Written by Caitlin Cruz
Edited by Issa Napon
I’ve spent most of my life moving back and forth between two places. I was born in Phoenix, moved to Nebraska and we spent time in the summer and major holidays in Phoenix. While other vacations and family outings took us to relatives around the country, my family always returned to the Valley. When I was looking at university, I never anticipated I would again be returning to Phoenix – but here I am. It wasn’t until I was twenty that I lived in a completely new place, a place where I knew zero people.
After my last final of sophomore year, I loaded my life into my PT Cruiser and drove east on Interstate 10 toward New Orleans, La. In December, I accepted an internship with The Times-Picayune, New Orleans then-only daily newspaper. It’s a great paper known for its high penetration rate (percentage of the population that reads the content) and made famous by the honest and visceral coverage of the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. It was a great experience, but the paper wasn’t the life-changing part of that summer.
The city of New Orleans was the life-changing part. This city full of decadence and the kindest people you could ever meet changed everything.
I realized that my picky eating habits were no way to go through life. Every oyster, barbeque rib, beignet and poboy sandwich deserved my undivided attention and the first bite to be my new favorite food.
I realized how lucky I was when I walked through parts of the Lower Ninth Ward. You should never underestimate the destruction of Mother Nature.
I realized I loved walking into a venue alone and walking out with friends.
I realized I liked running miles through the humidity along the route of the street car, feeling like it was the city itself making me stronger.
I realized I wanted to tell people’s stories no matter the cost. Even if it meant meager pay.
I realized you could fall in love for a night, or just for an hour.
I realized strangers can be your godsend – instead of something to recoil from – when my car broke down about an hour outside the city.
I realized the forgiving nature of a daily rain. I learned to love the predictability of an afternoon thunderstorm.
New Orleans is a completely different part of America. I still don’t know if I actually consider it a part of the continental United States – it’s just so different.
And so, so amazing.