Post-grad life

I felt like it was about time for a life update.

Graduation was May 16 — three months and some change ago. I see what people mean now when they say the working world makes time fly by even faster.

Each day I get up, try to get a decent workout in before I catch the 6:36 a.m. train into the city, trek through throngs of people during my thirty minute brisk walk through the beautiful Chicago Theater District, grab some coffee then make it to the 66th floor of a majestic high rise by 7:45 a.m.

Needless to say, I feel like my day is halfway over by 8 a.m.

College was amazing. I could work out for four hours each day (if I planned it right), enjoy a couple of classes, go to work for a few hours, manage to have a social life and study if necessary. Now I’m lucky if I want to do something after work other than watch Netflix with a bottle of red wine — which solves any of life’s trials in most cases. No, mom, I don’t drink the entire bottle. Just a goblet or two. 

Entry level means make $3 Chuck work.

Entry level means making $3 Chuck work.

If this sounds like a blatant complaint of a post, I’m sorry. That’s not my intention. However, I will say that corporate America is intense. I’m using more brain power than ever, and I’m thinking more strategically than I ever thought possible. I’m grateful to be able to flex those muscles and challenge myself more and more each day.

I just miss college, regardless of how “stressful” I thought senior year was. I miss knowing that I could drive to a friend’s house to talk about an assignment then head to the Bulldog for Pint Night. I miss going for a run around the lakes at night just in time to see the sun set behind a few cypress trees. I miss having my Soul Sisters. I miss the look of Death Valley from River Road, almost ominous in its concrete and steel glory.

I miss the smell of salt water and the solace I feel on the bow of a boat. I miss seeing YETI coolers and Costas around every corner. I miss hearing the original Outlaws blaring from cars as they pass by me during my commutes.

Yep. I said it. Kenna’s homesick. But you know what? I get to see a real fall season. I can play in the snow…and there will be plenty of snow. (I’ll regret writing that in six months or so.) I am working with a team that challenges me each day to be better, think smarter and elevate my work to higher standards. I’m searching for studio apartments in the quirkiest neighborhoods of Chicago.

My coworkers and I play a game on occasion. It’s called “Anthony’s Questions” because Anthony’s just damn good at putting you on the spot. The group was asked to compare each person to an actor/actress. The group was almost unanimous in the decision that I was Jersey from Coyote Ugly.

I mean, I worked at a BBQ place (not a pizza joint). But Open Mic Nights aren’t in my near future, and I don’t dance on bars much. I’ll take it as a compliment. 

“Damn girl.”

Today has been an incredible day.

I have had the opportunity to learn from Senior VPs and CMOs of massive corporations. I have learned about the importance of adaptability in the workplace and what top-tier outlets are looking for in potential employees. I witnessed the unveiling of a street sign in honor of an esteemed and influential woman in public relations.

But one incident has overshadowed my memorable, adrenaline-filled day. All it took was a phrase; two mere one-syllable words eradicated the high I was on from learning more about my field and meeting some of the most inspiring practitioners I will ever encounter.

“Damn girl.”

You know, I’ve heard plenty of things from passersby. More than likely, I have my headphones in to drown out the sexist, lewd, creepy (insert adjective of your choice here) comments.

After a 6:05 a.m. train ride into the city, a few hours at the office, an event commemorating a strong advocate for female empowerment, a conference where I was able to expand my knowledge of the field I have grown to love, and a train ride back to the suburbs, I decided to walk to the grocery store and pick up dinner.

As I approached the store, I walked with all the confidence in the world. I was literally buzzing with excitement from the day.

“Damn girl,” said the guy walking past me. Usually I would just roll my eyes and keep walking, paying absolutely no mind. Today was different though. The way he said it made my skin crawl. I immediately stopped; it seemed like I wasn’t even in control of my body at this point.

“Excuse me?”

……nothing. No response. No hesitation from his end; in fact he quickened his pace.

Couples and families chatted with each other prior to this exchange at the tables outside the grocery store. Now they were quiet. As I got closer to the doors, I could feel my fists were clenched and my face told the tale of frustration.

I always feel vulnerable. I’ve been in a few uncomfortable situations in the city, but I never expected to feel so exposed outside my front door. I like to think I’m developing a thicker skin each day for these types of incidents.

Today isn’t a wash by any means because of two simple words, but I feel compelled to write about my walk to the grocery store.

Commuter shoes and Mississippi blues

Tuesday marks my second week in Chicago.

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Robert, Kolby and Jake help me navigate the city for the first time. (They’re a blessing.)

Since May 27 I’ve experienced multiple train rides, I’ve power walked with the best of them through the streets of downtown Chicago, I’ve seen DeKalb in all its corn field glory and more.

I’m not sure what I expected to find in a metropolis. I wanted to enter this opportunity with an open mind and a desire to learn as much as I can about the culture. I feel as though I’ve immersed myself pretty well thus far. There are a few standout moments to consider when discussing differences between the Deep South and the Windy City, so I’ll lay those on you now:

Disclaimer: none of this is intended to negatively portray the city or the people I’ve interacted with. All are simply observations, and please don’t assume I am grouping everyone I’ve interacted with together.

