Tonight, there were tears. There were laughs. There were hugs. But above all else, there was love. A lot of it. My nearest and dearest friends here threw me the fondest of farewell shindigs. And I could not have been more touched by it, truly. We drank some beers. I made a speech. Oh, boy, did I ever. I wanted to say so much more than I did, and I had originally intended to do so. At the last minute, I thought, "Fuck it. I'm going to wing it." And wing it I did. I *think* I managed to get everything out-- at least, all the important things. Although I managed to somehow flub my way into speaking by trying to recall what I had written, there were
Where do I even start? This is a doozy. A long letter. I can already feel it before having written even the first real lines. But here goes.
The last (almost) six months have been a surreal fog that I've managed to walk through relatively unscathed. How that happened, I'm not sure. I don't know how six months have passed already. In many ways, it feels like it flew by but in other ways, it has felt like the longest six months of my life. It feels like I was in a perpetual state of waiting or being put on hold, like I was in a purgatory that was in a non-dead, but not quite so alive, place. Sort of like the waiting room of a doctor's office you will eventually have to go into but are afraid to because of the inevitable prognosis. But what was I so afraid of? Was I so afraid to continue to live my life as fully as I possibly can? Is there guilt in that? There shouldn't be, but I think it's a very human emotion to feel some semblance of guilt because (dare I say it?), the greatest loss I've ever had to face in my life is giving birth to the greatest possibilities and dreams I could have ever imagined doing. Lifelong friendships with soul mates have been created, so many travel plans have been arranged, and the reality that I am actually moving out of Florida is truly happening. Would any of these things be happening if what happened hadn't actually happened? I can't really say, but I have a feeling that perhaps things wouldn't be coming into fruition as seamlessly as they have been.
Nearly five years ago, Tampa was a place I came back to after several years abroad. Never intending for this place to actually become "home", it inherently evolved into home after I fell in love with a person who, unbeknownst to me at the time, everyone already adored. Ryan had a quiet wisdom, a silent heroism. He was always so unassuming and that was part of what made him charming. Guys thought he was cool and funny, girls thought he was cute and smart. Yet, he never, not once, ever thought that about himself. What a jerk. He always said he was lucky to have me in his life; honestly, I was the lucky one. I feel like I am a better person because of him. And I know everyone who had the pleasure of ever knowing him feels like for that brief moment in time that he was a part of their lives, it was wonderful, funny, and things were just as they should be.
Through him, because of him, as a result of his network of people and friends, I was welcomed with open arms and eventually adopted into this crazy-weird, incestuous, loving community sprawling from Ybor to Seminole Heights to Tampa Heights, everywhere in between and everywhere beyond. But I didn't even have the chance to show any gratitude or appreciation to him for that. However, what I do have are the people in my life who are here to stay. (I want to name-drop everyone, but that would take hours so I'll spare you that list.) And besides, you all know who you are.
I've been faced with some criticisms. I've been given the looks of pity. And to that I say, please stop. I really don't need anyone to lay the guilt on thick for me, nor do I want anyone to feel sorry for me. Ever. I never asked for any of this and yet...in moments of crisis, I've come to realize that there are those who step it up in the best way possible, and those who just don't.
Conversely, I have also heard so many kind words of encouragement. The support has been overwhelming and the notion that people--so many people--have so much faith in me and my abilities has been paramount. Of course I have doubts. I have absolutely second-guessed myself. I have to wonder how my decisions will affect my life in the long run, but more importantly, how they will affect Anaïs and her future because, let's face it, she is the number one reason I am truly able to keep moving forward. I have no choice in the matter.
It's bittersweet to be here at New World because so much of our life was here--all of our celebrations and one gigantic tragedy. Admittedly, it is all so much sweeter than it is bitter, which is, of course, a good thing. I will be back and I will be back fairly often, make no doubt about it. The roads go both ways, though, so I anticipate many a visit to Atlanta from you guys, too. It all comes full circle to say good bye in the place that I said hello. And so onward I go.
Thank you all for coming here today. My heart has exploded into a million pieces.
I cant even begin to wrap my head around what's about to happen. All I know is, it's about to get real. Real real. And that's not even the half of it.