Location: Tampa, FL (this isn’t my dad’s house in the picture — it’s Henry Morrison Flagler’s estate (now a museum) in Palm Beach!
I woke up in my bed at my dad’s house in Florida in a haze of confusion.
The three-hour difference from Pacific to Eastern time had caused me to oversleep. I opened one eye, feeling like I could continue dozing for at least a few days, and wondered if all of San Francisco had been a dream. Had I simply made up the startup job, the days spent hunched over a computer, the photoshoots in the freezing cold, the Victorian house that I lived in? Maybe I was only home for winter break.
Closed curtains bathed the room in a reddish haze. A dozen Lilly Pulitzer dresses hung in the closet. Outside, Florida animals chirped and croaked, signaling the beginning of a new day. My messy suitcase sat open near the bathroom, spilling over with books and sunglasses. Christopher, my tripod, sat at the very top. My phone and laptop indicated full battery levels from their respective places.
This was the same way I’d begun every single morning at my dad’s house since I’d first set foot in it as a high school senior. My dad and I aren’t particularly close and he worked a lot; when I was at his house, I could generally do whatever I wanted. It was a forty-five minute drive from my college campus, so I spent quite some time here when I was in school, taking comfort in the fact that, despite the constant upheaval in other parts of my life, everything here remained the same.
Have you ever gone to a place you grew up in — say, your parents’ (or parent’s, singular) house — and felt like you picked up right where you left off? Whenever I was in the house where I spent the majority of my childhood, I felt all of twelve years old. Here, if I squint hard enough, I feel like a teenager again. I can see my eighteen-year-old self on the first day of college orientation, hair freshly curled in a brand-new white dress from Abercrombie and Fitch; my nineteen-year-old self having intense discussions on the phone with someone I was convinced I couldn’t be with; my twenty-year-old self laying out dresses all over the floor in preparation for photoshoots; my twenty-one-year-old self surrounded by packing boxes, getting ready for a new life on the West Coast.
Oh, and the music. Sometimes songs can remind you of locations; this location reminds me of songs — One Last Time by Ariana Grande, Animals by Maroon 5, Let’s Get Lost by G-Eazy, the entirety of Taylor Swift’s 1985 and Børns’ Dopamine. Those songs, in turn, remind me of experiences I had throughout college.
In one month, my dad will be leaving Florida for a new job, and this place as I know it will cease to exist.  I’m sort of sad to see it happen, but to me, it’s also fitting. The end of a childhood home kind of forces you to grow up and gives you the freedom to become who you want to be.
I moved out of the house I grew up in years ago. I moved out of all of my college dorms. I moved out of my first house in San Francisco. It’s time for me to move on with this one, as well.
During this trip, I have a few days at my dad’s house in between locations and right before I go back to California. I’ll be bringing back all the things that I can still use — the coding books, a few photoshoot props, those aforementioned Lilly dresses. While I’ll have to leave this house and the crisp, ghost-like memories of my past selves behind, it also means that the next time I return to Florida, it’ll belong to my current self and be a clean slate for fresh memories.
That’s a whole new experience I’m ready for. ♚
Note: This article is part of my January 2019 One Month Project, where I will be traveling around coastal Florida and publishing an essay a day about my experiences there. I’m excited to bring you along on this adventure!
 At first, the main purpose of the trip was for me to come back and take all the stuff I had left here with me to San Francisco. I decided to extend my stay here so that I could see my friends and give a proper “until next time” to the state that had influenced me so much.