Ten years Floridian

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, July 12, 2023, 5:00 PM | comments: 0

My birthday wasn't the only milestone this month. Ten years ago today, I arrived in Orlando with three cats and enough clothes to last me two weeks. I was pretty exhausted after the two days of driving. I recall meeting Kara for dinner, but I couldn't even tell you where we went.

By the end of that first weekend, I had secured a rental house, which was expensive even then at a buck per square foot (it's at least 50% more now). About two weeks later, we put money down to build our first house. I started a year contracting at SeaWorld corporate. Less than four years after that, we started building another house. I worked for a bunch of different companies, mostly not Orlando-based. Simon became a product of the Orange County School District. Diana started a career at the Dr. Phillips Center (DPC), and later we became donors. We've been active cruisers. We put down a lot of roots.

There was a lot of thought that went into moving here. The move back from Seattle to Cleveland to live in my unsellable house came with almost instant regret, and Midwest winter was miserable. I won't tell that story for the millionth time, but in retrospect, I realize now that every place (probably) has pros and cons. Having just moved less than two years prior, and two years before that, we could at least make the case that no move was permanent. Whatever negatives we considered were not permanent.

For me at least, Orange County felt familiar very quickly, especially compared to Seattle. That shouldn't be a huge surprise, given the fact I had been coming down here two or three times a year for a long time. By October, and especially November, it was feeling pretty great, because I wasn't experiencing any of the seasonal dread of the Midwest. From then on, the years have come pretty fast.

The weather has been a huge factor in feeling good about living here, and staying here. It's made me wonder if I would have generally felt better about life had I moved sooner. I caught a little of it in Seattle, where the "down" feeling was mostly limited to November and December, and even then, at least things were still green. But having gone back to Cleveland a few times in the winter, the strong, negative association with the darkness and grayness of winter was intensely associated with most of my life. At some of the worst points in the last ten years, I could, at least, have lunch on some patio.

Having easy access to theme parks has been nice too, of course. That pretty quickly evolved into the kind of thing that Cedar Point had become. It's where we would meet people, and where our range of friends from all over would eventually come. Because of the Epcot festivals and music, it's often a solid time out to eat and be entertained. The attractions themselves only really play a big role when there's a new one, and we almost never spend an entire day at a park. We've had passes to all of the parks at one time or another, and they all have different strengths. The biggest reason to be consistent with the Disney passes is proximity. Epcot lunch is a real thing we do.

The thing that I did not anticipate is our deep appreciation for DPC. It started with a random construction tour in August 2014. I volunteered to shoot some video for them when the first phase opened in November, and Diana's inquiry into volunteering turned into employment. She's been working front-of-house ever since. We wanted to contribute financially, but didn't commit for seven years, near the end of the capital campaign to build Steinmetz Hall, which was not far from complete. It's a source of pride for us, to have such a great place where we live as a home to the performing arts, one of the core things we value.

It's not perfect here, obviously. July and August, September to a lesser degree, are not pleasant times to be outside. The state is run by a fascist, and we seem to be competing with Texas for the biggest joke state. "Florida Man" isn't just a meme, it's real. And the dipshit governor and legislature aren't doing anything to fix the insurance problem here, which is completely out of control. I fully expect that to increase at least 50% this year.

We could, in theory, be empty nesters in six years. Will we stay? I dunno. We do love the theater. I don't think we need this giant house at that point, but in the near term I don't think we'd leave. I dream of living on the beach, but I don't know if that's fiscally realistic. I suppose it's too impossible to guess what happens then. A dozen years ago, I couldn't have predicted that I would be here.


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