I have been asked this question so much, I felt it deserved its own post to tell the story.
In December of 2002, six months after my father died unexpectedly in an airplane crash (see his memorial site for all of the details), I decided to take myself for a much-needed vacation. A real vacation — not some dinky supposedly restful “weekend getaway”, but a real-live, sho-nuff, go-someplace-warm-in-the-winter vacation where I could lay on the beach and try to forget a little of the events of the past year, a least temporarily. My searches on the web and inclinations led me to destinations in the Caribbean, and I settled upon going to Negril, Jamaica.
I had a wonderful trip: the weather was gorgeous (I was comfortably warm for the first time in what seemed like years), the people were friendly, I met nice really cool other travelers, and more men tried to chat me up in the 12 days I was there than I had do the same in the Seattle over the previous 12 years. It felt nice to be in the majority: where I didn’t have to search everywhere for faces that resembled my own, where there were beautiful brown babies and children running around, and where I didn’t feel like I stuck out as the only person of color
for miles and miles.
I cried leaving the hotel, leaving town, getting on the plane back to the US, and on the plane. I realized then that there was something there that resonated with me, that I had been missing, and that on some level, I desperately needed.
I had to change planes at Miami International Airport for my flight back to Seattle. I found my seat, and sat next to a young woman, who, despite wearing jeans, sneakers, and a zip-up hoodie, was fully made-up. I decided not to talk to her and keep to myself for the flight. However, about 30 minutes after take-off, we started chatting. I swear I wasn’t going to get into a big conversation with her, but the next thing you know, she asked me about where I was going and where I was coming from, and I told her all about my great vacation. I divulged that even though I was returning to Seattle and I had been living there for 14 years, that it was starting to feel less and less like “home”. “You know,” I said,”if I could just find a city in the continental United States that was warm all year long, was ethnically diverse, and had a decent economy, I would totally move there. But I just don’t know where that is.”
She quickly replied “well, you should think about Miami! There is all of the latino culture, and all of the salsa and merengue…” and it was as if a bell and a light went “Ding!!”. Literally, moments before she said that, I never would have considered Miami as a place to live. Miami seemed like a fairy-tale place, like Los Angeles, to me. Where is the substance? Where is the down-to-earthedness?
But something in what she said caught my attention (it could be the 70 degree temperatures in the winter), and I promised myself to follow up with research, like: how is the economy? How is the tech industry down there? What is the racial and ethnic mix and percentages there? What is the general culture like? What is the real estate market like? How is the dating scene for singles?
Her name was Mary Dee, and her destination was St. Louis. I didn’t get her contact information, but I will never forget her. I got off of the flight in Seattle with a new sense of direction, a new focus, a new goal: for the first time, I had a clear intention to move away from Seattle to a new place. I didn’t know when I would move, I felt that it was time to leave Seattle within every fibre of my being. All I had to do is research it and see if it fit, and then make a plan. Well, you know how is it when you want to do something: the research will always support it. Everything I found seemed to indicate that it is an okay place to live, except the average number of educated people, which is less than half that of either Seattle or the Bay Area. But there seem to be a lot of cultural events happening, there are a lot of outdoor activities, and…did I mention that the weather is beautiful for most of the year?
Never, ever, before that trip, would I have thought that Miami, Florida would become such a huge destination and symbol for me in my life. Many folks have reservations about my moving there — one of the first things that this guy I was involved with said about it was “I hear there is a lot of crime there” — but then again, he wasn’t really known for his words of encouragement about much of anything. Just over this Christmas holiday, my aunt looked down at me over the top of her glasses and warned me: “there’s a lot of drug dealers there! you be careful not to let them get to you and influence you!” There have been drug dealers everywhere that I lived (if anyone is familiar with 23rd and Union the Central District in Seattle, then you know exactly what I mean), and they have never gotten to me in any of those places. Why should this be any different?
So, it is now three years since the initial idea, but here I am in, in motion: in process, in progress, moving towards my destination. I should actually be in Florida by the end of January.
What I look forward to is the sun, is the warmth: the ability to go outside almost any day of the year and be warm; the people: a medly of brown and tan faces that I’ve not seen before; of being more openly appreciated by men (no, a sista does NOT get this in Seattle! My friend Barbie-Danielle and I talked about making t-shirts for us and our sister-friends that said “ADSIS: Another Disgruntled Sista in Seattle” and then I offered, that since I am leaving, that mine would read instead “NADSIS: Not Another Disgruntled Sista in Seattle!”); and just the feeling of being more relaxed in the sun, more comfortable in my skin as black woman, and…more. Just — More.
And you know what? If I get there, and I really, really don’t like it and it just doesn’t click, then I will just move somewhere else. It’s just that simple.