Southerner in the City

I could say that the very thing that brought me to NYC in the first place is also what sent me packing back to my beloved New Orleans. In both cases it could be said that there is not quite any other place like it, and the locals have an almost cult-like connection to each city. Many of my friends were surprised, but not shocked, when I made the decision to return, as it was never really my “dream” to move to NYC in the first place. When I was a kid, I always thought I would be some sort of artist living in an uptown Greek revival shotgun, or have a view of a courtyard in the Quarter. Yet as I got older, and eventually got further along in design school, I grew wrestles and knew I would need to leave, at least for a bit, simply to gain a new perspective and more varied experience.

I interned in Dallas for a summer at the hospitality firm Wilson and Associates. I was a mere sophomore, and the youngest intern in the office. That summer was quite a revelation to me, both personally and professionally. I knew if I really wanted to do the type of design work I hoped to, I would need to expand beyond the NOLA scene. However now would I have to decide what city I could “settle” on after New Orleans. The following summer I ended up at Bilhuber Inc in NYC and found myself in a completely different experience than I had the previous summer…and I was hooked. While in a different octave, there was a similar, harmonious chord progression being played between the two cities.   Just a few weeks after my graduating from LSU, I packed a few bags and flew to NYC to try my luck. That trip turned into a twelve-year stay. I spent the majority of my young adult years, and those first, budding years of my career, in NYC. The city was a good but rough place for both of these; harsh master, seductive Jezebel, abusive lover. There are days you wake up wondering why the hell you are still in this overpriced, crowded, God-forsaken hamster wheel of a city, and that challenge, to a great extent, is exactly what keeps you there. To leave is to give up.

As one well-known gentleman is widely quoted, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” and that well summed up my tenure in NYC. These ups and downs were not necessarily due to the simple fact that I was living in NYC, but perhaps more related to those very developmental years of early adulthood in any persons life. It is rather amazing to think of what happened in that period between July 2001 and August 2013 both personally and on the larger scale. NYC happened to be the stage on which that scene of my life was set. The laissez faire attitude that one tends to acquire growing up in southeast Louisiana is likely what helped me survive the constant aggressiveness of the city; water off a duck’s back. I have so many great memories of NYC, particularly when it comes to friends and colleagues. I was extremely lucky on that point. I do have some dark, low times in the city as well, but contrast is what makes both the highs and lows just that much more affecting.

There is a difference between feeling at home and being home. It is a subtle but poignant difference, and it was a distinction that was becoming increasingly apparent towards the end of my tenure in NYC. I did not leave NYC inasmuch as to leave that city, as it was to return to my true home. I found myself increasingly frustrated in NYC, but it was more out of an impatience to start over, to move on to that new scene and set in the play, than simply a dislike for NYC. My daddy had always been a very hard worker, to a fault. Recently he had retired, and I was struck by the radical change in his personality. He seemed to be ENJOYING things again, not simply tolerating life. I missed that feeling. I was missing birthdays, and weddings, and festivals, and daily life in the Crescent City that I loved so much. I had burnt myself out on work, and was no longer enjoying design. Rather than being inspired by the surrounding world, as I once had, I now was woken up by nightmares of miss-sized coffee tables and angry contractors. These things may seem petty, and, in the grand scheme, they are, but they were weighing on me nonetheless.

I am finally now home in New Orleans, though, oddly enough, not quite yet AT home. I will drone on about that in more detail later, but it is great to be back. I will always be proud of, and cherish, the times and experiences I had while in NYC. They have made me a stronger and more well rounded person. Now I stand on my native soil; the soil I was first a seedling in, my native habitat. I grew immensely up north, but I hope to grow and flourish in an entirely new way on this soil that I once knew so well. New Orleans, I am back.

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Buh-byyy, NYC! It’s been real….

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