The Road(s) Not Taken

First, I should say that I wish the best to everyone affected by the hurricane. New Jersey got hit really hard and I hope that the folks from my communities in Bergen county and Princeton who read this blog are hanging in there.

Last weekend, I headed to Florida to witness the first of my four cousins get married. The experience was a comedy of errors, with hotel happy hour (featuring really bad club music) incongruously adjacent to the rehearsal dinner, onlooking strangers in the park where the ceremony occurred, and, last but not least, the flooded parking lot at the reception. But I'm glad I made it down to see my mom's side (and the more amusing side) of the family, even if it meant missing at least three awesome Halloween parties up in Boston. Though next time, I refuse to room with my grandma, as awesome as she is.

Being in Miami and especially being in Miami and watching a wedding made me wonder how I ended up here. There were so many things that could have happened to have changed my present location and trajectory entirely. The first thing that came to mind: had I remained in my relationship from three years ago, there is a good chance I would have been engaged by now and that I would have been the hostess of a wedding rather than a spectator. That was a strange, strange thought.

The second thing that came to mind was how my life could have taken the Miami path that so many members of my family have followed. Both my aunts and three out of my four cousins have attended school and lived in Miami for extended periods of time. My mom lived and worked in Miami after college and met my father there in the late 1970s. It was a natural idea that if I didn't end up clinching this job at Harvard, I'd have proceeded to search for work in Miami, and probably ending up doing more things with Latin America than China. (I would also have applied to more things in New York, but I've lived in in the city twice and was depressed and miserable both times--in part because of what I was doing there, in part because of what else was going on in my life, but in part because of New York itself. Don't misinterpret--I love visiting New York and seeing my friends there, but I don't like living there. It gets lonely, expensive, and brusque. Fast.)

If I had ended up in Miami instead of Boston, I would probably have developed a reputation as the palest person there among my cohort of friends and colleagues. I'd have spent more time with my cousins, two of whom still live down in South Florida. Maybe I'd have adopted something of the lifestyle my mother had in her twenties (read: disco inferno, fervent dancing at clubs, all nights of the week). I would have almost certainly developed a love for Cuban food (the meat, at least. Being gluten-free means no pastelitos or empanadas. Boo.)

Most likely, I'd have given up on practicing my Spanish. Every time I go to Florida, which is about once a year, I try to speak in Spanish and every Latino ends up crossly addressing me in English. It makes me upset, because all I want to do is use my Spanish a little in everyday life (outside of listening to Juanes in my apartment). I suspect it irritates or even comes off as condescending for a bilingual Latino to be addressed in Spanish by a native English speaker. Or maybe they thing they are making things easier for me? It's such a contrast from when I went to China, where all the Beijingers I met got so excited that I could speak Chinese and would strike up conversation with me rapidly. Then again, a white girl in China speaking Chinese and a white american female in Florida speaking Spanish are different, somewhat layered contexts. At any rate, I hope someone on the receiving end of mi español, or any other language I speak or want to practice can explain this phenomenon to me. I don't like how such a simple interaction can be so frustrating on both ends.

So ends the experiment in"what if?" for the day. Time to hand out candies to the kids in my building (for which I bought $20 in candy, then was told there were only 3 children in the building. Extra kisses for a gluten-free adaptation on Peanut Butter Blossoms, maybe?). And then to prepare for some catch-up sessions with friends before heading out to my two favorite drink locales in Boston for some Halloween trickery and treatery.

Happy Halloween and (soon) Feliz Día de los Muertos!