I rarely mention where I’m from. My formative years were spent in two places: Smithtown, New York and Satellite Beach, Florida. Smithtown is a town on the North Shore of Long Island, and anyone from Long Island knows it’s sorta cult-like. People from there have an instant connection with each other. We have our own subculture. 🙂
I moved when I was 16-yo, but lived in the same house, with my same friends, so it was a bit of a shock for me when we left. I think my daughter-in-law Shannon and her family—who are from close to the same spot where I grew up—are a gift from angels. Yes, the gift is to John of course, however I get the added benefit of instantly loving and connecting with all of these people who came from the same place as me. It feels like “I know you love that place, so here’s a piece of your roots.”
Kaila Mullady, my son Doug’s friend, has the exact same effect. She’s a spunky chick and reminds me of the friends I grew up with. It was immediate friendship the day we met, as if I’ve known her my whole life. Kindred spirits drinkin’ from the same well.
Long Island is a beautiful and fun place with a lot of loud laughter, shoulder punches, and “I getchya” mentality, but when I moved to Florida, I fell in love. Year-round warm weather and SUNSHINE.
I found some photos from the ’70s and an article I co-authored from the school newspaper when going through a box of old junior high and high school momentos. I had forgotten about that article and don’t remember how much writing I did back then because New York was very social for me. I loved my friends, and that was my main focus. I guess I had writing in me all along.
When I moved to Florida I became more dedicated to my education, and buckled down and started on my career path. I started working and saving for college. Education became first and foremost. I had complete devotion to bettering myself—in all areas. I received my bachelors degree in Nursing from FSU and it was the beginning of my career as a nurse. I was shooting for my goals 100%. I focused on one thing, and it worked for me.
Where we grow up and who we meet along the way shapes us. Julie Beck states in this article from The Atlantic:
“No one is ever free from their social or physical environment. And whether or not we are always aware of it, a home is a home because it blurs the line between the self and the surroundings, and challenges the line we try to draw between who we are and where we are.”
I attribute my strength and perseverance to my Smithtown roots, and believe I’m a heckuva lot smarter from my move to Florida—which is where I kicked-up my education and enrichment a few notches. I am made from both of these places and the people I have met.
I think every place we go enriches us in some way. We leave a little of ourselves and take away some things that make us who we are.
I’ve lived in other places, too. I was in Nashville, Tennessee for 7 years—to name one—and it shaped me as well. I got a little bit of Southern life infiltrated into my soul. The people in Nashville are so lovely. My boys started their lives there, and I credit a lot of their good manners to going to school in Nashville. Yes ma’am! And everyone says hello. Really.
No matter what I do, I am grateful for all of these wonderful experiences.
Sometimes people live in a single parent household, or move around because of job changes, or a parent is in the military. And some people are gypsies at heart. It doesn’t matter. It’s consistency in the formative years that’s most important. For children stability matters. That doesn’t mean that you have to stay in one place for 16 years. It’s more about them knowing someone has provided a roof over their heads and takes care of them when they’re not well. That they have food on the table and an education. Add in a smile from someone who loves them and words of encouragement, and well, that’s stability.
Take all the contributions from your formative years and turn them into positives… what you’ve learned, what you were involved in, who you met. Say thank you. It’s all part of who you are today.
Like a flower that grows through a crack in the concrete, let’s make the best of our situations and bloom where we’re planted. Love is love wherever you live, and home is where the heart is. I’m a Florida girl now, with a New York heart and a little bit of everything and everywhere in between.