Missed Connection

There is a section of Craigslist called Missed Connections. There people post about encounters that didn’t quite happen or got cut short without any way to get back in touch. Like that cute guy you locked eyes with at a concert but then lost in the crowd.  Or the bike messenger who sped off before you could ask her out (and be rejected – she’s too cool for you, Bill).

When I lived in Philadelphia in my early 20s, I checked the section regularly, always convinced I would find myself. I loved the idea of a stranger being so enthralled by me that he turns to the internet in a last ditch effort to connect. How special that would be, I thought, to be so viscerally wanted. (The fact that this is my idea of romance may be partially why I’m still single). I never did find myself on Craigslist, despite being consistently enthralling. Luckily I found connections everywhere else. Friends, boyfriends, coworkers, acquaintances, I was never lacking for connections during my years in Philly. It was the best of times with the best of friends. When I moved to New York City, and later to Baltimore, I found more connections and eventually built networks in each city, but it never felt as effortless as it had been in Philadelphia.

[Editor’s note: I spent 20 minutes trying to find pictures from my time in Philadelphia that were appropriate for a blog that (only) my mother reads. I failed. Let’s just say, I really enjoyed my 20s]

Before I moved here I took a 2 month trip through Central America. Travel is the ultimate connector and during that trip I quickly bonded with people from around the world. The ease and depth of those connections reminded me of my days in Philadelphia.

I arrived in New Orleans envisioning a city full of potential new friendships. Instead, I mostly found missed connections.  The old friend who suddenly disappeared. The well-meaning classmates I couldn’t click with. The friendly but insular locals. Friendships that served their purposes but never penetrated the surface.

It took me a long time to get to the root of the problem. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a lone wolf. I love making friends but I’m also fiercely independent, perpetually single, and cherish my alone time.  I can also be stubbornly optimistic when things aren’t going my way. I refuse to believe that hard times will last. I am aware of my many privileges and how much worse things could always be. And there have been so many good times here.  Something was just missing.

Over the last few months, some of my closest friends from Philadelphia have visited. Having them here felt like being jolted awake from a long strange nap. I felt more alive and more like myself than I had in a long time.  I didn’t know I was sleeping until they arrived and shook me awake. I didn’t know I was disconnected until I reconnected.

These aren’t the people I grew up with. They’re the people I’ve grown up with. From a single recent college graduate trying to find my way, to a single recent college graduate trying…wait. Okay some of us have grown up. They are some of the deepest connections I have, and sharing a city with them again was the revelation I needed.

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At brunch before I drove her to the airport, my friend/sister wife Lisa asked me, “After all your moves, where do you consider home?” I didn’t have to think about it. It was Philadelphia.

After everyone flew back home, that old feeling returned. That dull aching for something I could never identify. But I finally recognized it. It was a longing for real connections. It was a longing for home.

So that’s where I’m headed next month. I’m packing up my whole life, and I’m moving back. To my people, to my city, to my home.

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visitphilly.com

 

 

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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5 days in Portugal: Sintra

Ohhh Sintra. What is there to say about Sintra? A lot. But I didn’t read all the placards scattered around town.

(My former man friend did. In fact he read every single one. Skimmed them? No, no, every word on every placard. In every museum, in every castle, on every sidewalk.  Hours of reading as I staggered through jet lag, seasonal allergies and a mild-to-moderate hangover. If you’re wondering why we’re not together, read every word in that paragraph and you’ll get this gist)

So instead I lazily present you with pictures of a town that looked like a living breathing postcard.

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5 days in Portugal: Cascais

In October 2015 I began a whirlwind, mostly long distance love affair with a dashing English man* who lived in Portugal. In November I flew out to visit him. And while the relationship stalled after five champagne fueled days together, I fell madly in love with this petite European nation.

When I touched down in Lisbon, my gentleman caller whisked me away* to his home in Cascais, a small coastal resort town. At first glance, Cascais is gorgeous.

