They say that it’s always hard moving to a new city. When you’re in the midst of it, and it’s exciting, and people are being generally welcoming, and you’re enjoying the weather and the new experiences, and you’re finally settled in, you may think to yourself – I wonder why people are so afraid of this, it’s not so bad. See? Look at me and all of my new friends & my new job & my view. But what you have failed to realize, is that getting settled is only just the beginning of the process. You’ll meet tons of people, sure. And you may even find a (seemingly) great guy to date. But from experience, I can tell you that everything you come across during your first year in a new city can be chalked up almost completely to a losing battle with trial and error, and quite honestly, don’t be surprised if your life in a couple years is made up of zero parts what it consisted of then.
You will, however, find that this trail & error process will force you to re-acquaint yourself with, well, yourself. You have no idea who you are until you put yourself in a world that has no idea who you are either. But you do start to figure it out, eventually. And when I say eventually, I mean that before you can even begin to start understanding yourself you have to go thru a LOT of frustration. And don’t be surprised if it takes years.For example, I’m now in my 4th year as a proud Brickellite (having moved here in 2014 from New Jersey), and if you’re a local you know that Brickell actually has a majority population of Spanish-speaking residents. And if you’re familiar with Northerners, you know the obstacles that presents as well. If you know me, you know that I like to verbalize my thoughts no matter how seemingly minute, and I am just as comfortable speaking to a complete stranger as I am my own mother (if not more so). One of the most frustrating parts about my day-to-day life was getting into the elevator, and on the awkwardly-silent descent from the 46th floor, I would typically make a comment about some type of general-knowledge happening such as the fire alarm that had falsely gone off 5 minutes prior, only to be met with a blank stare and a shrug accompanied by, “No espeake…”. And for whatever reason, the fact that I had exerted enough energy in that moment to spark up a friendly conversation with a neighbor and to have that mission fail would irritate me to no end. I would walk out of that elevator feeling defeated, hopeless, alone, a failure at adapting to my new city altogether.
And while this is such a miniscule example of the kinds of culturally-innate things you have to learn to navigate, the idea is that the process of surmounting that struggle is the same as conquering any other. You have to think to yourself, why is it that this is negatively affecting my life here so much, and what can I do to change that? The solution seems obvious…. Well, either don’t talk to anyone or wait until you hear them talk in English before you talk, or learn better Spanish. And while those are all potential fixes, they don’t require any sort of internal change. For me, I began understanding the importance of managing my conversational exertion; whereas the actual energy that I was putting forth to connect with people was actually having a really negative effect on my mental well-being and was making me react with a short fuse when patience is such a key element of this culture. Now, I pay more attention to the energy between myself and another person, and whether words are required or not becomes a conscious sort of gut feeling that has never done be wrong since I’ve become more in-tune with it. Problem solved, and not just for the elevator, but for every relationship both familiar and strange, new and pre-existing in my life.
Whenever someone would ask me, “So, how do you like Miami?!” I would say, “Ummm…. I love it but it’s sort of a love/hate relationship, you know?” And people would always know. But lately, I’ve realized that I don’t feel that way anymore. Someone asked me that same question about a week ago and I could confidently respond that I love it. There, I’ve said it… I <3 Miami. And through some introspection, I’ve realized there are a lot of other things that have changed along with my sentiments for my city of choice.
Here are some self-proclaimed symptoms associated with the MIAMI BUG, and if you are still struggling with the “hate” part of your “Love/Hate Miami Relationship”, maybe you should open your mind to trying some of these things:
1. You actually like (even love) Reggaeton & assorted Latin music I’m telling you, I would actually avoid particular bars famed for playing mostly Latin music because I felt left out when all of my friends would be excitedly dancing & singing while I, ‘the token Gringa’, sort of stood there with a shrug. Now, not only do I seek out these places (and feel an emotional connection to Ball & Chain), but I will put on Danny Ocean in the car willingly, repeatedly, and usually first. Let the music in…. it will change your life. I will add that this is a completely new thing for me as of about a month ago (that means it took me over 3 years to start liking Latin music…). What happened was…I spent 10 nights travelling with Colombians and well, you get the rest.
