in July of 2021, I gave up rent control, views of the Golden Gate Bridge, a steady income and lifelong friends and moved from the West Coast to Florida.
It was one of the most painful decisions of my life. But my mom needed me, and I didn’t want to let her down.
I said my goodbyes, drove 5,000 miles through 17 states, visited 12 ballparks and listened to dozens of podcasts.
The solo road trip kept me blissfully unaware that starting over at 55 would be more challenging than I thought. After all, I wasn’t entering into the vibrant social world of The Villages; I was moving to Oxford to live with my mom and her cat.
Sure, I had family here, but I felt lost and alone like the new kid in the school cafeteria who transferred in the middle of her senior year.
Finding solace in my local watering hole allowed me to escape reality by watching sports and commiserating with fellow bartenders, but it was empty and expensive. It took months to find a job, even in an industry desperate for help.
Luckily, I found the therapy I desperately needed by driving along local backroads.
Noticing the lush flora and diverse fauna eventually pulled me out of the pity party and reminded me that there is beauty everywhere. From the canopies of Spanish Moss that hover over the roads to the Sandhill Cranes that show up out of nowhere, nature is abundant here. Where else can you see an alligator at a country club?
I’m so grateful for Lake and Sumter counties and everything they offer. In less than an hour’s drive, I can SCUBA in a cave or snorkel with manatees. I can take a seaplane ride in Tavares, enjoy the Chain of Lakes or fly through rivers on an airboat in Lake Panasoffkee. We have a German bakery in Yalaha, microbreweries in Leesburg and a restaurant scene in Mount Dora that rivals Orlando and Tampa. Entertainment in The Villages is robust and thriving.
After 2½ years, I’m happy to say I’ve made friends in unlikely places and found a sense of accomplishment working with incredibly supportive, gracious and creative people.
I’m finally able to appreciate Florida family gatherings, my mom, her cat and, ironically, a new baby kitty that wandered onto the porch from a backroad behind our house.