Finding Perspective in the Big Easy
When the partners at Origin sat us down and told us that part of our 10 year anniversary celebration would include a stipend for each of us to go on an inspiration trip, we were all thrilled. A trip to get inspired? On the company? And we would get a few extra days off? Sign me up!
I’ve always been fascinated by New Orleans. There is an intriguing layer of mystery and lore to New Orleans, an incredible food and cocktailing scene and it’s a river town like my beloved hometown, Saint Louis. Because I’ve spent a good part of the year focused on developing my writing skills, I thought this might be a great city to gain some experiences, insights and spend some time writing.
Going into the trip I asked a lot of people for their recommendations for what to do, where to go and most importantly, where to eat. Knowing I had six days for the trip, I was bound and determined to squeeze every single, solitary second of inspiration out of this town, so I sketched out an itinerary. I would have four days to myself to explore and then my sweet husband would come down and join me for a few days. One day would be entirely dedicated to checking out Marigny and Bywater, another to visiting as many cemeteries as possible, another in the Garden District and another in the Quarter. I was also hoping to visit with a Voodoo priest or priestess, as well as listen to a lot of music. I planned each day, almost to the hour, including where I’d eat and made a number of reservations.
The first day I did a pretty good job of staying on my schedule. I had decided before I left that I wanted to walk as much as I could, which was fine as long as I stayed in a particular area each day. What I didn’t count on, was the oppressive humidity that was still very present in New Orleans (in November!!!). My ignorant determination to walk meant that I was a sweaty, gross mess by the end of the day.
Around lunchtime on the second day, I started to get irritated. I hated the heat and how sweaty I was. I hated that I felt like I wasn’t covering as much ground as I wanted to. I was frustrated that I wasn’t giving myself enough time to absorb each area I’d been exploring, because I was so focused on staying on my schedule.
As I ponied up to a high top table the incredible St. Roch Market waiting for my NOLA-inspired sampler to arrive, I took out my journal to capture a few insights. After a few moments, I realized I was “should-ing” myself: I “should” get to the St. Roch Cemetary as quickly as possible so I’d have some time to spend on Frenchman Street later in the afternoon. I “should” have tried harder to find a yoga studio in the Marigny so I could have gotten a work out in. “Should” I have ordered the gumbo or was I missing an opportunity with those delicious looking empanadas?
The word “should” is like kryptonite to me – it makes me feel unaccomplished, less than. It implies that I don’t try hard or that I make poor choices. What a crummy word, should. And I use it on myself ALL the time.
As I sat there, considering this, two young women asked if they would share my table with them – the St. Roch Market was hopping and there was nary a spot to be had. I moved my camera, journal and bag out of the way to make room for them and we proceeded to have one of the most delightful conversations I had during my stay. Both local to the area, they were filled with excitement and thrilled to give me their insights to their beloved city. After about 20 minutes chatting with them, we exchanged information and parted ways. And I felt reenergized.
The rest of the trip, I focused on what I wanted to do, rather stick to my meticulously-planned itinerary. I had mid-afternoon snacks at cheese shops, slept a little later one day, visited the same restaurant twice because it was so damn good, sat in cafes and had coffee and journaled. I took photos of the things that interested me, rather than what I thought I should. I started journaling more and jot down several ideas for more. I was still annoyed by the heat and the “shoulds” in my brain definitely still came creeping in, but I felt more relaxed and under less self-imposed pressure to experience the whole city in a mere 6 days.
By the time my husband met me in New Orleans, I was so excited to talk about the glassblowing studio I’d stumbled into, the furniture maker I met and the food (my lord, the FOOD), I didn’t even think about the things in the city I might have missed. I was just excited to share my experiences. We spent the last two days of the trip exploring more of the city, visiting the World War II Museum and eating at as many places we could.
The inspiration trip gave me two very important things: the realization and understanding that I can just do and I don’t have to abide by unrealistic, self-imposed rules; and a point of view on how to refocus my writing. I’m pleased with my ongoing journaling since returning home and I’m still working on a few personal projects. Hopefully the practice will inform some of my writing and creative exploration at work in 2018 with some new and very cool client projects.
I’m grateful for everything I learned on this trip about myself. I am confident that it will make me a better writer, researcher and team member at Origin. I’m also very grateful for a team whose support, kindness and creativity knows no bounds. Thank you for the first 10, Origin. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 brings.