2. You’ve downsized your circle of friends Simply said, when you are new to a city, you don’t know how to choose your friends. Having no frame of reference coupled with having no plans due to the whole no friends (yet) thing, you decide to be open-minded, non-judgmental, and overly-forgiving because you think, well maybe we’re more similar than it seems and one day our friendship will be strong enough to make up for all of that. But eventually you learn to stop putting undue effort toward people who don’t return the favor. You begin to care more about the quality of your interactions, rather than the frequency, and may even decide to stay in rather than hang out with someone just for the sake of human company. Ultimately, you become okay with the idea that you don’t have to be friends with everyone you meet and so you start letting people ago. But you will realize that the relationships you do hold onto become stronger faster because you both have a conscious shared understanding that you’re in it for the long haul and hence we begin to try to be better friends to those special few.
3. You’re a member somewhere other than a gym Happiness comes from a feeling of belonging, and nothing says you belong here quite like a pricey membership at one of the locals-friendly hotels. Whether it means a 10% discount on frosés at The Standard, or whatever it is that Soho Beach House members seem so obsessed with, it just feels good to have somewhere you feel comfortable other than your bed. On the flipside of the spectrum, memberships at business organizations like Chambers of Commerce will sometimes get you seated closer to the front at those exhaustingly long luncheons…
4. You’ve expanded your taste in members of the opposite sex Growing up in New Jersey around an Italian family, I have naturally been prone to go after Italian men since as long as I can remember. It was not until the past year or so that I’ve realized Cubans and Italians have a lot in common, Brazilians are really passionate and kind, Colombians seem pretty damn cool, and French… well, the jury is still out on that one. But more than just heritage, not only is AGE about more than just a number, it is pretty much irrelevant altogether. I know I’m not the only one who has increased (and decreased) their age-spectrum filter on Tinder more than once lately….
5. You work for yourself doing something you love, and it’s completely legit Miami is all about flexibility. Oh, and real estate. So odds are, you moved here to pursue one thing and now you’re doing something completely different, and are way happier for it. Because we lack a lot of the corporate jobs other cities boast, we are more comfortable following our passions and moving from one thing to the next as opposed to limiting ourselves in fear of losing our spot on the corporate ladder. We see developers as A-list celebrities and the real estate industry is just about as glamorous as it gets. If we are lucky enough to actually have a realized passion for it, we know then that we have come to the right place which is a truly self-actualizing feeling.
6. You’ve improved your living space, either by redecorating or switching apartments When we first come to Miami, we tell the real estate agent that our preferences include a building with parking, a pool, and a view. Little did we know that’s like asking for a front door & a bathroom in other cities. We may also come here with a truckload of furniture that looked just fine wherever we came from, but with time realized the importance of the way our space feels to the way we feel. #Minimalism
7. You actually care about sea level rise & climate change A few years ago the issue of climate change was important to us, but we didn’t realize just how much our livelihoods depended upon it until recently. And when Hurricane Irma threatened to tear thru our high-rise lifestyle with no regard for anyone but herself, we felt genuine sadness thinking our paradise may be lost. And if we REALLY care about doing something to stop the seemingly inevitable, we have gotten involved in civic activism & social impact groups – and if you care and you haven’t done that, it’s time.
8. You’re single and you’re ok with it You’ve learned that attractive people may be just for looking at, not for talking to, and certainly not for dating. It’s like we are walking around in a museum of handsome eligibility at all hours of the day (but mostly around lunch time on Brickell Avenue) and flash photography, let alone touching, is definitely not allowed. But let’s be real…. How much fun would it be going out to a bar and not being able to prospect for potential mates? It’s like amateur fishing, you fish to see if you can catch something, and when you finally do, you look at it for a minute, take a quick photo, and then throw it back where it came from. And it’s fun, except when it’s not.
I understand that the chicken/egg debacle may very well be at play here. It’s possible that I love my city more because I am happier thanks to the above. You may have also been expecting to read about the stereotypical ‘Miami-isms’ like cafécito and assorted clichés, but love has to come from within and can never be shallow. With that being said, I wish you and your Miami relationship much prosperity! Don’t give up on it quite yet….