“A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” – William Shedd
True story. One day in early February, during a foul and dissatisfied mood, I decided to go visit my best friend Julia in New Orleans and experience mardi gras. Being that I was still unemployed, I realized that it was the perfect time to go. Maybe I wouldn’t have the chance to go to mardi gras ever again. I was running out of savings, the weather was horrendously bleak (Pittsburgh in February is no place you ever want to be), and it was time for a vacation. My sanity was at risk. Going on vacation meant that I couldn’t pay my rent for April. I had just enough to cover two more months. Going on vacation meant that I would only have enough for one more month and then absolutely have to find a job in March or not have a place to live. Since I had been writing two cover letters a day since the end of December and still hadn’t even gotten an interview, the idea of adding to the pressure was a little unsettling. But I decided to risk it. BEST DECISION EVER.
Tangent: I’m inherently adverse to stability. But lately I’ve fallen into radical stability and it makes me feel like I don’t know who I am anymore and I’m conflicted and messy and unhappy every single day.
Before I left, I honestly thought that this mardi gras thing would be a one-time deal and I’d just end up with stories to tell about the time I went to mardi gras when I was 22. But then New Orleans conquered me and I will never be the same again.
Is this infatuation? I feel like everyone, including myself, should be skeptical about this decision. How can you know that a place is right for you after only 5 days? How crazy is it to move over 1,000 miles away just because you want to?
I don’t actually feel like this is crazy. At all. It feels perfectly sane and rational to me. Yes, I’m worried about some things. Like what if I can’t find a job again? Where am I going to live? What if it actually was vacation infatuation that gripped me and I hate it there? How can I afford a car and a deposit on an apartment at the same time? And the worry list goes on and on. It’s 97% money related.
But then I step back and realize how ridiculous those reasons are not to go. What is the absolute worst that happens? I end up sleeping on an air mattress and eating one meal a day until things work themselves out. And if things deteriorate past that point, I’ll hop on a plane and come home. There are no real negative consequences here. Life proceeds.
As Christine Gilbert states in 8 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 22,
“6. You don’t need a safety net. You can figure this out. The idea of being out there, with nothing to catch you if everything goes wrong may make your stomach do little flips, but really, you’ll be just fine.”
I followed that line of thinking when I spent almost all my resources to go to mardi gras in the first place and now I’m following up with the bigger risk of moving there. And I’m kind of unphased at this point.
I’m drawn to the fact that New Orleans is a community and it’s so apparent. People seem to support each other and enjoy the company of others. They’re rebuilding together. It seems like a non-profit palooza. And all I really want to do with my life is to participate in something meaningful. I spent a day volunteering with the St. Bernard Project and it was one of the most fulfilling volunteer experiences I’ve ever had. The culture is overwhelmingly rich with festivals and shit all the time. The food is fantastic and like nothing I’ve eaten before because it was my first trip to the south. And it’s a music town. I feel like I could go to The Spotted Cat and hear The Loose Marbles play every day of my life and never get sick of it. Even the apartments blow my mind. They’re super affordable and have high ceilings and hardwood floors because that’s just the style. And the exteriors are charming. Perfectly my aesthetic. It’s an HGTV dream.
Oh, yeah. And it’s a football town.
New Orleans just seems to fit me. It’s a weird indescribable feeling. Kind of like love, but not as intense. It makes me want to be in love. I want to sit in Audubon park near the turtles and the cranes and the willow trees and be in love. And live in a sweet apartment with the person I love. And ride the streetcar with the person I love. And go on southern adventures with the person I love. And eat crawfish etouffe with the person I love. Ryan (my roommate) told me the other day that I’m “going to get married in a swamp.” I probably am. Although all my babies are going to be born in Pittsburgh because western PA is where my family is. It’s my base. And my kids deserve to have the same summers on the farm that I had.
Pittsburgh is just too utopic for me right now or maybe I’m just bored. And New Orleans seems to be pulling people from all over the place. Almost everyone I met while I was there originally came from somewhere else. And that’s SO enticing to me. I want to know about everything and everywhere and that’s so easy when everyone you know has a vastly different experience.
I have no idea what to expect or whether I’m overidealizing all of this and I understand that luck does not always follow you in life and you can’t always expect everything to work out the way you want, but if you don’t go for it, you’ll never know what would have happened.
Since I’m feeling quote-y, let’s throw this one out there.
“I had the craziest night of my life tonight and I guess I learned that if you want something or someone, you have to go for it.” – Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle
I did that with a person. I took the risk of staying (staying is a risk sometimes, actually) because I was in love. And it wasn’t a happily ever after. And I’m ok with the fact that I “wasted” 5 months of my life when I could have been far far away because if I had gone, I always would have wondered what would have happened and now I know. I was afraid that staying would put my life ambitions at risk, but it didn’t. Now I can just pick up where I left off.
And now it’s time to do that with a place. New Orleans, I’m yours.
Sandra Bullock just moved there to start over and get away from her life crap. It’s a plan that works.