This post is both happy and sad. Parts of it are easy to write and others are much harder, which is always the case when I share something personal. I waver between “is this relatable at all?” and “who cares, this is my blog.” This lies in the middle. Even after eight drafts I’m not sure it will ever be perfect, but I know for a fact that writing and reflecting helps me process things. So let’s get processing :)
To people who know me in real life, this isn’t anything new. I apologize for the dramatic build up. This has also never been a life-or-death secret—it’s not hard to infer from previous blog posts, photos and social media. No Hannah Montana double-life for me. More Zack and Cody-ish, to use Disney terms.
For most of my life I lived in a normal house; I actually had five of them growing up as we hopped around for my dad’s job. Yet the move to Florida in 2009 was different. We left a rather large suburban home and moved into a suite at the hotel where my dad would be working. We didn’t expect to stay for more than two months as we were getting situated in new schools and jobs. Two months turned into one year, then three years and now nine years. Nine years exactly on Tuesday. So, that’s where I’ve lived all this time! A hotel.
The details aren’t super important but I’ll summarize to avoid too many questions: It really was not supposed to be permanent but the housing market crashed, we couldn’t sell our NJ house, we realized we liked living here, time caught up with us, and then the hotel became home. (I will add this detail: my family does not own the hotel. We aren’t millionaires by any means.)
After nine years though, my family and I are closing this hotel-as-a-home chapter next month. The reasons for leaving the hotel now are nothing but positive but it’s a change nonetheless. And it happened so quickly! And in the midst of the holiday season! And it’s made me think ‘WTF am I doing with my life?’! Triple whammy. We won’t talk about the latter yet. Instead, let’s get right to talking about this home…
Our hotel suite is called a “casita,” meaning “small house” in Spanish. As the name hints, it’s small—about 1,000 square feet. However, it’s not in the main building of the hotel so it doesn’t require an elevator ride to get to. We can park our cars right outside the back gate and walk in without any care.
The inside of the casita has been painted and re-painted as we’ve grown, although my bedroom walls remain the hot pink I loved in high school. The NYC-sized kitchen is full of our own pans, spiralizers and paint-your-own-pottery mugs. The walls are adorned with childhood photos. Aside from two or three pieces, the furniture is the same as it was in New Jersey. And just for laughs, the dining room chairs, which everyone who visits agrees are so comfortable, were in our home in California. We left California in 1998. Safe to say our suite is not adorned in gold. It’s low-key, lived-in and loved.
Make no mistake—the casita is not perfect. It’s a little old (without room for upgrades), the appliances break often, the WiFi is sub-par and did I mention it was small? We basically kept 1/2 of our furniture and belongings in storage.
However, the abnormal setting afforded some incredible experiences that we wouldn’t have had in a “regular” home. Bear with me as I share some of the perks…
- Yes, room service was a thing. We never abused it, but we definitely used it.
- The hotel has two pools, a tennis court, a gym and three restaurants.
- The hotel is a hotspot for celebrities, athletes and larger, Tampa-based events (like the RNC, Super Bowl and CFP Championship). A few cool people I’ve met include: Tim McGraw, Larry Fitzgerald and Mike Greenberg. A few cool people my dad has met include: Cameron Diaz, A-Rod, Jerry Jones, Mario Lopez, Richard Gere, Tony Bennett, and 20+ athletes and coaches. Apparently we were always “at school” when the A-list showed up.
- My dad was always home. He was also always at work (because that’s what happens when you live on property), but I loved being able to see him so regularly. This change will be the hardest part of the next chapter.
- While the casita wasn’t great for hosting people, living in the hotel was great for hosting out-of-town family and friends. Everyone wanted to visit!
- The hotel is on the water so we saw the most incredible sunsets. It’s also conveniently located 5 minutes from the airport.
- The hotel staff is incredible. We didn’t have any permanent neighbors, but the staff has been here this whole time. Some of the nicest people you’ll meet.
After nine years the hotel is as home as home can be—for my parents, my sister, my dogs and me. It’s where we all celebrated birthdays, Christmases and graduations. It’s where I learned how to drive, where I stayed up late doing calculus homework in high school and where I watched countless Kardashian marathons with my sister. And, obviously, it’s where I returned after college and tip-toed into the working world. (Still tip-toeing.)
A lot happened under the roof of our casita, but this move is not the first time my family and I have said goodbye to a home we loved. While I don’t consider myself the Usain Bolt of dealing with change, there is a part of me that feels like this is one of those “for the better” changes. It also has the makings of being a change that propels other changes and opportunities for growth. Don’t worry, that sentence was a little confusing for me, too.
For the last nine years, whenever I told people about living in a hotel I typically said something to the effect of “the experience made for a unique Common App essay.” I dug out that essay for the purpose of this post. I won’t share it all because I want to retain some writing dignity, yet I will share the conclusion, as it is fitting….
“Life in the hotel, while unconventional, taught me that it is not the building that defines a home but the people and love inside. By keeping certain rituals there remains a link to the life I knew, prior to resort living. I still have daily meals with my family around our old farm table and we always decorate a live Christmas tree, despite living in Florida. While I may not live in a hotel forever, the lessons learned have prepared me to be myself no matter what is happening around me. That in itself is pretty darn suite.”
Thanks for letting me share this part of my life. Cheers to new years and new beginnings!