Florida grown. Child of the sun. These are my titles, heirlooms of a life lived along the wooded banks of the Indian River. I have never visited another country, nor have I explored many of the wonders that live within my own. The breaching heads of New York’s skyscrapers are as much a fantasy to me as would be the Great Wall of China or the Taj Mahal.
The couple of forays I have made outside of the sunshine state have been primarily to the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee, the last of which happened no less than six years ago. I sometimes refer to the gray, foggy landscape as “The Misty Mountains,” a pleasant reminder that places in my favorite stories do exist somewhere in the world. They only wait for me to visit them.
Tennessee captured my heart at a young age. My parents took me on a road trip to visit my aunt in the Smokies. I couldn’t have been more than three years old at the time, and some of my oldest memories revolve around that trip. The tampering of my memory is undeniable: I remember seeing the shedding of autumn leaves when our trip was in the dead of summer. Such distortions are actually rather pleasant. The change in scenery ignited the imagination within my young mind. I still hunger for that ignition as a young adult.
My life still operates with full force in Florida and shows little sign of stopping any time soon. This hustle and bustle belies the Sunshine State lifestyle that it is so well known for. I feel like a weed, growing my roots further and further into the soil until I am stuck. Perhaps luck will pardon me and my weedy tendrils will brush against coquina rock, wither, and die. I have no wish to remain in Florida forever.
People have always asked me what I plan to do with my Bachelor’s Degree in English. The reinforced response has always been “teaching” (one does not dare say “writing,” lest they risk further emotional injury). Lately though, teaching doesn’t sound so bad. I consider the need students have nowadays for good teachers to help ameliorate the shortcomings of a flawed educational system. There is always that assumption that I will be a “good” teacher, like a restaurant billboard claims it has good food. I won’t know until I try.
But what if my first teaching job wasn’t in America? What if I decided it would be better to teach English in a foreign land, like Japan? I have always been fascinated by Japan, envious sometimes of their polite and reserved culture. I am a rather quiet individual, and the idea of learning about a culture whose basis is conveying respect ignites my heart. More importantly, it presents a challenge. Will I be able to adapt to a culture new to me, learn the fundamentals of its language, and successfully teach my own?
Fortunately, a great strength of the English curriculum is that it teaches its students how to place themselves into the lives of the characters they read so carefully about. All of my time reading great literature and perusing the manuscripts of my eclectic peers has given me the opportunity to see through several sets of eyes, each with a different view from the one before it.
This is my goal for the next few years, the possible last opportunity I might have to legitimately travel before the prospect of “settling down” somewhere becomes serious. I can only hope that their soil will support my roots.
Jonathon Seaman is an undergraduate at the University of Central Florida from Rockledge, Florida.