Whirlwind: A Timeline

Sunday, April 2: The last of my New Orleans visitors flies back to Philadelphia. I miss them immediately

Monday, April 4 – Sunday, April 10: 7 day, 80 hour work week that is exhausting and defeating. I practically crawl out of the building on the 7th day.

Monday April 11- Tuesday April 12: Existential crisis ensues. My life breaks apart at the seams, jagged pieces cascading into the darkness. Just kidding, I FaceTime my mother several times and eat too much licorice.  I decide I am moving back to Philadelphia. Another existential crisis. What will I do in Philly? And when can I go? And how? Should I go back to advertising? Wait what? Where did that come from? You have a Master’s in SOCIAL WORK. 

Wednesday April 13: I start then later stop 5 applications for social worker positions in Philly. I spend hours on a cover letter that I never submit.

I feel suddenly compelled to send a slightly frantic message to an old friend who I worked with in advertising in Philadelphia. Unbeknownst to me, she just happens to be visiting New Orleans (!!), and offers to meet for drinks that evening. We drink wine and catch up and I pour my existential crisis all over her. Metaphorically drenched, she is insightful and encouraging and exactly what I need at the moment in my life. So is the wine. I decide to (maybe) make a(nother) career change (eventually).

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The days we have left

As a child, I thought I was immortal. It’s common belief of children, with their underdeveloped brains. Less common I’m assuming, was my conclusion that I was the second coming of Jesus Christ*.

I was never a religious child, but during my forced church attendance, I learned that Jesus was supposed to be coming back to town, and he was due any day now. In retrospect, I may have been paraphrasing. Naturally, I wondered, “well what if he’s back already? And what if he…is me”? (My views on gender fluidity were clearly before their time)

At the age of seven I had no shortage of confidence. I saw no reason to believe that I wasn’t Jesus reincarnate. I was filled with, what I considered, timeless wisdom. I believed that I would never be smarter than I already was (because I was just so smart). And, I knew that I was immortal, evidenced by the fact that well, I was still alive.

I remember standing on the porch of my childhood townhouse in New Jersey trying to figure out once and for all if I was Jesus. I knew that if I was, I had a lot of work to do. Wars to end, Poor to feed. After much contemplation, I rationalized (this was an entirely rational process) that if I was Jesus I would have the power to do anything. I gazed upon one of the neighboring town homes and thought, “if I were Jesus I could lift that building with my pinky finger”. Knowing the limits of my prepubescent strength, I was disappointed to realize that I probably wasn’t Jesus. Just a superior child replete with infinite wisdom.

That was also the moment I realized that one day I would die.

I spent much of my subsequent childhood fascinated by death. I was constantly asserting to my poor mother that I was dying.  It was technically accurate, but not what a parent wants to hear on regular basis from her strange (only) child. I  was convinced that I would die young. As each year passed, pushing back my impending death date, I remained steadfast. It was coming.  This all seems very odd and morbid, I’m sure. Death is not something that people like to think about in this country. We like to pretend that almost everyone lives to be 97, dying peacefully at home surrounded by tearful loved ones. Other kinds of deaths are tragic, unexpected, unfair.

The most freeing moment of my life was when I realized I was mortal. Since that day on the porch I’ve been keenly aware that you only get a certain amount of time in this world to do everything you want to do. For some people that is 100 years, for others it is much less. Not knowing how many days remain makes me ever vigilant about living my best life.

In the movie Troy,  Brad Pitt utters this line:

“The gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment may be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”

I don’t generally like to quote movies that I haven’t seen, especially when it’s a quote that’s widely disseminated on Pinterest boards. But that’s it. That’s the sound-byte of my strongest life force.

It’s a myth that a shark must keep swimming or it will die. But I often feel like that mythical shark. I am always plotting, planning, ideating, dreaming of something bigger than my life. Because if I stop working towards something, I fear I will start to sink. The stagnation of an average misspent life, the life I fear much more than death, will drag me to the bottom.

I’ve started to feel lately like I’m floating. Not quite sinking but not propelling forward either. Just kind of bobbing in place, trying to figure out which way to go.

But Death looms nearby (or far away, I can’t be sure, I’m not Jesus) and I can float no more.  I’m going to shake things up (again) and make that seven year old weirdo proud.

Jesus may spend his days lifting houses with his finger, but this mortal has way more exciting things in store.

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This house was too heavy

*Ironically I later briefly dated a man who too believed he was the second coming of Christ. It was even his e-mail address. But at the age of 23 I think that’s just considered psychosis.

 

 

New Orleans, A love letter, part 2

Dear New Orleans,

I wrote to you nearly 3 years ago when we first met. At the time I was swelling with excitement and optimism. (I was also swelling quite literally after 3 rainy, sweaty, rum drenched months in Central America). I saw you through the eyes of a tourist. Your brightly hued architecture, your happily waving natives, your relaxed attitude.

Your motto, “laissez les bon temps roulez”. Let the good times roll.

Second line down Bourbon street. Shake your ass to a brass band. Stroll around the quarter, daiquiri in hand, singing in the rain. 

That’s what I wanted to do. The beat had been playing in my head for 30 years and I was ready to dance.

I hadn’t yet seen your dark side.  Because when you visit it’s easy to see:

The humor of navigating your pockmarked crooked roads

The beauty of your sunken homes, their sun weathered residents sitting on the porch mid afternoon.

The allure of your cozy 24 hour bars and laissez faire drinking laws.

The romance of your empty, dimly lit streets, staggered street lamps flickering your path.

The appeal of your fried, charbroiled, buttered, gooey, drenched, decadence for every meal.

Your magic.

In all those Instagram opportunities, it’s easy to miss what they also represent. Your corruption, your poverty, your segregation, your unemployment rates, your substance abuse, your lack of resources, your crime, your police shortage, your obesity rates, your health epidemics, your lifelong struggle.

After nearly three years, I can say with an odd sense of triumph, my years with you have been my greatest challenge. You have tested my confidence, my joy, my relationships, even what sometimes felt like my sanity. You have splayed opened my heart and you have broken it.

Most of all, you have laid bare your vulnerabilities and shown me that that is where true strength and resilience lie.

I was a different person when I arrived grinning at your door.  I am wiser, humbler, unfettered by the ghosts of the past. I have new burdens to carry but they are the world’s burdens and it was about damn time I started bearing my share.

I still believe you are built on magic. Your resilience and your beauty still take my breath away. I’ll be leaving you soon, my heart is ready to move on. But baby, it’s been a helluva ride.

“Y’all live longer up there but we live better down here,” A local said to me recently.

I couldn’t disagree.

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Dear Babies (1)