Life in Atlanta

Whenever I travel or go home, I am invariably asked how I like Atlanta.  Every time, I respond with variations on vagary, generally offering the impression that I do not love the city, but I do like my life here.  I do so because it is difficult for me to communicate through small talk all of the wonderful and awful things that have happened to me here, and to wrap them up into a judgement on the city itself.

The truth is that I love the life I have built for myself in Atlanta.  Since my first visit here, my schedule every week revolves around the fixed point of Thursday night Bible study.  My best friend’s brother and his wife host at their home, where between eight and twenty people gather for dinner, community, and a well-researched analysis of one chapter from whichever book of the Bible we are studying at the time.  Afterward, we play games or Smash Bros., or just enjoy good conversation, often over a beer.  I arrive early every week to help get the house ready, and that is usually where I write these posts.

When I moved here, I had a job lined up as a barista.  I was at that job for about nine months, but I left in January of last year.  Since then, I have worked every Friday cleaning my friends’ house, sold salsas and tamales at a farmers’ market in the summer, folded laundry for a family in the suburbs, and taken on freelance work for my dad.  In my off times from those jobs, I workout, look for other jobs, and generally reevaluate my life.  I also travel a bit, and I have had the privilege to host my friends and family in Atlanta.

Most importantly, I have nurtured a community of friends here.  I hang out with various parts of that friend group weekly, and we usually keep one of the many Atlanta goings-on on our horizon.  So far my favorite is Matilda’s, an art gallery and outdoor concert venue that hosts local artists.  We took several bottles of wine, fancy snacks, and a few friends to see Blair Crimmins and the Hookers there, and thus found the formula for an excellent evening.

There were so many times in the past year that I felt tempted to see my move to Atlanta as a mistake.  I felt that the city was rejecting me like a transplanted organ.  I know now–I knew then–that that perspective was wrong.  It takes time to settle in a new place, to build a new community.  Moreover, it takes faith that the seeds you plant are worth cultivating.  Right now, I am experiencing the joy of seeing those seeds yield true fruit.  But there were times, along the way, when I thought my plants would not flower, and there were plenty of seeds that never sprouted.  I stayed because I believed that God had brought me here for a purpose.

I have a wonderful life in Atlanta.  It still has its difficulties and complications, but it is, overall, fruitful.  I know that such a life could be cultivated anywhere.  But I am glad it is here.

NYC Workation

So…I just spent over a week in NYC , as a sort of experiment.  I got really tired of everyone telling me that I would feel differently about the city if I lived here.  Now, I know that a week isn’t “living there”.  But I wanted to spend enough time (and do enough normal stuff) to at least get a taste of a non-vacation experience.  So I sandwiched a week of semi-normal life between my birthday vacation and my mom’s birthday vacation.  I worked, slept, and economized.  Here are some things I learned….

1.  PRO: I don’t need to spend a lot on food to savor it.  NYC has amazing food at any price.  A “cheap” restaurant there does start at $10, but the dives are delicious.  And I apparently don’t get tired of hot dogs, lamb over rice, or egg sandwiches.  I also never get tired of Tisserie cookies or Stumptown coffee.

2.  CON: Rainy days and Mondays still get me down.  It rained for two days, and I did not leave the apartment.  And my work wasn’t less work-like just because I was in New York.  I felt better on the whole, but I still had to deal with the same crap I deal with in normal life.  Apparently, my phases of ennui are not place-contingent.

3.  PRO: I can find a favorite coffeeshop and plant there happily.  Again, Tisserie.  They have dulce de leche cookies (alfajores, with real dulce de leche) that could bring world peace.  And their flavored latte is perfection (I prefer iced).  I was also a fan of Stumptown at the ACE hotel–try the almond croissant.

4.  CON: It still takes the wherewithal to get there.  I require a stronger initial burst of energy to actually walk out of a house than to do anything once I’ve left.  New York doesn’t fuel that or pull me out of my door any faster.  It is still a struggle to trade familiar stasis for exciting transience.

