this idea for some time, but as many of us have heard before, "What we resist, persists.” It was time for me to accept where I was. However, unbeknownst to me at the time, I had to accept who I was first.
It’s no surprise to many of you reading this that my relocation to Florida from California in 2004, less than a month after getting married, was a hard one. Living in Santa Barbara was like a love affair for me. My husband, Josh, and I, moved there on a whim and ended up living there for close to eight years. Although, no place is perfect, Santa Barbara felt as close to it as any place I had ever been.
I fell in love with the green, soft, gumdrop-like mountains which hugged the city on one side as the Pacific Ocean lay majestically on the other. The Pacific and the way it smelled, the waves and tide pools where sea urchins and anemone lived, as well as the misty mornings were all supremely intoxicating to me.
I also adored the random people I saw almost every day walking down State Street or in my favorite coffee spot. Some I knew by name, like an elderly man named Harvey, who used to say he worked for Walker and Turner. I can see his sweet smile now, his broaches on his shirt, and hear his voice declaring, “I walk the streets and turn the corners,” in response to me asking what he was up to. Our time in Santa Barbara felt spontaneous, fun, and free.
Once I moved to Tampa, however, everything started to feel a bit different. I was meeting people who all seemed so much more grown up than I was. The walls in their homes were wallpapered and the conversations centered on concepts like owning a house or having a baby, things I couldn't wrap my head around yet. I wasn’t ready to grow up!
There were complicated emotions stirring in me begging for acknowledgement. I kept blaming my unhappiness on where I lived. I eventually saw a therapist who helped teach me how to access some of these innermost feelings lurking in the shadows. She kept telling me to look inward. “The outside is a reflection of your internal situation,” she would say. This is exactly what I did not want to hear. In fact, sometimes this was so annoying to me, I dreamed of throwing tomatoes, maybe not directly at her, but certainly in her general direction.
However, as I traversed along, getting a job and meeting great people, Tampa still didn’t feel like home, and I was pining to move. However, it was not a time in my life for moving; it was a time for staying put and laying down roots. I knew this was what I wanted but wasn’t sure I could get there while being here.
Once when Josh and I were visiting Santa Barbara, we were having coffee with a friend and mentor. I told him how I was feeling. He gave me great advice about getting creative about our situation. This clicked for me in a way nothing else had. I had to figure out a way to honor my feelings but to also move on. I had to start working on creating my life the way I would create a collage; moving some pieces around, getting rid of pictures that no longer fit and making room for others.
One of the recent changes I made to the overall picture was a decision to go back to school this past year. As I was reading a book for one of my classes, called, Transitions; Making sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges, I was struck by how cyclical life was beginning to feel. When talking about change versus transition, Bridges writes, “One of the most important differences between a change and a transition is that changes are driven to reach a goal, but transitions start with letting go of what no longer fits or is adequate to the life stage you are in.”
I think there comes a point in life for us all (hopefully) when we stop comparing ourselves to others and also to the life we imagined living when we were younger. We have to let go of the expectations and stories of our past to fully inhabit who we are. I believe we have to do this before we can ever really accept where we are.
This idea of acceptance not only holds true in regards to where we live but also to our jobs, relationships, physical and mental illnesses, learning disabilities as well as losses and gains. What happens to us does not define us. We get to define ourselves.
It's almost eight years later now, and while I may not be grown up, I certainly feel more responsible. After a multitude of changes and transitions, I have come to own the fact that I am the only one responsible for my life.
I am also realizing where I live may not be as much of a factor to my well being as how I live. For that matter, I’m happy I didn’t throw stones or tomatoes at my therapist because tilling the soil of my soul was the best way for me to sow the seeds of happiness.
Now when I see brilliant flowers blooming all around, I think to myself, as much as I love Santa Barbara, Tampa is looking pretty great too these days.