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After a quick breakfast at home, we headed back out for a wander around the charming town centre. The streets were uncrowded due to it being low season (and a Tuesday morning). Each summer, visitors from Portugal and around Europe, swarm Cascais for the golden sand beaches, posh hotels and restaurants, and lively nightlife.  But on this mild Autumn day , we wandered in peace and often solitude.

Cascais is one of the wealthiest parts of Portugal, which was obvious as we strolled the spotless cobble stone streets.  The town centre radiates history, culture and prosperity.IMG_2096

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I only spent about a day there but I quickly understood what had compelled my English suitor to relocate. With friendly locals, a mild climate, decadent and delicious restaurants and breathtaking natural beauty, Cascais is the kind of place that gets under your skin. The kind of place that makes you start fantasizing about a new life in this little slice of paradise.

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It was either you see me or the buildings. I chose me. 

*Note: some details may have been edited to make my life sound more like a mid-century romance novel.

Two Years Later

It’s been nearly two years since I last posted on this blog. Two years ago I was approaching my second to last semester of graduate school. (I graduated in December 2014 with my Masters in Social Work). Two years ago I was struggling to find my place in this city (and in this world), to find people to form true connections with and to figure out where this journey of life would take me next.

Now two years later I’m having similar feelings. I’ve realized recently that my adult life unfolds in two year increments. Over the course of 730 days I get a new job, get a new apartment, immerse myself in a new city and new friends.  I experience the joys and challenges that accompany newness and change. But as the novelty of a sparkly new city wears off, as the monotony of a 9 to 5 existence sets in, and as the promising first dates become disappointing second ones,  disillusionment creeps in.  My need for change becomes my solitary, almost desperate, focus. 

So now, two years since I last wrote, I have passed my 730 day mark in New Orleans. In July it will be three years. I have a stable job with a good salary. The job is fine but the schedule is wonderful. It allows me to travel far more than a 9 to 5 every did. I’ve lived in the same apartment for most of my time in this city and I feel at home within its bones.  My New Orleans circle has expanded and contracted along the way but it has taught me the importance of quality over quantity.

Yet throughout my nearly three years here, a current of disillusionment always finds its way in.  Sometimes it’s just a trickle. Other times, a steady gush. A few times, like now, a deluge. In these times, the best way to sort through my jumble of thoughts and ideas is to write them down. Figuring out what’s next is always a difficult and rewarding process. There are so many things I want to do in this little life of mine.  Time will tell what path I will skip down next.

This long essay is all just to say, hello, I’m back and as lost and found as ever.

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Prescott, AZ

 

Monday update

Hello faithful readers (Brian, Mom), here’s a little update on my life.

I haven’t exercised in two weeks. I read an article yesterday about how sitting is taking years off our lives and immediately began googling “is lying down bad too?”. Results inconclusive.

I am interning at an assisted living home. The residents all have some degree of dementia and are sweet and hilarious. I’ve been writing down quotes from one of my favorites, a sassy spitfire named Betty.

I have three papers due this week and it’s taking every ounce of willpower to force myself to write them. I am highly unmotivated this semester. “Bare minimum” is my current study technique.

Termites swarm my bathroom every night and I have a visceral, irrational hatred towards these defenseless, evil creatures.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my future career and how I could combine my interests. They are as follows: cats, sex/relationships, travel, tacos. If anyone has any ideas let me know.

I am currently looking into teaching english in Asia for a year to help pay off my loans and satisfy my wanderlust. Taiwan is at the top of the list.

I took a “primary archetype” quiz because I like answering questions about myself and the results are dead-on.

My type (the Explorer) is independent, self-sufficient, ambitious, tirelessly optimistic, always on the move, always trying to discover new, exciting things.

“The Explorer has one main goal: to find a better world, both inside and out. This goal is driven by the need to
discover things in the external world that meaningfully align with their internal world.

“The Explorer needs to fly freely. They are not afraid to go to new places, or try new things; this is what they live and strive for”. 

We stubbornly march to the beat of our own drums

You are not afraid to be true to yourself, and so long as you stay on your own journey of self-discovery you don’t care what others think of you, meaning you usually achieve what you set out to.”