5.  PRO: New Yorkers are friendly and interesting.  I interviewed a local artist.  I hung out with a photographer/designer.  I walked with an older man for a couple of blocks, and we talked about the rain and buses.  Random people are willing to be helpful, and there really are a lot of different kinds floating around.  People may keep to themselves as a rule, but they will reward you if you take the trouble to engage them.

6.  CON: My social sensibilities are, indeed, more Southern than I thought.  You can’t really smile at someone else’s baby.  Pleasantries are exchanged sparsely among strangers.  Nondirected charm is a rarity.  Of course, not all of these hold for everyone.  But I noticed a significant difference from the overall camaraderie and “consider yourself” atmosphere of the South.  And, in New York, conversations are not supposed to be overheard.

7.  PRO: I like the energy it takes to move about.  There is only one pace–fast.  There is no stopping at crosswalks–peds first.  There are no addresses–only cross-streets.  There are only four directions–uptown, downtown, east, and west.  I absolutely love it.  I never feel lost.  I go the wrong direction plenty, but it only takes one block to figure that out.

8.  CON: You basically have to expend energy to move about.  If you’re not near a subway station, you have to walk.  Now, there were plenty of times that I wanted to walk, and I would do so.  But, on a rainy day, with a heavy backpack, the 5-block trek from Liz’s to the station was just too much to contemplate.

9.  PRO: I’m a different person there, one I really like.  I love being a fast-walking, confident, all-night New Yorker.  I felt that I blended quite well, especially when compared to my we-just-want-to-amble mom and aunt.  I found a favorite haunt, did a decent job with the subway, learned how to navigate by cross-streets, and took the lead.  In other words, I had a sense of place, lived with autonomy, and didn’t get lost as I moved about fearlessly.

10.  CON: I’m still the same person, and my problems still hold me back.  I was still tired, still listless, still comfort-seeking, and still shin splint-y.

Conclusion: I would still love to live there…when I could truly afford it (not wealthy–just stable).  I think I’ll stick with my 20-year plan, and content myself in the meantime with week-long workations now and then (and my annual birthday trip).

[Author’s Note: Photos will follow within the next week or so.]

Over It.

All:

So…I haven’t been here in a while.  And I’ve really missed it.  I’ve missed it so much that I’ve agonized over my leave of absence.  I started three drafts that didn’t go anywhere.  Because my life wasn’t going anywhere.  Because I was in the throes of a depressive episode.

That’s actually what it’s called.  It can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, and I don’t know how to predict the start and stop dates.  I know that it broke yesterday because I woke up and felt, for the first time in about five weeks, like I could engage with the world without feeling panic or pain.

This is not going to be a real post; I just wanted to let y’all know that I’m back and blogging again.  I’m still not sure whether anything I drafted is usable, but I am lucky enough to have plenty of other ideas orbiting the peripheral thinkspace around my conscious mind.  In the meantime, thanks to everyone who ticked up my Stats feeding on stale posts…it’s so nice to know that I don’t have to be to-the-minute current to still be considered relevant.

One more thought: the rock to which I have lately been anchored has shifted under choppy seas, and I must attach to a more constant point.  I know what this point ought to be, but getting there is difficult.  Your good thoughts and prayers are much appreciated during this confusing time in my life, which may not be an experience alien to your own.

Love & blessings,

Ingrid

#Fla13

Florida was absolutely wonderful. There was (the) Game of Thrones, (yummy) hookah, (amazing) food, (wonderful) family, and (perfect) friends. And a thousand thanks to those dear friends who let us be a part of their family every year.  Love to all who were there, and I can’t wait until I see you all again!

Also: I return feeling refreshed and resolved, and I hope that you will keep me in your prayers (if you pray) as I try to find the next direction for my life.  Something about this weekend was transformative (a sort of jump for my soul), and I look forward to sharing with you as I carry on.