I can count the days on one hand, until I leave Miami. This is what I thought I wanted so many times, and yet, something still lingers.
Countless times, I’d cursed myself out. Why had I subjected myself to leaving a comfortable, Connecticut lifestyle for what often felt like a 100 percent humidity hellhole? At 24, I relocated myself over a thousand miles away from a simple and secure life to chase the types of dreams which I quickly realized would never come to fruition here. Now I leave at 27, a person nearly unrecognizable from the inside-out, in ways good, bad, and undefinable.
My three years in Miami have taught me many lessons. In both ugly suburban board rooms and stunning SoFi starchitectural restaurants, I learned that life doesn’t always reward the smartest, most deserving, or hardest working person. I leave Miami feeling that, more often than not, life is merely a cavalcade of disappointment, frustration, and doubt. In Miami, I learned that you can do all of the “right things”-saving money, contributing to a 401K, paying off your credit card bill in full each month, being your prettiest and most sparkling self on what feels like thousands of dates, working on the weekend, quitting drinking, losing 40-something pounds-and after all of that effort, still end up in a place far below where you ever thought you could sink.
I often indulge myself in wondering what my life would’ve been like, had I taken a different or easier path; had I married for stability and not love, had I run home the second it became clear that things would not be as I expected. However, life does not come with a rewind button. Even if that were an option, ultimately, I would hesitate to push it.
Every lonely night, every disappointment, every setback imbued me with strength, with independence, with grit. I had to have difficult confrontations, often with myself, about the type of person I was and how I needed to change. These are the types of qualities and experiences that we write Homeric poems and college admission essays about, but they are not necessarily the qualities I wanted for myself. I wanted a plush, Millennial pink life filled with vacations to Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, and a Cartier ring before 28, and especially, the boundless confidence that comes with never doubting that you are loved, that you are safe.
But love comes in many forms. For the majority of my time in Miami, love has not been found in the heady rush of a new romance nor the consistent metronome of a steady relationship. Instead, it has come through unexpected sources, through friends who I never meant to meet, but have changed my life irrevocably.
Serendipity is defined as “luck which takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for.” Whether we met in overpriced fitness classes, at over hyped parties, or just by chance as we walked our overly-spoiled dogs, many of the relationships which I have cultivated over the last three years have truly felt serendipitous.
From a quantitative perspective, my time in Miami was a failure. I lost money, I lost time, and I lost the person I always thought I was going to be. But as my Dad always reminds us from his favorite movie, “No [wo]man is a failure who has friends.”
To some of my friends, thank you for letting me be a part of your rarefied, neon world, of lithe muscles and endless bottle services and ~the South Beach scene~. I never felt less than, and I always ~*~felt like somebody~*~ when hanging out with you, and that’s one of the best feelings, for someone who has at times felt incredibly alone.
To some of my friends, thank you for indulging me in the artifice of beauty. Thank you for teaching me about the real-life illusion magic of fake eyelashes, Anastasia brows, and perfectly contoured cheekbones. Often, you did my makeup or hair for almost nothing, as long as I kept you entertained while you worked. The fact that you saw that value in my company made me feel better than any date’s compliments on your amazing, transformational handiwork. You took the little mud puddle which is my bare face and built gorgeous, albeit temporary, structures on top of it. Thank you for making me feel beautiful, funny, and worthy of this world on days when it took everything in me to get out of bed and put my best face out there, yet again.
To some of my friends, thank you for showing me the power and strength of my physical body, in the fitness classes which you lead. Before I moved to Miami, I was highly dismissive of fitness culture and people. I said it was vapid and stupid, but really I found it scary and intimidating. I literally had to take Xanax before working out for my first few weeks, because I was so worried about under-performing. Now, thanks to you, working out is my benzo-free therapy. It has gotten me through the most crushing disappointments, allowing me to be measurably successful each month, when everything else felt wildly out of my control. When I was in classes with you all, it felt like we were working toward something truly important, something meaningful, something real. We all showed up at 8:15PM on a Wednesday or 11:45AM on a Saturday, not because it was always convenient, but because we believed in the power of our future, better selves. With your guidance, coaching, and teamwork, we made changes which enabled transformations which were more than just physical. You showed me that fitness is a form of magic too; it can be the building block through which you recreate your reality from the inside out.
To some of my friends, thank you for truly making me a part of your family. You made sure I always had somewhere to go for Hannukah, Thanksgiving, and each holiday in between. On the day I was laid off, you made sure I had a mom’s warm embrace, even though my own mom was hundreds of miles away. You always advocated for and supported me like I was your own daughter, whether it was sending my resume to friends or your generous, constant Whole Foods gift cards or your effervescent, maternal pride in me.
To some of my friends, thank you for being there for the real “low lows”. The moments that no fitness class or fake eyelash set could quite fix. The ugliness and embarrassment and shame that never makes it onto the highly curated veneer of the Internet. When another relationship didn’t work out. When Max was sick and couldn’t walk for days. When I had to get rid of my car. When yet another company wasted days of my time on cross-country interviews that sent my spirits soaring and then crashing back down. When I really didn’t know how or when the rent was getting paid that month. Sometimes you said the difficult things I didn’t want to hear and sometimes you were just there to listen to me cry, but no matter what, you were there.
I wonder how I will classify my Miami years when I look back in five years, ten years, twenty years. I hope that I will choose to highlight the successes-celebrating the weddings of loved ones on Miami Beach, getting glam with my Sephora Brickell City Centre girls in anticipation of another date, doubled over laughing about the stupidest things at the Flamingo and St. Agnes Villas, sneaking out of the office for a cathartic Starbucks with my work best friend, fighting for our best selves as a team at SoulCycle Coral Gables, nights-turned-to-mornings dancing with ecstatic abandon at LIV. I hope that in the chronology of my life, these golden Miami moments will eclipse the failures, which will have faded far into the distant past, as ephemeral as the winking smile of a dancer at E11even.