They say living abroad helps you better appreciate home. I wrote this entry about six months ago while sitting in an airport contemplating my random travels. It has nothing to do with South Africa, but reading it again while in SA gave it more meaning, as part of me going abroad on my own was to be reminded how much I love the people, places, and things I love. Perhaps because it’s Valentine’s Day, perhaps it’s the sentimentality that comes with being away for a month now….not sure. But thought I’d share this random entry anyway. =)
I’ve had two great loves in my life.
The first gave me life, taught me to grow, unconditionally provided me with support, kindness and grace that I didn’t even ask for. It taught me reality from fantasy and authenticity from pretense. It taught me the true meanings of loyalty and honor. And perhaps most importantly, my first love taught me to love all of life, even in its many shades of gray.
But I left that love. I was young, and it was all I knew. So eight years ago I packed my bags in search of something more.
I didn’t find something more, but I did find something new. I found a second love that brought excitement, intrigue, and wonder. A love that taught me about the world’s endless possibilities, and then taught me about my own. I remain in awe of my second love as I slowly discover its history and many dimensions. In my second love, I find myself finding myself.
Yet both of my loves have seen tragedy - my second was hurt before I knew it; the first is still not back on its feet two years after it was struck. So I’ve begun to reconnect with my first love, to be supportive in this time of need and in hopes of finding all its original glory. Instead what I find are small broken remnants of what once was and constant reminders of what may never again be. My second love sees and understands from afar, but doesn’t truly comprehend why my first love can’t seem to recover.
See my first love is the city of New Orleans – vibrant, diverse, nuanced, and unique in only those most indescribable of ways. A city that throughout my childhood exuded the type of energy that alchemists once tried to bottle and store, but they couldn’t capture its beauty. The music, the colors, the people, the food, the history, the art, the love of life that cannot be replicated, all made up everything I knew as a child and how I believed the rest of the world to be. It wasn’t until I left it, however, that I realized how truly special it was. Apparently all children do not celebrate Mardi Gras and treasure cabbage thrown at them on St. Patrick’s Day.
My second love has many of its own idiosyncrasies. I am in a committed and fairly serious relationship with the city of New York. We’ve been together nearly five years now, and not a day goes by that I don’t discover something new. New York is so full of energy that no one even tries to capture it, as it’s clearly impossible. In fact, the endless potential found in New York is both awe-inspiring and simultaneously maddening. Sometimes it makes my head spin when I realize just how much I can actually do in the city of New York. Yet the truth is that the madness is exactly what keeps me coming back, and every time I leave and return to New York, I’m quickly reminded why I love it so much.
What I can’t understand, however, is why my two loves can’t meld and share. Why can’t the crazy accomplishment driven energy of New York be shared with New Orleans to help my first love rebuild? Why can’t New Orleans’ love of life’s smallest pleasures be shared with New York to help my second love slow down? Perhaps then they wouldn’t be the same, and I should learn to accept them as they are.
But if I were to be truly honest, my greatest dream would be to have them both. A few months with my first love, a few others with my second. In theory, that can be accomplished, but I’m genuinely scared that my first love is dying. That my children will never know the New Orleans I knew, and my New York self doesn’t know how to change that.
All I do know is that the energy of New Orleans that once could not be bridled now only comes in as a soft whisper. And although barely audible, it tells me the core of its soul is not gone and allows me to feel the ever so slight beat of a pulse to say New Orleans is still alive – it will return to full form in its own way, in its own time. My New York self doesn’t really understand that type of patience and continues to push for signs of progress, but my New Orleans self reminds me to have faith, and to continue to love one day at a time.