Visiting Tampa For The First Time in Over A Year: it got emotional

I got to spend Christmas in Orlando.

Last year I joked with my family that all I wanted for Christmas was a tan because, after living in Tampa for eight years, I wasn’t used to slowly fading from sun-kissed to sickly in the wintertime. Colorado’s winters are sunny, but we’re all still bundled up pretty tightly.

This year, I didn’t catch the plague at home and ended up getting a nice little tan with freckles to match. I feel more like myself with a glow, which is a nice pick-me-up in the middle of the winter.

I extended my trip by a day to enjoy some extra family time and shorts weather, but when I landed in Denver on Friday night, I was welcomed home to 14-degree weather. DID YOU HEAR ME I SAID FOURTEEN DEGREES. It was so bitter cold my teeth were throbbing. Is that a thing?!

All in all, it was an amazing five days at home. From going to Disney for the first time in two years to just loafing on the couch watching actual TV shows (I don’t have TV here in Colorado), petting my cats, catching up with my sister, and being with my parents, it was all exactly what I needed. I miss them so much.

The flight was a thing, though.

On the plane I had some extra time to think about my time at home and a day trip I took to Tampa with my mom on Thursday. I wanted to go back to my favorite old city. My favorite little neighborhoods were getting facelifts and brand new ones were being built. I felt a lot in just the few hours we spent there, so I wrote about it.

I hope it helps someone who needs to read it. Who, maybe, is working through some heavy things and thinks they’re alone. I think we’re all here doing our best learning from the hard things. Be easy on your heart and gentle with yourself and keep going. Ok? Ok. ❤

(But first, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! I think this next year is going to be pretty amazing.)

———————

I spent the first 20 minutes of my flight bawling my eyes out. A silent ugly cry if I had to describe it.

I’m pretty great 93% of the time but on my way home from a family Christmas in Orlando, I felt things all of a sudden. And also I’m getting my period. Unfortunately, I drew the short stick and got a window seat without a window (don’t book row 11), so with my face just inches from the curved plastic of the plane’s innards, where I imagined the ground slowly disappeared beneath me, I really let it out, stifling it only how you do during a sad movie in a full theater: deep belly breaths into a hand that covers your nose and mouth. Ariana Grande’s “Imagine” blasted into my ears, intensifying my sadness and the heaves of my chest. Tears fell hard into my lap.

It was Tampa and I knew it. My mom and I visited on Thursday, the day before I flew home, and it was still on my mind. Everything about Tampa had changed and then nothing, too. I miss that city, and I was afraid of that.

It was Tampa and it was the lost love I want back so badly that caused me to sob and shake in my seat. I want them both. I want to apologize and I want him to accept it. I could spend my whole life with this person and maybe he knows or maybe he doesn’t but I can’t bring myself to do anything about it. There could be a no at the end of that conversation and I’m not sure which is worse: hearing it right from his mouth, or wondering forever.

“Imagine a world like that…” Ariana belted out and it was so loud I wondered if my seat mate heard it, too. I didn’t know her, so I decided I didn’t really care. The plane rattled over some turbulence, I clutched the armrest like that would do anything to make it stop.

Visiting my old city was like stirring up the silt and muck at the bottom of a lake. Where all my feelings, favorite things, and screw-ups had settled when I left in 2017.

I thought I’d forgiven myself. I haven’t.

I thought I loved Boulder more than Tampa. I don’t.

I thought it would be easy to pay a visit. It wasn’t.

Just move back, my mom would casually offer up with each of my sighs of longing, nostalgia…and even pain?

Maybe.

But probably not.

I’ll stay put in Boulder because of the petty things, like running into a new girlfriend. And because of the heavy things, like spending life so far apart even in the same city.

I hadn’t cried like that or over that in awhile, but standing dead center in the middle of all those memories and driving down the streets where they still live and looking out over the bright blue water of Tampa Bay…I wanted to jump in and swim away.

I let myself feel it and let it out even 35,000 feet in the air because it’s human to care and to love and learn from it.

My mom got me Tara Westover’s book, Education, for Christmas. So when I calmed down and wiped stray tears and snot on my sleeve, I put away the memories for awhile, pulled out my book and read for a couple hours.

I was ok. I am ok, but hearts heal slowly especially when you’re the one who broke it in the beginning.

How you feel is how you feel. One day at a time.

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