Reclaim Your Life In The Humid Summer Energy Of Florida

WFY Bureau Correspondent, USA: Living in a place with seasons can be quite overrated. Experiencing a sweaty Florida summer truly reconnects you with your physical self.

I crave the feeling of perspiration. Last year, I made the exciting decision to relocate from sunny Florida to the beautiful upstate New York. Throughout the winter and spring, I made a conscious effort to work up a sweat. I longed for it with an ache in my heart. I decided to try out hot-yoga classes, and I made sure to wear multiple layers of clothing to maximise my sweat levels. Being an amateur boxer, I have always relied on the advice of coaches who praise the advantages of heat, claiming that it can enhance cardio endurance and boost immune systems. It’s become clear to me that this entire journey has been driven by a deep longing for a place to call home.

Florida has always been my home, where I was born and raised. As I reflect on my early years, vivid memories of perspiration come rushing back. There’s something about it that just captivates the senses. As a child, I would often find myself immersed in the great outdoors, with my skin glistening from the sweat of my adventures. It was a common sight to see me returning home, adorned with a layer of dirt, grass, and sand. During the summer months, which seem to stretch on forever in Florida, the sweltering heat invites a more relaxed approach to dressing: shorts, going barefoot, wearing crumpled tank tops, and even donning bathing suits even when there’s no pool in sight. Hair becomes a sticky mess, clinging to cheeks and scalps. When the humidity reaches 90 percent, all sense of decorum is thrown out the window. The elements have a way of overpowering you. There was a time when I didn’t find much enjoyment in this. As a child, I would often get overheated and sunburned, causing my mother to take quick action to prevent me from feeling nauseous or fainting. She would place chilled towels on the back of my neck to provide relief. Once, during a heated dodgeball game, I found myself in a perilous situation where the scorching heat seemed to engulf me, leaving me feeling as if I were gasping for air.

I left all of that behind in my 20s, fighting my way out of a chaotic and difficult adolescence and early adulthood, convinced that simply moving away was enough to leave my past behind. I arrived in Boston with a sense of urgency, as if I were fleeing from a burning building. I was absolutely certain that in order to become the person I aspired to be, I needed to live in a location that experienced all four seasons. However, I found myself grappling with the challenges of my first New England winter, attempting to navigate the snowy streets in the stylish stiletto boots I had impulsively bought during a shopping spree at the Florida Mall. I met my wife there. We had the opportunity to live in various places together, all of which were much less humid than Florida. I’ve become accustomed to the winters in the Northeast. I got myself a pair of not-so-pretty, yet highly functional winter boots. During my time in a college town in Pennsylvania, I picked up the skill of shovelling snow. For a while, my wife and I would only visit Florida during holidays; I was always cautious about staying too long, worried about getting sunburned. As I entered my mid-30s, my mother’s health started to decline, prompting me to increase the frequency of my visits. After paying a visit to her in the hospital, my brother and I decided to take a leisurely stroll through a secluded wilderness area on a scorching July afternoon. The intense heat was strangely invigorating, filling me with a sense of pure bliss. As I bid farewell to my brother at the airport, tears streamed down my face during the entire journey back to Boston.

In February of that year, my mother passed away. The sky on the day of her funeral was a serene shade of blue, without a single cloud in sight. Afterwards, at my brother’s place, I found myself standing by a serene lake, surrounded by loved ones, as we marvelled at the breathtaking sunset painting the sky with vibrant hues. In the northern region, the weather was bitterly cold and gloomy. It had been quite a while since I had ventured outdoors for such an extended period of time. I was surprised to feel the stirrings of a longing for home.

As my wife and I arrived in Florida in early 2020, little did we know that what started as a temporary stay due to the pandemic would turn into a three-year adventure. In March, the heat hadn’t quite reached its scorching peak, but the weather was still uncomfortably humid. I would wake up early in the morning and head out for my runs, feeling the cool breeze against my skin. By the time I got back, my fingertips would be covered in sweat, evidence of the effort I had put in. There was a peculiar sense of time, but the sweat served as a tangible reminder of a task accomplished. During the peak of summer, the carefree joy of childhood resurfaced.

On most summer afternoons, the atmosphere would become heavy and oppressive, signalling the impending arrival of thunderstorms. It was a common occurrence to experience a complete absence of wind, leaving behind a stifling calmness that seemed to suggest the land itself was too overwhelmed by the scorching sun to stir. During my runs, the sweat trickled into my eyes, causing a stinging sensation. There were moments when I had to pause and hastily wipe my face with the edge of my T-shirt, feeling a surge of frustration towards the relentless weather. After finally getting back to my boxing training, I was amazed by the intense amount of sweat I experienced. During the class, fighters were thoughtful enough to bring extra T-shirts to switch into. We departed with the ring marked by our perspiration. We were drenched in sweat as we made our way through the scorching parking lot towards our cars.

When I lived in different locations, I often neglected my body, treating it as if it were an unstoppable machine. Florida was relentless in its efforts to keep me constantly reminded. The intense heat drew my focus back to my physical being – to the discomfort of my chafing and blistering skin, my stamina, and my unquenchable thirst. Perspiration not only grounded me in my physical being, but also served as a constant reminder of the inseparable connection between this place and myself, a bond that I carry with me wherever I may roam.

What ever happened to that younger version of myself, the one who couldn’t handle the pressure? Upon my return to Florida, I found myself in a more mature state, standing on solid ground. It’s fascinating how my fondness for sweat has become a defining moment, signalling a shift that began without my full awareness. I had travelled a long way to find solace in this seemingly unwelcoming environment. I discovered a deep appreciation for my hometown and all the blessings it has bestowed upon me.

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