Things you can learn in Miami Beach, FLA

by P. Braithwaite

In 2007, I left Miami after two years of living there. I left in the middle of the night. I don’t know exactly what time, but I remember riding to the airport in darkness. All of the windows of the spanish-style ranch houses were dark. The occasional lamp post decorated the otherwise silent streets.

There were no visible signs of life.

Besides the taxi driver’s eyes in the rear view mirror, there were no witnesses. I held back tears. The ride to the airport felt like a walk of shame. I had spent two years of living the post-collegiate dream — sun, beach, clubs and drinking — and I had to go back home to live with my parents. Again.

F*ck my life.

I felt like a failure. I’d done everything right — graduated early, done internships and held jobs in my field, but I wasn’t being compensated properly. I was dayjobbing as a manager at American Eagle. I was freelancing as a drinks columnist for like 2 dollars an article. I was writing music videos and being screwed out of my pay. I was living a life I couldn’t sustain.

I was certain, at 23, that my life was over. I would die a perpetual adolescent. I was destined to be that guy who was lived in her parent’s basement. My brother would be the successful one – the stock broker, day trader, accounting tycoon (clearly I have no idea what he does), and I’d be the slacker. The black sheep of the family. I was sure that coming home was proof: something was wrong with me.

I came back anyway.

Sometimes, we don’t know exactly why we are entering or exiting a place. We are pulled away kicking and screaming against our will. In those moments we fail to see the perfection of the Universe – the meticulous care with which God carries us all.

I came back to Long Island with my tail between my legs, but (as it turns out) I came home at a critical time. My mother was in the thick of taking care of my ailing grandmother. She spent five days a week at my grandmother’s house and only saw my dad on weekends. I’d like to think I came home to keep my dad company for those years. I didn’t really feed him or take care of him or anything, but we had breakfast together every morning and watched TV at night. I’d like to think I helped him adjust to his wife being away. I’d also like to think my mom liked knowing I was with him.

Time has passed: Grandma passed on and my mom has returned to her nagging wifely duties (hi mom). I have moved out, and come back, and moved out again.

As it turns out, I’m not a slacker — I’m a writer (and sometimes I’m an English Professor), and so, after almost seven years away, I took an impromptu trip to Miami.

Returning to Miami (with it’s dated art deco architecture and obnoxious happy sunshine) is like visiting your drunk uncle who still wears the polyester suit he wore to your parent’s wedding. You love him, but you keep expecting him to change.

Miami was so the same and so different. Going back made me realize that endings are (kinda of) okay. While our egos protest, our souls push us into and out of spaces and, we may never truly know why we were called to be there. We don’t always walk away knowing our impact: who we were supposed to meet, who we were supposed to love, or how we were supposed to change as a result. We just feel like we’re getting a raw deal. We were happy (kinda), we were comfortable (sorta), and we were content (sometimes).

We don’t like when things have to change, and even when we know what we were called to do — change and movement still kinda sucks.

Miami also made me realize that change is uncomfortable and looking back is okay. When things hurt we have this urge to move forward — don’t think too long, don’t feel too hard, don’t grieve too loudly for too long. Keep your shame to yourself and march forward. As a result we’re are all emotional zombies — we are the walking dead and the walking wounded.

I’m no different, but I am learning that there is medicine in looking at the past. Looking backward helps you realize how far you’ve come. Looking back helps you realize that forward…no matter where it leads, is always the best direction. No matter how much you cried, or how shitty you felt — you are never really stuck — you are always only ever moving forward. As my parents like to say: Life is a terminal condition. We are always moving in the direction of our final destination — sometimes we take the longer route. So, to a certain extent, looking back is okay, as long as you keep breathing you will keep moving forward. You look back for a while and you take a deep breath. You wave and continue onward with your head held high.

You are always exactly where you are called to be.

So today, I recognize the divine perfection of all beginnings and all endings. There is medicine in everything that happens. If things were supposed to be any different, they would be.