Friday, June 3, 2011

Oh, When the Saints

In August 2009, after months  years of planning to move, I left north Louisiana. I quit a job I loved (even if my boss was fucking insane, I really loved my job), I packed up our huge apartment, I kissed my last salary check goodbye, and I got in a car and moved everything I owned to New Orleans.

I wasn't really sure I wanted to live here; I wanted to move to San Francisco, and New Orleans was a second-best, much more affordable, option. I had deep-seated regrets about leaving my job; I knew I'd miss my clients. The possibility of evacuating scared me shitless. I feared what leaving a great job only seven months in would do; would I find another job I actually liked again, much less one that paid me well? I had never lived anywhere else as an adult. Hell, I'd been in the same town in north Louisiana for eight years. I wasn't sure if I knew how to adjust to a new culture, make new friends, and create new life. I thought I'd lost all my marbles, but damn it, I was dead set on moving.

It took me two months to find a job. I went back into the restaurant industry, which I always knew was a possibility, but without knowing anyone here, I couldn't find work in a higher-end restaurant. (It truly is all about making connections in this town.) I took a massive pay cut -- around 50% -- and my rent and utilities almost doubled over night. I made enough to pay rent and utilities and to buy food and gas, but only barely. I ate through a lot of what I had saved at my last job, just trying to survive. Tensions ran very high in my house, and the severe lack of income was a huge part of it.

I went back to asking my mother for help, which did much more than dent my pride -- it put me in a personal debt to her which made me feel disparagingly guilty. My family, myself included, has plenty of issues about control and money. It's enough to send me over the edge on any good day. I jumped around jobs, grabbing at anything on the side that would make me some extra money to travel, to go out, to have a life beyond my house. I applied for everything under the sun, hoping someday I would pull the right straw. I took contract work that paid well, but left me back at the same questions every few months -- what now? where will my next pay check come from?

And the whole time, the same nagging possibility sat at the back of my brain -- here I am creating a life in NOLA, a life I'm really enjoying, new friends and new connections and a history and a future here, but what if  I'm forced to choose between finding a job I actually enjoy and that can sustain me and staying in New Orleans? Do I love this city enough to put aside the work I've done in school, my interests, and work in the restaurant industry for the rest of my life? Do I love this city enough to give up other jobs, better possibilities in other cities, to stay here?

I kept coming back to a resounding, "no." Why? Well, life is about compromises, yes. But I'm super, insanely, driven. So much so. And I've put aside a lot of dreams, a lot of possibilities, for relationships, for women, for family, for fear. I've been reserved. I haven't chased what I really wanted -- the only huge risk I've taken was to move here. So I didn't want to follow that path again. I knew I would come back. Hell, I knew I never wanted to leave in the first place. But if it came down to it, I would do it.

Anyway. That was all crazy back story.

You know that job I left in north Louisiana, the one I loved? Yeah, that one. Well, out of the blue, the same position opened up in New Orleans about two weeks ago. And at the urging of a close friend, I applied. I really, really feared what it would feel like not to get it -- to face that rejection again. But I applied anyway.

And wow. I got it.

While money isn't everything, it's necessary for my peace of mind -- it's necessary for my sustainability, to stay here, to thrive here.

While loving a job isn't necessary, and neither is school, it's why I went to school -- to be able to qualify for a job I actually enjoyed.

And while having benefits isn't a requirement of life, I must say, not having to face the prospect and fear of ending up in the hospital on a fluke ever again without health insurance... yeah, that sounds fantastic.

All of these are blessings. I wish everyone had them, and God knows, if I had the ability, I'd provide that for everyone. (I believe in a society that does support and assist in providing those opportunities for everyone.) I am insanely blessed to live in a city I love, to have stumbled (fallen?) into this job, to not have to worry if my salary will sustain me.

Point is, I can stay in NOLA.

I can create a career here, and I truly hope that I end up in this job for at least the next 5-6 years, if not more.

I don't have to fear leaving anymore.

I don't have to half-ass my existence here out of that fear.

I feel like a huge weight has lifted off my shoulders.

So, New Orleans, if you'll have me, I'd really like to stay. Please. I'd like to create some roots, because this feels like home.

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