Actually Ashley,  Blog

My Heart Sings a Song of Palm Trees

A week ago, I evacuated West Pam Beach just before a hurricane tore through the city.  Damage was not devastating but there have been substantial repercussions, including several deaths.  This is a tribute to my second home:

Every city which you inhabit throughout your lifetime changes you.  Whether you love it or hate, the sights, sounds, and culture have a way of sneaking into your identity.  Part of this comes from necessity.  Your surroundings determine what is available to you.  What you do for fun, what you eat, and who you associate with are all dependent on where you call home.  The longer you stay in one place, the more integral these things become to who you are.  Considering this, it is incredible how quickly we are able to adapt to a change in scenery.  A new environment does not take away influences of places past, but it builds on them.  With this comes the potential to draw out new aspects of our characters, revealing parts of our personalities we never knew were in us.

Most of the time, these revelations are relatively minor.  New favorite foods, new friends, and new activities we discover that we enjoy.  But when pieced together, these small alterations add up to an unidentifiable quality which embodies the atmosphere of the city we have begun to adopt.  For cities have just as much character as people do.  And while every community in which we have taken part makes us who we are, I find that some speak to your soul a little more than others.

I was born in Tampa, FL.  I have lived there my entire life.  I grew up with Cuban food, Bush Gardens, and a fairly average suburban life.  But I go to college in West Palm Beach, FL.  And while I love Tampa and am proud to be a Tampan (Tampite?… Tampinian?… Someone who is from Tampa), WPB and I are kindred spirits.  My college is right in the middle of downtown and I have just absorbed the culture of the city.  Sushi was always my favorite food, like any basic white girl, and you can find a sushi place on any street in WPB.  I’ve gotten used to the sirens and trains I hear outside my door every night.  It’s basically the New York City of Florida.

And much like the Big Apple, WPB is a city of extremes.  The poverty-stricken communities are right next door to the million-dollar mansions.  I can drive to Mar-a-Lago in 5 minutes, and on the way, pass a half-dozen homeless people.  People of all kinds live within a 5 mile radius of each other.  My Publix has valet parking, but if you go at night, you’d better stick to the buddy system.  If you drive 2 minutes in one direction, you can go to World Thrift where I fear for my life.  But 2 minutes in the other direction takes you to Worth Avenue where the stores look like they only accept hundred-dollar bills.  I love this blending of cultures because there is always something new to experience.  I love sitting in coffee shops and listening to new up-and-coming musicians.  I love being able to study while eating my tenth acai bowl of the day (seriously, those things are addictive).  And I love feeling like I am in the middle of a city were big things are happening.

The location of your college is important because, as cliché as it sounds, it’s the place where you figure out who you are.  WPB has given me room to grow and allowed me to discover a small piece of what I love about the world and how I am going to find my place in it.  College is not just about the classes, it is also about new experiences and learning from perspectives completely different to your own.  WPB is giving me that and more.  And while I may not stay there after my four years of academic and cultural education, it will forever hold a special place in my heart because it is shaping who I am and what I believe.  No offense, Tampa.

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