This week finds me ensconced in my little apartment, stocked up on all of my favorite foods, ready for the long haul. But we’ll talk about COVID-19, and what’s happening in Tampa, in next week’s post. First, I’d like to share my first week here with you.
I had no idea what this year would bring. For some reason, I felt like I should stay in one place (though summer travel plans still hopeful!) and I felt that my best “Decompression Year” would be one in which I found the space to breathe, to just be.
As I began my apartment search, I narrowed in on studios. I’ve always liked studios. They feel more open, usually have a great walk-in closet and are less expensive. How much room did I need? It’s only me, after all. I found one that I immediately liked. It reminded me of my very first studio apartment in Carlsbad, California. (see pictures) Like my move to southern California, it felt like starting new, like everything was possible. This felt right for this transitional year.
The neighborhood feels comfortable – not wealthy, but safe and well kept. It’s also close to the trendy Seminole Heights neighborhood. So I have ready access to cool restaurants and craft breweries. Just fifteen minutes from my brother and sister-in-law, it kind of feels like home already. So I put in an application before I left for Chile, and had my apartment confirmed before I got on the plane.
Move-in week was so fun. Larger items arrived from Amazon; smaller items I had and unpacked (for the first time in three years). While I wanted to keep costs as low as possible, there were a couple of “treats” I had in mind. One was a couch. Do you know that I have never owned a couch? Nope. One loveseat that fit perfectly in that original studio apartment, but that’s it. My mostly nomadic lifestyle over the past fifteen years found me in government housing, furnished apartments or roommates who already had couches. I have never owned my own couch, which I could stretch out on, take a nap on, or curl up on with a cup of hot chocolate or glass of wine.
I wanted a couch.
I shared this story with my brother, who then emailed me while I was in Chile that I had to schedule a delivery upon my return. He had bought me a couch as a housewarming present. I was so surprised, and thankful. It fits perfectly! (picture below)
The apartment started to come together. I was having fun deciding where to spend and where to save. I explored my neighborhood a bit – found the local library and gym. I discovered that my little landing served perfectly well as an ad hoc balcony. One of my favorite things to do is take my glass of wine outside in the evening, enjoy the quiet sunset and watch the cars go by. It’s very peaceful.
Getting my residency and healthcare established also took some time. While I’d become a Florida resident again (yah!) in January, and had registered with the Tampa VA hospital, I had not found a dentist. I admit that I postponed this purposefully. After all, I’d just seen the dentist in December as part of my checkout process. But my teeth had other plans.
While in Chile, part of my snazzy new implant came loose. Nothing serious, as there was no pain. I emailed my brother and sister-in-law for a recommendation. They sent me their dentist’s info, and I scheduled an appointment for my return.
I bet you are wondering why in the world I’m telling you about my trip to the dentist. Ah yes, but there’s a story, I promise!
The day was rushed. Work was crazy. I arrived late, and was worried they would not see me. As I approach the office, I notice a whiteboard welcoming “Beth and David”. I assume we are the new patients, though I’ve never seen a new patient welcome sign. I am apprehensive, uncertain what to expect, but in a good way.
The staff hands me the ubiquitous clipboard, and I’m asked if I’d like a bottle of water (fizzy or flat, if you please) and informed the “coffee station” is around the corner. Seriously? The US Navy doesn’t have a coffee station in any of its dental offices! I’m kind of overwhelmed, and rush through the paperwork. I do note that near the end of three pages a few questions about military service, to include branch of service and rank. Really? This is unexpected, and I’m curious. I complete the forms, but think nothing more of it.
Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. My dentist is a nice older gentleman, who enters the office, shakes my hand and calls me “Colonel”. He read the form! (his staff informs me later that “Dr. B really loves his veterans”) He tells me a story about his brother, a recon Marine in Vietnam. We chat for a few minutes about the Marine Corps, the physical and mental requirements, deployments, combat, etc. As he finished fixing my tooth, he pats me on the shoulder and says, “and this one’s on us, Colonel”.
Wow – that was tremendous, and unexpected. I’m surprised, grateful, and feel so appreciated.
Once I left the Marine Corps, I assumed I would not talk about it much. I will always be a Marine, but I anticipated that it would no longer be an active part of my identity. I’m not one of those individuals who signs her emails, “Retired, Rank, U.S. Marine Corps”. (those folks just can’t let go – you know who I’m talking about)
I like being a retired Marine. Suddenly there’s no more expectation. There is no longer a need to be tough, or strong. The feeling I’m getting from those I encounter is that I can relax and just be Beth. I no longer have to be LtCol Wolny. I’m a civilian again, for real, for the first time in over 20 years. And it feels amazing. Retirement (so far) is definitely everything I hoped it would be.
Choosing Tampa was also a good decision. Just in time! I got myself situated and comfortable just before the lockdown. Next post, I’ll tell you all about the ramifications of COVID-19 here.