We simultaneously crave roots and wings, which can lead to internal conflict

“The urge to satisfy these two opposing primal human desires (freedom and belonging) can sometimes leave you feeling
torn – torn between staying put and going off on another adventure”

“Your constant need to be on the move can sometimes leave you desperately needing to feel grounded, although you know deep down that you could never stay still for long”

Oh and sorry Mom:

“As an Explorer, you sometimes have a hard time committing to things that could potentially tie you down – such as having
children, marriage or mortgages”.

If you’re interested in taking the quiz, click here 

Looking back. Looking forward

It’s that time of year when we traditionally reflect on the year past and resolve what we will accomplish in the upcoming year.

2013 was a year of big changes

In January I resolved to embark on an adventure. The planning began.

In February I submitted my  application to graduate school and was accepted two weeks later.

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In March I had my last day of work and spent the month selling a ton of my belongings and packing up my Baltimore apartment. And having a series of going away parties. I’ll always love you, Baltimore.


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In April I moved my remaining stuff to my mom’s house and flew to Mexico. Tulum reawakened my spirit.

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From April to May I traveled around Belize. Life was a beach.

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In June I traveled around Guatemala and a little bit more of Mexico. Every day was an adventure.

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I met amazing people and and made connections and memories that I think about (and laugh about) nearly everyday.  I left a small piece of my heart on that trip.

In July I moved to New Orleans and celebrated my 30th birthday.

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In August I got settled into my new home. I moved into a new one in November. It has a pool, and a balcony on the parade route.  What can I say, I like to upgrade.

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In September I began graduate school – in pursuit of a masters in social work.

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From September to December I was submerged  in the world of social work. I learned so much about the world and about myself. I was challenged and rewarded. I learned to advocate for myself and others. I also made new friends and  entertained many guests from near and far who reminded me that some bonds can not be broken through time or distance.


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In December I began Winter break. I decompressed, regrouped and I celebrated. Oh boy did I celebrate.

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And now, in January, I am preparing to return to school in 2 days.  A part of me wants break to continue indefinitely. I’m so relaxed, I’m having so much fun, I haven’t witnessed a heated debate about sexism in a while. But a large part of me is excited to go back. I start an awesome internship, classes will be more focused on (my biggest interest) counseling. And I have a thirst for knowledge that can’t be quenched by Facebook and Buzzfeed. (But how I will miss these lazy days).

Every January when I look back, I am amazed by how much I’ve grown and expanded my mind. When I was a kid, I thought that you became an adult and suddenly you were wise and evolved. It never occurred to me that it was a process. It also never occurred to me that not everyone becomes the best version of themselves as they age.  I now see that it’s something you have to actively invest in.

For me, the  major milestones of my life aren’t marriage or children or my first mortgage. My milestones are the moments I experience that expand me:  when I took the plunge off that 20 foot cliff, when I traveled alone for the first time, when I moved to a(nother) new city, when I read that book that changed my life, when I fostered a litter of kittens, when I formed an instant connection with that person, when I graduate from this program.  In 2014, I resolve to collect even more of those moments, and to write about them here, for posterity’s sake.

I also resolve to exercise my body as much as I’ve been exercising my mind. I’m not after a flat stomach (although, I’m certainly not against it). When I travel, I am constantly active outdoors: trekking, diving, swimming, climbing.  I want my body to feel how it does when I return from a trip: strong, healthy and connected to the planet.  With a shiny new bike, winter temps generally in the 60s, and a park like this so close, I have no excuses.

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I resolve to continue to pursue the best version of myself. And have a whole lot of fun along the way.

(Come visit!)

 

 

First semester of Graduate School: A Reflection

Hey y’all (I say that now)

It’s been a long time since I’ve last written on this blog. It hasn’t been a long time since I’ve written – throughout the semester I’ve written papers. essays, analyses, short answers etc. But, I haven’t used this blog of mine.  I’ve thought about it on occasion, but everything else seemed so much more important. I realize now (and probably subconsciously at the time) that that was not true.