  1. At least five people have told me I’m the first Mississippian they’ve ever met in real life, which is completely understandable. I’m hoping to represent us well. I’ve suggested plenty of Mississippi blues artists when asked what music I enjoy. I’m making believers out of Midwesterners yet.
  2. Ya’ll. I’ve heard gasps when I say this in public. Not in a “Why are you saying that?” or a “You sound silly” way but in a, “You have a drawl and you say ya’ll; you’re definitely a southerner” way. I think people enjoy it.
  3. This goes along with number two. I’ve never thought my accent was prevalent. In fact, in comparison to most I think it’s pretty subdued. I have received so many compliments from coworkers, Starbucks baristas, even people walking down the street as I’m on the phone. We southerners have “happy-sounding” voices apparently.
  4. Chicagoans are nice. I mean, as nice as people can be living in a really hectic and hustle-and-bustle city.
  5. People rush here. Everything is done in a hurry, and everyone is contemplating his/her next move. Back home, we tend to relax and enjoy the moment more. There’s nothing wrong with this mentality — it comes with the territory.
  6. Salt water will always be > fresh water. I walk past the Chicago River each day and have a wonderful view of Lake Michigan. The water is beautiful and sailboats are always anchored enjoying the summer weather. What I miss most is the smell of salt water. It’s revitalizing and comforting.
  7. Walking is a way of life. Here, people walk everywhere (so wear comfortable commuter shoes and pack your heels in your bag). Mass transit is really efficient and is a money saver in the long-run, and people are more inclined to walk for a meal or a few drinks than drive. I wish we would implement this more in our infrastructure in Mississippi.
  8. I can be a proud southerner without being obnoxious. I can love where I’m from and talk about the opportunities I had growing up without alienating anyone. I think finding that balance is key when traveling and working in a new place.

I suggest everyone live in a new place (or several new places) at a young age. Life should be dynamic, and there is always something new to learn. Traveling breeds self-reflection, and I’m so grateful for this experience.

#wildandreckless

Image courtesy of The Country Deep™ Tour

Image courtesy of The Country Deep™ Tour

Have you been searching for a country album to get you ready for the summer? I can help you, and the download is free thanks to AT&T U-verse.

Cale Dodds is the Leg 2 Opener for The Country Deep™ Tour and just released his EP album Wild and RecklessI have a feeling you’ll love it. Download the album, read Cale’s story and watch him in action here.

There’s also a bonus track available here. Cheers to boats, sunshine and summer!

So long, Deep South

I was raised next to a cow pasture. My Paw Paw has had at least two head of cattle since I was tall enough to look out the window and watch him mow his land.

I worked at a restaurant called The Shed beginning at age 16. When we wanted to have a party in high school, it usually took place in the woods with a circle of tailgates and a huge bonfire. I don’t happen to have a drawl until I get around my friends and family from home.

I grew up in the Deep South — as far south as you can get without jumping into the Mississippi Sound. I love where I’m from, and I’m proud of my roots. I moved two hours and fifteen minutes west to Baton Rouge to pursue an education. I found more similarities in the cultures of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and southern Louisiana than I ever anticipated. I felt as though I was welcomed with open arms as soon as I settled here.

Needless to say, I’m experiencing some mixed emotions for my next big move. I’ve never been to Illinois. I’ve never seen any of the Great Lakes. The largest cities I’ve visited have been for a limited amount of time and included the usual tourist happenings, i.e. visiting the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and seeing the Washington Monument in D.C. Chicago will be my new home, and I refuse to be a tourist.

0001-2I hope to bring a little slice of the Deep South I know and love to The Windy/Second City. I vow to bring my love for salt water, the Mississippi blues, the over-usage of y’all, and my love for LSU sports.

I don’t want this quote to be misconstrued. I know that, currently, there are better opportunities for me to leave the region I’ve always known and loved to leave my comfort zone and grow professionally. More than anything, this C.S. Lewis quote will act as a mantra when I start missing the people and places I love the most.

I bought my one-way flight on Monday. When I land on Tuesday, May 27, I’ll start a new chapter. Wish me luck (and send me some southern care packages).

A second home (with a lot more purple)

I’m leaving Louisiana State University in less than two weeks.

I remember the first time campus came into view. I rode with a friend from high school and saw Alex Box Stadium as we neared Nicholson. I had to do a double take because the college baseball stadiums I had seen prior to this one paled in comparison. Then I saw the cathedral of college football, Death Valley.

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I wasn’t a Tiger fan prior to deciding to attend LSU. In fact, I was far from it. I knew nothing about the University or Baton Rouge. I had no idea what the Chinese Bandits or Golden Girls were. Tigerland sounded like a theme park. I remember asking, “There’s a real tiger on campus?” to my tour guide during Spring Invitational.

