I’ve gotten the hang of going to benefits this year. I’ve even written about it before. The process of flying to an unknown city, driving unfamiliar highways, and spending one night at a local venue has become a very welcome part of my job.
But this time was different.
This time, when I got off the plane, I was greeted not by the guy at the rental counter, but by family. I made my way home instead of to a hotel and spent the time not exploring my new surroundings, but immersing myself in old familiar ones. This time, a TWLOHA supporter was hosting a benefit in my hometown, and I was so lucky to attend.
But the benefit was not only about sharing the kind of hope my town needed right there in Staten Island, New York. It was also my last event as TWLOHA’s benefit coordinator. On August 18, I’ll be leaving Florida and moving back home to New York. It was the most wonderful experience to have my final benefit be in my home place. It was an opportunity to share my life and job for the past year with the people who mean the most to me. It was a chance to bring things full circle and take a piece of my heart and Florida life back home, much like I am about to do in a more permanent capacity.
When I moved to Florida last September, I already knew it would be a relatively short season in my life. But to be honest, when I first put a limit on my time here, it wasn’t for the right reasons. I wasn’t looking ahead toward leaving again for myself; I was doing it to please other people in my life. I’ve always been the kind of selfless person who puts the needs and wants of the other people in my life before my own.
Not long after I got to Florida, my world was turned upside down. I can honestly say I never expected this year to turn out the way it did. I had to face some things I didn’t expect and lose some things I never wanted to give up. Change, especially unexpected change, is one of the things that triggers my anxiety the most. This year, I had to slowly rebuild myself from the ground up. Being in Florida has given me the space to heal. It’s taught me independence and how to rely on myself—but that doesn’t mean I’ve been alone. If anything, being away has let me see just how many I have up North supporting me.
More than any of that, this year taught me to love myself. I’ve never been confident in saying that before, and it’s scary to admit I didn’t feel that way, but it’s true. So in the past few months, when I thought about leaving, it was something I knew I still needed to do—but now, it was for me.
Working at TWLOHA has given me opportunities I never thought I would have. It’s taught me to reach for things and make them happen and shown me there is possibility and hope in places you don’t always see right off the bat. I’m so grateful to everyone on staff and all the interns that have passed through while I’ve been here for helping me have the most amazing year.
As John Green wrote in Paper Towns, one of my favorite novels, “Leaving feels good and pure only when you leave something important, something that mattered to you. Pulling life out by the roots. But you can’t do that until your life has grown roots.”
I’m blessed to have had the chance to grow some roots in Florida, to spend the year intertwined with the roots of some other very special people. I’ll miss them very much.