Another year in my life has passed and the celebration of it ending, or rather, beginning a new one again, has been amazing. It has been such a warm and loving 4 weeks, that I had to write down my experiences and emotions, just to process all of it in an even better way. When I decided to go back to Florida in June, the initial reason was to get a second opinion from an eye specialist in Miami. I had found him through googling my eye condition and came across his instagram page where he had helped people all over the globe. Though there is no cure for macular denegeration, I still wanted to see him, and see what his thoughts are, about my situation. Little did I know, my three and half weeks in Florida turned out to be an entire birthday tour through the United States.
I had planned to celebrate my birthday in Miami the weekend before my actual birthday, because of the doctor’s visit. Tamara, my bff who I stay with in Orlando, was excited as well. This was all we had in the books. Until my friend Jerry, who works for Jet Blue, offered to fly us to Las Vegas to celebrate my birthday there. Jerry’s birthday is the 19th, mine is the 20th, so it made sense to have a good time together over there.
We ended up leaving Miami on Saturday instead of Sunday, as we were flying to Vegas super early on Monday. On our drive from Miami back to Orlando, we stopped in Fort Lauderdale where we met up with my friend Romany. It’s been years since I’ve met him and we always miss each other in certain cities when I travel, so it was great to finally get a chance to catch up with him in person. After we had lunch (which had me break out in hives, figuring out I am allergic to goji berries), we went to a show his brother Pablo had set up for the community. It was an amazing show and meeting Pablo, his wife and her family was so lovely as well. Chatterbox Romany kept us in Fort Lauderdale longer than expected (such a great time though) that we ended up at my uncle and aunt’s in Port St Lucie, much later than planned. Even though the visit this time was short, it’s always great to see my family!
We basically slept and packed a bag on Sunday, just to fly out early in the morning to Las Vegas, by way of New York. Unfortunately Jerry ended up being tied up with work so he couldn’t make it. Once we got to Las Vegas, we rented a convertible and drove straight to the Grand Canyon. When we got there, everything was closed already. I didn’t see anything of the sights, but we had a fun drive. After 5 hours of driving back and forth, we got to my friend Mei’s apartment. She was sweet enough to let us stay there. We got fresh and went out the door to toast my birthday at midnight. Needless to say, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas haha! It was so much fun though! The next day (my actual birthday), we lingered half asleep at the pool in 120 degrees, only to have another lack of sleep-night, to go to the airport at 3 am to catch a flight back to Orlando.
We ended up getting home Wednesday evening, for me only to get some little rest on Thursday because Friday morning, the 23rd, I had another early flight to Los Angeles. My long time friend (family really) Regis, was taking me to Mexico for the weekend, also another amazing birthday surprise. When I arrived in LA, we drove to the house first and it was so weird, emotional, but great, to be back in the neighbourhood I used to stay roughly 17 years ago. The house was still the same, everything was still the same. Took me back 5 life times lol. We drove to Rosarito, Mexico, and by the time we got there it was evening already. I completely crashed. All this flying back and forth through time zones, early morning flights, extended days flying to the west coast, had me wiped out.
The condo we were staying in was perfect. So peaceful, so quiet, beautiful view of the ocean. It was exactly what I needed and l loved every minute of it. We wandered around the local village, had great food, pina coladas and took walks along the shore, watching the surfers catching waves. On Sunday we drove back to Los Angeles. Which was insane, as we were in traffic (line) before the border, for 4 hours. In total, it took us about 8 hours to get back to LA. It was a great way to spend some quality time together in the car though.
The next day, I was flying back to Orlando again. Regis took me to Venice beach for brunch and we walked around and enjoyed the weather and people watching. I have been to Venice many times before, so it wasn’t new to me, but it was nice sniffing up that LA vibe again after years. It was tough saying good bye. Regis has been one of my best friends for almost half of my life and it always makes me sad not being able to hang out more and make more memories together with my good friends who live on the other side of the world. I am so incredibly grateful though for the opportunity to do so this time. I am sad I didn’t get to see all of my other friends in Los Angeles due to lack of time. I will have to go back there some time sooner than later though.
Back in Orlando on Tuesday. Wiped out again, all this flying during crazy hours and lacking sleep, was not great, but I call it a good exhaustion as the energy and love I get from my friends, is all I need really. Wednesday another “rest” day in Orlando, only to fly out again on Thursday morning, the 29th, to Dallas.
Another dear friend of mine, Malik, who I hadn’t seen in a few years either, was speaking at a film festival in Dallas, so I decided to tag along for the day. Little did I know, it was a big festival, TD Jakes MegaFest. The panel was part of the International Faith & Family Film Festival. I have never been so inspired at a festival. The panel was great, consisting of amazing people such as John Singleton, Laz Alonso, Brian White, Malik of course, with moderator Devon Franklin. Meeting all these inspiring people was such a highlight for me.
That evening there were a lot of screenings, but we were invited by John Singleton to be his guests at the screening of his new show “Snowfall” which premiered on July 5th on FX. (Go check it out, it’s bananas!) It was so great being part of all this, watching it from up close, enjoying it as a fan as well. After the screening we went to eat some delicious garlic crab legs at Campisi’s. I definitely have to go back there if I am in Dallas again. Good looking out Malik!
It was a long day, but I enjoyed myself to the fullest. Everyone was so sweet and amazing. The next day we had to go to a Legends Award luncheon, where they were honoring Cicely Tyson. Again, I was so in awe of all the happenings. Feeling like I had no right to be in that closed room with all these amazing people, yet feeling blessed and grateful, to be there. I can’t thank Malik enough, for another wonderful birthday surprise, but really, for being such an amazing and supportive friend throughout all the years. He has always inspired me and motivated me to be the best person I can be and to reach for my dreams and goals. He continues to be that person in my life and I feel blessed to have people like him in my life.
Coming back “home” in Orlando on Friday evening felt like a relief. Yes, all the trips everywhere were great, but I was also happy to be home and to be able to really relax and rest for my remaining days in Florida. Spending time with Tamara and the kids was all I needed before going back to Amsterdam. Being there is so peaceful, it’s so quiet, and I can truly rest and gain my focus back.
Those 4 weeks have really changed something inside me. The incredible amount of love that I received from all my friends, not just the ones that got me the great birthday surprises, not just the ones that I physically got to see and hang out with, but also all of my friends who followed that tour with me, rooting for me, happy to see me happy and enjoying myself, got me literally all warm and fuzzy inside. I can’t even explain how it made me feel. All the genuine and unconditional support I get, is something I have never experienced before in my life. It’s an amazing and wonderful place to be in, in life.
As I am still processing the joy and all the blessings I got, flying back to Amsterdam on the plane, coming home to my apartment, I got another overwhelming surprise. I walk into my apartment and my friends at home left me fresh flowers, a big wrapped present and they stocked my fridge. I wanna sit here and write that I don’t know what I did to deserve all this love, but I actually do. For all the struggles I have had in my life, for everything I had to go through alone, for all the times I invested in the wrong people, this is now my time to receive all the blessings. And I couldn’t be more grateful for all the people in my life, that accept me for me, that love me for ME and that genuinely wanna see me happy, see me enjoy life, see me shine and most of all, see me WIN in life. It’s what I always want for all my loved ones as well.
God truly has shown me that when you put all your worries in His hands, when you let Him lead and follow without questioning, He will bless you beyond. He has shown me that I can also rely on my own instinct, with His help, and only surround myself with the amazing positive people who are uplifting and supportive. I feel like I am bursting with love and wanna spread the same blessings to others, paying it forward.
Thank you. <3