That well-known quote, “Home is where the heart is,” is something I struggle to understand especially in the recent years of my life. I always knew Tampa was my home, but ever since I moved to Orlando, my heart has seemed both torn and confused as to where it belonged.
Like I said, I always knew Tampa was my home. My siblings and I were born in Tampa, my parents grew up in Tampa, most of my extended family from both sides live in Tampa. My first 18 years were lived in that beautiful city. And those 18 years were something else. I went to two amazing schools. I spent my days at school making memories, learning from excellent role models, and meeting my forever friends. I grew up in the same house in the classic suburbs of North Tampa; a house filled with love and support and a lot of yummy food. From weekly dinners at Outback to our late night runs to Twistee Treat, from our millions of stops on Christmas day to our annual Beach Week vacation, from all of the baseball games to years of recitals, from the crazy family get together parties to those cozy nights on the couch with everyone.
I didn’t realize it during the moments, but I was living the greatest life in Tampa. I had everything I could need and want growing up, I was blessed with hardships and graced with great memories. I took it for granted because as I lived those 18 years, I never really took it into consideration that I would actually leave my home.
The decision to go to UCF to summer before leaving, and even my first few years at college, it didn’t really hit me that I actually left Tampa. It was like I was stuck in limbo, constantly moving back and forth between these two great cities. I would be so busy Orlando that time would fly by and next thing I knew I would be back in Tampa for a weekend or for a break.
It was like I was living a double life. I would come back to Tampa to almost relive those good days, and in Orlando, I lived out even more but new and exciting good days. In Orlando, I became part of a new family; my Orlando family. We were friends that lived together, ate together, experienced many hardships, created moments of memories, and gradually grew into a family. Over time, as I could analyze how my life was playing out, my life in Orlando became a distorted mirror of my life in Tampa.
Then my junior year at UCF hit me and the reality of my situation hit me. For some reason, smack dab in the middle of fall semester, I realized the reality of my five-year plan. If it played out the way I pictured it and planned it, I could potentially actually never move back to Tampa for a while, let alone move back into my house.
I realized that when I left for freshman year, I literally left my home, and it would never be my true permanent residence anymore. I realized that I had actually transitioned into a visitor of Tampa, no longer a permanent resident of it. And I realized that Orlando was now my true permanent residence and it would be for at least a few more years. That moment when I realized all of the realities of my situation, I was nervous, terrified, sad, excited, and well severely nervous. Real life hit me real hard.
However, the truth of the reality was surprisingly comforting the more I considered it. I was realizing that yes, Tampa was no longer my permanent residence, but it would forever be my home. I had moved out of the house and out of the city, but it had never left my heart or who I claim to be. I had a new family, but my real family would always be there for me. I could always go back to visit the schools, I could always reunite with my friends, I could always go back and relive those great memories. Because that’s where my heart will always be.
My heart will always be in Tampa, and Tampa will always be my home. No matter where I end up, either Orlando or wherever my life takes me, Tampa will always be a part of my heart. The truth of it all is that you can take a girl out of Tampa, but you can never take the Tampa out of the girl.