This blog is my creative outlet. It allows me to process the stories of my life and present them in a way that is reader friendly.  That processing is what keeps me an optimist – even the worst stories, when analyzed, have their silver lining.  Whenever I hear someone telling a hilarious story about a day, week, or time when all kinds of crazy things transpired, I think, “I bet this was the opposite of funny when it was happening”. Life is up, life is down, perception is everything.  This blog keeps my perception positive.

My first semester of graduate school posed a challenge to that positivity. I moved to a new city where I knew only a couple people. Right before school started, a close friendship abruptly and inexplicably ended.  Throughout the semester we learned about terrible things that make up the fabric of American society: racism, sexism, the big business of incarceration, poverty, oppression, inequality, crime, the broken education system, under treatment of mental illness, political corruption, the list goes on and on. This new knowledge opened my eyes to the injustice inherent in American society. This knowledge also became a heavy burden.

I felt all of the following things during this semester: helpless, inspired, lonely, connected, oppressed, empowered, angry, energized, unwanted (by society), instrumental (to society), completely lost, and found.

The world that I view now is different than the one than I viewed in September, fresh off an amazing trip through Central America.

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First day of school

But, it’s also a different world than the one I viewed during the semester, while being filled to the brim with social work knowledge.  The world I saw then made me question my identity and my place in the world. It made me, as a black woman, hyper aware about issues of race and gender.  It took away my carefree optimism and replaced it with seriousness and over analysis.  On the surface, I seemed similar to the person who gallavanted through Central America, perhaps an exhausted version. But inside, I was undergoing an identity crisis.

It went a little something like this: So, this is how America feels about black people. So this is how America treats women. America considers me double inferior. Have I internalized this inferiority? Where do I fit in in this society? Is everyone racist? Can I continue my friendships now that I clearly see the micro aggressions and unconscious biases people make about race, gender, sexuality etc? What do I do with all of this knowledge? *walking down the street* Does that person think I’m going to rob them?  Why am I now nervous when I see this person walking towards me? Have I developed prejudices? Can I live in a state with so many problems?

And so on and so forth.

Add in a hearty dose of meeting dozens of new people, two moves, a shady landlord, and trying to learn a new city.

My brain got the exercise of it’s lifetime. (I wish I could say the same for my body)

Now that I’ve been on Christmas break for a few weeks, with a healthy mix of socialization and alone time, and with no social work books in sight, I’m feeling like myself again. A wiser, more socially informed version of myself. I know about the injustices and the suffering out there, but I’m not taking it on as my own.  I see the biases and oppression, but I also see the tolerance and connectivity.  I am hopeful but aware. I know I can only do so much during my tenure on this planet.  But that is enough. I am enough. We all are enough.

So, like I said, it’s been a challenging few months. It’s also been full of rewards. I love this new city of mine. I love being in school. I love my apartment. I love my new friends. I really love my cat. (I just bought her a toy called da bird and it’s incredible – first review I’ve ever written on Amazon). I’ve had friends from afar who have, during their brief visits, made this city really feel like home. Thank you Sammy, DJ Killa, Marsalalala, Sarapatweaver, Slarcks, Benny, Krysten, Dodobird, Momzie, Khary and Drewpy.  It was so SO good to see you all. In those times, I felt most like myself. And while I was constantly exhausted, I also made some amazing memories.  I am exactly where I want and need to be.

You know that old cliche’ parents always say about parenthood: “it’s hard, but it’s the best thing I ever did”?

That’s how I feel about my life.

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Happy 2014, y’all.

It has begun

This weekend was pretty wild.  It was one last crazy hurrah before school began. That’s not too difficult in this city, especially when there’s a sporting event (LSU game). I spent all of Sunday recuperating from not being 22 anymore.

(Hi Mom!  By “wild” I mean “mild” and by “crazy” I mean “lazy, K?)

