To Florida and Back Again
I managed to make it to Europe the summer after I graduated from college. Prior to that, the furthest I had traveled was to Florida when I was 13. I loved getting to see the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in St. Petersburg, but my first trip away from home was not as joyful as one might think.
The first time I went to Florida, it was to visit a specialist who would perform jaw surgery on me a short two months later when school let out for the summer. Over the previous year, stress headaches, lock jaw, and a limited range of motion had brought me to a doctor who made a mouth splint for me that I was supposed to wear. it apparently was not bad enough in junior high to have to deal with awkward body proportions and acne. The universe thought I needed a thick piece of plastic in my mouth, too.
Silly me for thinking that the split was bad. Two months later, I was sitting in a hospital with an IV in my arm feeding me morphine to deal with the pain of a surgery that was more complicated that the doctor had anticipated. They removed the remains of a completely deteriorated disc and placed a fat graft in its place. They also dug deep into my gums to pull out my wisdom teeth in order to prevent anyone else from having to work near that jaw joint at a later time. After I got out of the hospital, I had two weeks of physical therapy, and lots of pain medicine. All I really remember is that it rained a lot. Also, my dad kept trying to make me drink ensure because he was afraid I was going to loose weight since I was unable to eat solids due to the now near permanent slab of plastic in my mouth, along with the braces and four rubber bands that had been added to stabilize my jaw post-surgery.
I had two years of follow up appointments, and only on my final check up did I smile at my doctor. I was not a very appreciative patient. He told me I should return in ten years to have the other side assessed. I told him I was never coming back
Here I am, ten years later, planning on returning to Florida. This time, though, I’m not planning on going to St. Petersburg or Orlando or Tampa. I’m heading way down south to Miami, a city that a friend of mine moved to the same time I moved to Washington. I’m hoping to return to the state in February to escape the cold and rain of the climate I’m temporarily claiming as home. I wonder if a trip back to Florida will leave me with a different impression of the one I formed when I was 13. I keep debating with myself about whether going is really the best decision or not with all of the uncertainty that I hold about my future, but I always defeat myself with the argument that “You never know when you’ll have the freedom to travel like this again. Do it. You’ll be glad you did.”
I wonder, if you could travel anywhere for a week without any financial, work, or family concerns, where would you go, and what would you do?