If the sun rises in the East, why does it feel like all my opportunities have set since I left California? I was living every college student’s dream—maintaining academic excellence while happily juggling an internship, nights out with friends and a budding romance—but that life came to a close. After earning my A.A. in Communication Studies from El Camino, the local community college, my next step felt unclear. I spent that Fall taking yoga classes on campus and participating on the debate team. My life called out for a change, so I applied to six universities:UC Los Angeles, UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, UC Davis, UC Berkeley and the University of Florida.
University of Florida was my only out of state option. My mom moved to Florida in 2014, and despite her pleas that I complete my education in the Sunshine State, I felt zero desire to abandon my Golden State. So how did I end up here?
While submitting applications, I realized could transfer to UF for the spring semester, unlike the UC institutions, which would keep me waiting until Fall 2016. Already a year behind in my college education, I didn’t feel comfortable putting it off a whole other year. The tuition price tag really sealed the deal—Compared to UC schools, UF is much more economical. So I submitted applications and waited.
UF congratulated me on my acceptance in late October. Waiting on my UC results until summer didn’t feel like an option, so that weekend I acted.
I met up with my friend Aaron for a night out in downtown, and I told him the news while at his house. He poured us shots of Jack and said “Francie you’re going to Florida!” I laughed, swallowed my shot, and feeling the whiskey’s encouragement thought, “Yeah, I’m going to Florida.” Looking back at this moment I don’t think I ever made the decision; I just reacted.
In a month and a half, I had to decide what was best for my future even if it meant leaving my home. October and November passed in a dizzying blur, filled with debate tournaments, work, long nights and denial. Then December arrived.
That final month living in California was probably my best. I lived every day as if it were my last, and in a way they were. I got on the plane on the morning of December 28, 2015. When the tires lifted off the LAX runway I said goodbye to the only life I knew: my friends and family members, my favorite ice cream shop Coolhaus, the Torrance High School bleachers where I had my first kiss, the cute guy I was just getting to know and many more memories. Goodbye, California.
The tires touched down on another runway, as I was forced to welcome the new life ahead of me. Hello, Florida.
I’ve been in Gainesville, Florida for three and a half months now, but every single day has felt lonely. Just me, myself and my education. Making friends and finding a job have been nearly impossible, and exchanging my beloved 405 freeway traffic for these peaceful moss-ladder oak trees has driven me to near insanity.
As dissatisfied as I feel in this town, though, I find that I’m in a position to discover what I truly want in my life without any distractions. Long ago I wished to embark on adventure; is this the adventure I’ve been granted?
Writing this makes me wonder if I’ve given Florida a real shot to be anything more than a unfortunate circumstance. I’m beginning to receive responses from the UC institutions now, and so far, I’ve been accepted to UCSB. Returning to California now would mean retreating to the comfort of familiarity, while also giving up the chance to make an adventure out of Florida.
Throwing all caution to the wind, I made my choice. I’ve decided to stay in Florida. Stretching myself outside of my comfort zone, I know I can grow as an individual and as a writer. In Florida, I can create my own world from the ground up. I am now free to be fearless.