As I walked across campus and noticed the beauty — and the character — of the place that would soon be my home away from home, I felt something that will never fade. I felt proud. I wasn’t even a student yet, and I felt invested in the success of this place. Noon came as we walked around campus with those purple drawstring bags, and I heard the Alma Mater for the first time. As cheesy as it sounds, that’s when I felt like I was home.

STRIPES acclimated me to the world of being a true Tiger. Saturdays in Death Valley taught me how to be part of a movement; I’ve laughed, cried, cussed, and celebrated in those stands. I witnessed the LSU Miracle Over Tennessee. I watched us beat Bama. I was a student when our team was arguably the best it’s ever been with a 13-0 record. I was there.

I was a student when the (almost) flag burning occurred, when we made the Anderson Cooper RidicuList for incidents I don’t want to bring up again, and when students (recently) decided studying without clothing was more conducive to memorization efforts. I was also here when the Finals Week videos gained serious notoriety and Alabama students reported the Championship Bounce as “inappropriate” on YouTube.

I have taken too many tests in the basement of Himes Hall to count. I have listened to countless lectures in Hodges, Coates and Allen Hall among several others. I’ll always have nightmares about falling up the stairs of Cox Auditorium on the first day of classes.

I have had the opportunity to join several student organizations to find my confidence and stake my claim in the flagship university of Louisiana. There have been moments when I felt so overwhelmed, I wanted to call it quits. What I’ve noticed more than anything is that the people I’ve met have been the motivating factor in my decision to stay for four years. Some I’ve fallen out of touch with, but each person impacted me and ultimately encouraged me to start and finish as a Tiger.

I have worked for incredible employers who have taught me more than I could ever put into words. They have also taken me in as their own. Thanks for that Aimee Frierson, Josh Garland, Jay Ducote, Kristen Morrison, Matt Dardenne and Joe Martin.

I’ve seen #LSU18 trending lately — I was also at LSU when Twitter wasn’t a popular social media platform…does that make me old?

Thanks JCW Productions for this gem.

Thanks JCW Productions for this gem.

Here’s my advice to #LSU18, #LSU17, #LSU16 and even #LSU15: Make it count. You won’t be here forever. And go visit Mike more; he seems to love the company.

Bleed purple and gold because you can and Love Purple, Live Gold because you should.

Geaux Tigers and Forever LSU.

 

My Country Deep Tour experience with David Nail and Sam Hunt

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the David Nail concert in association with the AT&T Country Deep Tour. I expected an amazing show complete with songs I could sing to the person next to me (singing with strangers happens to be my favorite part of shows). What I didn’t expect was how much of an experience AT&T Country Deep provided prior to and during the concert.

Country Deep Tour bus parked at The Varsity in Baton Rouge.

Country Deep Tour bus parked at The Varsity in Baton Rouge.

Before the doors opened, I had the chance to ask Sam Hunt some questions in the Country Deep Tour bus. We talked about his inspiration, his good luck charm, what he thinks about Baton Rouge and more. His energy was infectious, and I knew that he would bring everything he had to the stage in a few short hours. He reminded me of my best guy friend — funny, laid back and ready to have a good time. Click here to read the interview.

We walked into The Varsity and were immediately greeted by representatives from the Tour. We made “credential” badges before we even stepped into the venue, which made us feel even more like VIPs. Everyone loves a good selfie, after all.

We then made our way to the Meet and Greet with David Nail. The crowd was starting to grow, and we were excited to meet the show headliner.

Meet and Greet with David.

Meet and Greet with David.

The venue was now packed as the lights dimmed. Sam Hunt took the stage and sang his single, “Raised On It,” to Baton Rouge while the crowd sang the lyrics back to him. It’s been a long time since I’ve been blown away by the energy of band members. They were having an amazing time on stage, and it was obvious to everyone in the room.

From originals to covers, Sam Hunt sings a song for everyone. He explained during our interview that the band is influenced by each and every genre, which was evident as songs transformed from blues to country to R&B to rock. I wish I had a better way to describe how incredibly talented this group is, but I don’t think I’ll do justice through written word. You just have to see them live.

If you’re looking for a new artist, take some time to learn more about Sam here. His energy will pull you in, and his talent will keep you wanting more.

It was now time for David to take the stage. He sang the new, the old and the in between. It’s obvious that he wants the crowd to feel a connection to what he is playing and singing about. He pours his heart out with each song in his set, from stories of heartbreak to finding new love.

If I had to pick a favorite moment during his set, I have to admit that his acoustic intro to “Whatever She’s Got” gave me chills. This was the first time I saw David in concert, and it was a show I’ll never forget.

David Nail

David Nail

Even though I’m in the midst of my last set of finals as an LSU undergraduate, a night out to hear incredible musicianship acted as a well-deserved study break. The Country Deep Tour is a true fan experience, and I’m so grateful I was able to partner with AT&T U-Verse Country Deep campaign for this exclusive opportunity. Check out the site for the tour schedule, updates from David and Sam, and to read more about my experience in Baton Rouge.

The post was made in association with AT&T U-verse and the Country Deep Tour.