One year in Orlando

posted by Jeff | Saturday, July 12, 2014, 12:57 PM | comments: 0

Today marks another anniversary for the start of an adventure: My arrival in Orlando with the intention of living here. It feels like it went by fast, and went by slow. In any case, yearly anniversaries of important events are always a good time to check in and reflect a little.

I remember that day I arrived vividly. The night before I stayed in a very scary hotel across the street from Carowinds in Charlotte, and after just two roller coasters lost to the rain. That was the midway point, and the cats were super stressed. I drove through a blinding rain storm near Daytona, and eventually ended up at one of the Extended Stay America hotels on John Young. Kara picked me up and we went out for dinner (I've since realized our friendship largely revolves around eating), and that night I passed out. By the end of the next day, Saturday, I found our rental in unincorporated Orange County west of Windermere. We could give the moving company an address.

One of the driving questions about the move was whether or not it would make us happier, and it seemed likely it would. Cleveland didn't seem to offer us anything beyond Cedar Point and some great restaurants. The two winters we endured were depressing. I didn't even work for a company in town most of that time. Nostalgia wasn't enough. Then there was the deep feelings of regret that we left Seattle and Microsoft in the first place. To this day I struggle with that.

After a year, you bet we're happier here. Things have generally worked out, and in many cases better than we expected. We had no expectation of having our own house for a few years, but here we are. The experience of buying the house was pretty awful, mind you, but at the end of the day we got it done, and we're slowly making it our own.

I really enjoyed working for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment at the corporate office for that first year, and it still bums me out a little that they couldn't convert it to a full-time job. I think jobs in my career band aren't impossible to find here, but it's not always easy, so I'm glad I started looking four months out for the one I landed. I think that's probably true anywhere that isn't Seattle, San Francisco, and maybe Austin and Cambridge, but Orlando seems to have a bright technology future.

The weather... what can I say, it's Florida. Sure, it's humid as hell in July and August, generally topping out at 92, but it's generally safe to say that you'll see the sun every single day. Winter is like an extra long fall in the Midwest, which is awesome because I love that kind of "jacket weather." What it doesn't have is weeks of flat gray sky, the key thing that made me feel crappy in Cleveland. I've been stressed at times here, but never depressed, and I credit the weather. If there's any down side, it's that it feels like a crime to not be outside and be active.

Oh, and of course, this is a pretty solid place to live if you're a theme park nerd. We've really enjoyed having Walt Disney World in our backyard. We can predictably have a place to be outside and have fun as a family. It's surprising that we have such a good time, almost every time, and some days we're just there to bang out some roller coaster rides and get ice cream (as we did last night).

Another fun thing is that virtually everyone you know will eventually be here. I've seen more of my friends from different parts of my life in the last year than probably the five previous years combined. That's why we have a guest room. Just at the parks, we've seen friends from college, previous jobs and even my previous roommate. Our friends from Chicago even did a cruise with us, which is super convenient when you can drive to the port.

I think we've also been fortunate to find excellent help for Simon. His "catch up" progress to deal with his developmental delays has been extraordinary, and the people who work with his ASD issues have been fantastic. The free component of this, from the county school district, was really great, and I look forward to him continuing in the fall.

Sometimes, it still hits me, "Whoa, we live here." A lot of the time, it's just something like seeing the palm tree outside of my office window. We really enjoy living here. I can't predict if it's forever, but we're definitely in no hurry to leave. We wear Central Florida pretty well.


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