On Monday, we had a casual social gathering for full-time MSW students at the gorgeous home of one of the faculty members. Everyone was so friendly and just eager to meet their fellow classmates and dive into the program. It was an optional event, but I was so glad I went because today…

Was orientation. I hitched a ride from one of the girls I met (and instantly clicked with) at the social. It was great to be able to walk in with someone. No awkwardness or wandering around lost and panicky. Orientation was awesome. I met faculty and lots of friendly, like-minded classmates, learned about the program, and attended an information session about the certificate program I’m applying to. I’m now even more excited about the certificate program, it feels like it was made for me.  I’ll get into more detail if/when I’m officially accepted.  We took ID pics and mine was pretty unsexy because the flash made it look like I had a spotlight on my forehead. I was also glistening from the NOLA sun. And it was raining. While sunny. Regardless, I now feel like a real student! As we left campus, I realized I should probably purchase some school supplies before classes began tomorrow? Like maybe a notebook? Some pens?

So, a fellow classmate/new friend and I embarked on a 5 hour, multi-store, highly comical journey that should’ve taken 30 minutes. At one point, after pacing up and down the aisles of Office Depot, I looked at her and said “These notebooks just aren’t…sexy enough, y’know?” and she nodded in agreement. I think we’ll get along just fine.

5 hours later, we still didn’t have backpacks but our notebooks and pens were really turning heads.

Tomorrow is the first day of classes. I’m excited but at the same time it doesn’t seem real.  It felt like this day was never going to come. But, after 6 months of blissful “retirement”, it’s finally here. I never thought I could be so excited about school but I guess that’s what happens when you pursue your passions.

(Talk to me again during midterms)

That’s all for now. I have to go pick out my first day outfit. I just hope I can still pull off something as timeless and fabulous as this get-up.

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Forrealz, Mom?

Incredible New Orleans: Audubon Park

Last week I realized that I’d lived in Uptown NOLA for 2 months and really hadn’t explored the neighborhood. I knew my way around pretty well, but there were so many places on my to-see list. I’d been putting it off for weeks, admittedly hoping I’d get someone to do it with me. Like many other mid-sized cities, New Orleans can be neighborhood-centric. You live in the quarter, you go out in or near the quarter. None of my old or new friends lived in the neighborhood so I’d end up hanging out with them elsewhere. Still I longed to get to know my neighborhood. ‘Tomorrow’, I’d tell myself.

Then tomorrow came.

Last Monday, I received a Facebook message from my close friend, Dorothy inquiring, “How would you feel if I showed up on your doorstep tomorrow night?”. I replied, “um, that would be AMAZING”. And the next night, there she was, standing outside MSY. It’s awesome to have spontaneous friends with airline points. Aside from my excitement to see her, I was extremely excited that I would finally have someone to join me in exploring the neighborhood. I’d recommended she bring workout clothes so we could go for a few walks in this park I’d heard about. So, the next morning, we chugged water (it was a late night), laced up our sneakers and headed to Audubon park.

I’ve been to a lot of beautiful city parks but what we found when we arrived was a tranquil urban dreamscape.

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Majestic live oaks, centuries old and blanketed with Spanish moss, cast shade on the 2 mile jogging path.

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The path loops around a lagoon, in the center of which is Ochsner Island aka Bird Island, where hundreds of birds nest, including various species of Herons, Ducks, Egrets and Swans.

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As we walked the path, marveling at the beauty of the park, Dorothy spotted something other than birds wading in the Lagoon.

Turtles.

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You may not know this but I am a little bit obsessed with turtles. I chose the hotel for the last day of my Central America trip based almost entirely on the fact that there was a turtle pond. Discovering that there were turtles at Audubon Park was way more exciting than I’d like to admit.

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REALLY excited

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The lush green oasis also includes a rolling golf course, soccer fields, tennis courts, playgrounds, a pool, and a zoo. It’s the perfect place to go for a run, have a picnic, read a book, or just sit on a bench and reconnect with nature.

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The beauty of Audubon Park has motivated me to exercise everyday since just so I can bask in it (and visit my turtle friends). I feel so at peace when I am there. My thoughts slow down, I am mindful of each precious moment. It is my free meditation retreat.

And guys, there are turtles.

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