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. 

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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.

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).