One major difference that I noticed between New Hampshire and New Orleans: the jobs that my friends have. I think that the differences are really interesting and speak volumes about the two cultures.
Friends in New Orleans
All of my friends in New Orleans are not where they want to be forever. Most of my friends are finishing school or working in restaurants, or education, or volunteering full-time. These things are all great life experiences, but they are not careers (check that, they can be careers, but not for these people). I’ve decided my friends down here are all in this weird “figuring my shit out transition/ experimental phase” of their lives because the things that they want to do are ethereal, and weird, and not concrete. There is no path well-traveled to their (really our, I’m in this category too) end goals…if we even know what those are. None of us want careers in a field that society needs. Because of that there isn’t a steady market for these open-ended, often self-created roles we desire. We have to find them, or make them ourselves, which is hard when you still have cereal for dinner 3 nights a week. This isn’t to say that we won’t get where we want to be, because I believe that we all will. We will just get there on our time, at our own pace, by our own rules and there will probably be a lot of stressful nights and odd jobs along the way (Camp Bow Wow, shot girl-ing, hostess-ing, etc.) and lots of free labor, I mean volunteering (One Million Bones, Water Symposium). But that is how you, in New Orleans, you figure out where you fit in society.
Being in New Orleans also allows for this kind of life style. First of all the cost of living is cheap and the cost entertainment even cheaper. But more than that there is a free-spirited-float-along-try-it-out-figure-it-out-eventually mentality here. It’s ok to work three jobs and still be scraping by, most people are. It’s ok to be working in a job that is totally different from your dream, most people are. Most people are also working on the side toward their dream. Or they wake up one day and say “fuck being an electrician I want to be an artist.” (True story. I was walking around the Frenchman Art Market last night and a guy told us about how he was an electrician and really unhappy and decided to quit, use his copper wiring to make sculptures.) New Orleans seems to be a place where you can have the most outlandish dreams and people don’t look at you crazy, they tell you to go for it. This where my illogical, adventurous side feels at home.
Speaking of homes, almost of my friends in NOLA live with at least two other people they are not married to, dating, or related to. For example, my house (second floor of a house) has three bedrooms and has five people living in it. Basically I’m back in college living in the Commune House with my friends. The fridge will always be chaos, the dishwasher will always be full and there will always be a beer can somewhere. And this probably sounds terrible to a lot of mid-twenty-somethings who are well on their way to becoming totally independent while leading normal adult lives that includes personal space. Not down here. We’re all a bunch of un-pragmatic dreamers in loads of debt who refuse to acknowledge it, living together, working at mediocre jobs that require us to use half of our brain power, who will one day, eventually, get our shit together and be amazing. But until then it’s odd jobs, communal living and food stamps for us.
Now take everything that I just explained and picture the exact opposite. I am amazed by how much friends back home have their shit figured out. Three of my friends from home are working in careers that society needs, one is a Physician’s Assistant and one is a Forensic Interviewer, and one is a teacher; all are concrete jobs, with concrete and applicable skills (unlike Anthropology…or Philosophy…or Latin American Studies…[I have a degree in social skills…cool.]) and a consistent job market (at least as consistent as can be in this economy). Cole’s friends also all have logical jobs: technology sales, plumber, teachers, construction workers. There is no debating society’s need for teachers, just like construction, plumbers, electricians and doctors, people will always need them. Another thing is that these jobs are all full-time and salaried (or commission, which is also way better than hourly). Finally, our friends are working in their dream careers; they have followed the path to their end destination. Amazing. The pragmatic New England side of me yearns for this stability.
Speaking of stability, our friends, for the most part, live on their own with their significant others. Most of our friends actually own their homes, not rent, not half a home, but bought the whole home. These are the places where they probably won’t live forever; but these homes might see their owners carried over the threshold after marriage, these homes might see the birth of their owner’s first child, perhaps even that child’s first steps. These are homes with personal space, and backyards and fences and driveways and fewer people living in them than the number of bedrooms. Buying these homes is just another step towards being a real life adult with real life responsibilities.
You may be wondering, well Emily, how does this all play out for you? Raised with that New England work ethic and pragmatism, thrust into the suspended state of realism and diversion that is New Orleans. (If you’re not wondering this then you should probably skip this part). Well ye who wonders, it is not easy catering to my two contrasting yet equally important desires. I am torn between the logical, NH part of me that says “get a job that makes sense and will pay the bills” and the free-spirited, NOLA part of me that says “to hell with it! I’m going to start a non-profit and barely make ends-meet while I also dabble in writing a book”. Maybe these two sides of me are the reason I decided to stay in NOLA. Maybe I need this extra time to figure my shit out; because I know that I would not be happy owning a house, being tied down to one town, being locked into one job right now. Don’t get me wrong that kind of stability would be nice, but I need to get my yaya’s out before I can truly become a happy real person. So until then it’s communal living and grandiose plans and side projects for me.
The point? New Hampshire and New Orleans breed different types of people with different types of dreams, goals and aspirations; maybe it’s what’s in the water. Personally it’s a constant struggle trying to balance the two sides of me, but ultimately I think that is what will make my life interesting.