Friday, June 20, 2014

What I learned in New Orleans

Wow, so many emotions going through me in the past two months. First I had spent a large portion of my time on job hunting, found a job I was excited for only to learn the day before I was supposed to start that my husband was offered a job in Detroit.
I always knew we were moving back, but I did not think it would happen so soon. While the kids and I have spent two years living here, Alex had been here a total of five years. I was excited and I was also nervous because I knew circumstances would leave me with the packing while solo parenting. And not just the household stuff - but Alex would not be coming back for the loading, so this time I would be packing the shed and electronics as well as any other personal things Alex was not able to get to. Don't get me wrong, he worked incredibly hard doing the most that he could before he left, but like most of life, there just wasn't enough time.
I was also surprised that in all these feelings, there was a little sadness too. I've grown a lot in New Orleans, and it was my refuge after an incredibly hard three years when my life forever changed from unexpected single-parenthood and unemployment.
In the midst of all these emotions though, there are some lessons I've learned, or that have deeper meaning to me now that I'd like to share.

Jump into life and forget the waiting place. Sometimes we are caught waiting for things to happen before we move on. Changing your surroundings can also change your perspective. I found myself saying, "What are you waiting for, just do it!" And I'm finding the more "risks" I take when I forget about waiting, the less regrets I have.

Our garden put in by Green Light New Orleans.
Do what you like. I was lucky enough to have a flexible part-time job and I got to explore my interests more. It also helped that my kids are older and we went back to being a two-parent household. I volunteered at my kids' school, I went from making cookies for Prime Time Family Reading Time to being a storyteller (reader), I volunteered at a local farm market, learned how to make more vegetable dishes from local vegetables and started composting and gardening. Again, most of these things I had been "waiting" to do and it was so gratifying to actually be able to do them and explore my interests more.

Politeness is important. Sorry, but this is going to be a little criticism of New Orleans and the South. Maybe I just don't get how to interact with people here, but can't believe how rude people are. I do know incredibly nice people, but some of the interactions I've had, at stores and in public, leave me shaking my head at just the flat-out rudeness of people. Then when I'm back in the Midwest I'm surprised at the politeness - people smiling at you, saying hello, holding the elevator. I'm leaving with a renewed resolve to be politer.

Volunteering at Second Harvest
became a family activity. 
Be there for people. This is my 3rd time moving in 3 years, two of those times cross-country. None of
those times have been paid for by our employer, which leaves me to do the packing and then is still a pretty hefty price tag. I was a single parent for three years (yes, that's what I call it when my husband comes home for a weekend once every six weeks). I've solo parented a month this time. I lost a job I loved after 10 years. I lost a job I was ambivalent toward. In all these times, I've been surprised by the people who have stepped up and helped out, or offered to help. And I've been surprised by those who haven't. I hope this makes me more aware of others. And I'm especially thankful that a byproduct of hardship can be greater empathy for others.

Payoff debt and save money. We've had some curve balls in the last 5 years and one of the things that has helped us to make better decisions is not having debt. It's frustrating that the two houses we've sold in the last two years have just barely covered moving expenses - but those are expenses that have not had to turn into further debt! This time around everything happened on short notice: putting our house up for sale, coming up with a down payment for a rental house, paying for a cross-county move and having a car die and needing a replacement. I am left wishing we had saved more money, but we were able to do fairly well with at least rearranging our finances to make things work. This is a huge reminder for me to prepare for the unexpected with savings.
We became members at the Audubon Zoo
so that we could frequent the exhibits often!

The treasure in your backyard. We got to do a lot in New Orleans. Both tourist things and off the beaten path kind of things. But the thing is - even without living in a touristy city, there are plenty of places "in your backyard" to be explored. Nature, history and culture are everywhere. Sometimes you need to dig a little, but it's always worth it!

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