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.

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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).

Why I’m proud to be a ‘Mississippi Girl’

I’m southern and I like it. 

My accent rarely comes out, and I believe that surprises people. I’m from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which I consider to be the “melting pot” of the state. There is a pretty diverse ethnic makeup, and due to the casinos there are also a significant number of transplants–temporary and permanent. Most assume that a small-town girl from the ‘Sip should don a serious drawl.

My plan with this post is not to compare MS to other states…that’s pointless. My intention is to explain why Mississippi is so important to me; this explanation could and will most likely differ from the next Mississippian.

I grew up in a very small area, St. Martin, where annexation always threatened the humbled community boasting half of Washington Avenue, half of Lemoyne Boulevard, Latimer, a library AND a community center. Ocean Springs and d’Iberville (the cities surrounding us) acted as taunting older siblings. St. Martin doesn’t have a “Welcome To” sign, but we do have amazing sausage biscuits at the BP/Fayard’s down the street.

Growing up and throughout high school, I didn’t have the opportunity to take advantage of the beauty my town–or the MS Gulf Coast–has to offer. I’m not talking about the Beau Rivage, kids. The barrier islands that surround the Gulf Coast are just an example of the little secrets Mississippians hide from the masses. A short boat ride will bring you to a number of islands where you can lose yourself in the beauty of the Mississippi Sound.

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I never went to clubs or bars in high school. Instead I went to Krohn Creek, CC’s, Sugar Gate, and places that I can’t remember the names of to sit around a massive fire, drink cheap beer and make up excuses to tell my mom as to why I was late when I got in. I worked at a restaurant every weekend that showcased blues artists, and my love for the Mississippi blues was subconsciously born.

You see, my home state has a bad reputation. I honestly think it’s because no one takes the time to learn more about it. The music, the food, the people (locals in particular) and the incredible landscapes can’t be duplicated. From the delta to the coast, there’s something for every visitor. I like to eat local, drink local and give back to my community as much as I can. Faulkner, B.B. King, and even Oprah consider it home.

My advice? Take the time to appreciate where you are right now. I’m in Baton Rouge as a student, but I have grown to love what the capitol has to offer its inhabitants. I miss home daily, sure. Of course my family and friends have something to do with that. Honestly what I miss most is the authenticity of the people I run into who were born, raised, and learned to live and love in Mississippi. I have a feeling the Magnolia State will always be a place I consider my home.