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Product of the Sunshine State This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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From the beginning of time, Florida has been mistreated by its fellow states, especially those on the Eastern seaboard. Southerners have left poor Florida out of their exclusive club they call, quite originally, “The South.” The qualifications for gaining this title must not include physical location, making its name rather misleading for poor Floridians. Northerners have sent their retired parents down in droves for years, corralling them within the state border as they would cattle. They can sit and be unproductive here instead of there, often contributing to nothing while staying warm and toasty, becoming ours to take care of. This is not to say, we must humbly add (some of us gritting our teeth), that we are not grateful for their business.

Growing up in Florida is something that I have not always taken pride in. Indeed my brother and I learned humiliation early on in life as first-generation Floridians and descendants of a long line of die-hard Red Sox fans. Visiting our Northern relatives for Thanksgiving was always a very trying moral test. We would struggle to hold our tongues and smile politely as our cousins gave us punches left and right at our Floridian fragility to the cooler weather.

Florida is seen by the rest of the country as a state occupied by old people, Disney World, swamps, and an overwhelming number of developments, half of which sit empty waiting for the great sweep of people who wish to live in the middle of nowhere facing I-95. But I have gotten a first hand look at Florida my whole life, and though I will say that their assumptions have grounds, I won't hesitate to argue that they mustn't be so confident in their impressions of my home state.

I have lived in Florida 365 days a year. I have roasted in the sun for seven days straight, prancing around barefoot with my friends playing Jimmy Buffet like it is our theme song. I have evacuated due to countless hurricanes. I have had too-close-for-comfort encounters with sharks. I have stayed up until four in the morning watching sea turtles lay their eggs. I have gotten to the point where sneakers are uncomfortable, floors feel naked without a sizeable layer of sand, and feel alone without the sound of cicadas chiming in the distance.

All these memories have made me who I am, and my mind, heart, and soul, will always smell faintly of brackish water. No matter how hard I try, my feet will always be a little sandy. And though I know that I was not made to stay in Florida for the rest of my life, I will never forget where I am from, and I will never lose sight of my Floridian side. After all these years of smiling politely at jokes about Disney World and fat, old tourists, I am pleased to tell you that, just like citrus and alligator claw keychains, I am a proud product of the Sunshine State.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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