How do you make lemons out of lemonade?
Last February I made my way North from New Orleans to brave the cold to interview for rabbinical school. After the interview and the grueling Hebrew exams (which destroyed my confidence and made me wonder, “Did I learn ANYTHING growing up Jewish?), I met up with my old friend Jess in Center City. We ate lunch and discussed the possibility of my moving back to Philadelphia.
As a college student I loved to spend time in Center City. But as I walked around on that cold, sunless February day, I had only one thought that kept repeating in my mind,
“I don’t want to live here.”
But here we are. It’s 2014 and I’m sitting here in Mt. Airy Philadelphia. I haven’t written anything of substance since Valentine’s Day of 2013 (see two posts below) for several reasons.
I could give you a comprehensive list of
excuses reasons why I haven’t written in this blog for practically an entire year, but it all boils down to one large one:
1. Leaving New Orleans has felt like my insides have been gutted.
Pain makes great art, it’s true, however I was so sick and tired of hearing my own voice crying about how miserable I was to leave. And if I was sick of hearing myself, how would everyone else feel?
So I kept it to myself as best I could and confided with close friends about how heart-broken I felt. I’m sure most people could tell that I was homesick, but up until now I made a point of not telling too many people. I didn’t think others would understand.It’s a rare thing to fall in love with a city. Not many people know the feeling. I was too hurt to open myself to the criticism that comes from those who are fine living Wherever, USA.
But you know what? It’s f-ing January. JANUARY. And I still hate living here.
It’s really not Philadelphia’s fault. I just don’t belong here.
There’s another reason I haven’t written or spoken about this. I have many reasons to be grateful that I’m back in Philadelphia. My family and my closest friends are here. I love what I’m studying in rabbinical school. I’m a part of a Jewish community now that nourishes me spiritually and intellectually. I wouldn’t want to study anywhere else.
Yet still, with all the positives, my soul is lonely. I miss the streets that would vibrate with the sensations of New Orleans. I miss the brightly painted homes. I miss the attitude of laissez les bons temps rouler. I miss the way people spoke to each other in line at the grocery. I miss the art that circled around me at every moment. I miss the Mississippi river. I miss the sound of the streetcar rambling past me. I miss the Oak trees down Carrollton. I miss eccentricity. I miss the lizards that would run past my windowsill. I miss hearing the local commercials. I miss watching Saints coverage. I miss the bakery near my house. I miss being able to go to a coffee shop at 8 p.m. I miss the dog park. I miss the Mardi Gras Indians. I miss the warmth of the seasons. I miss the local produce. I miss the slang. I miss everything. Everything.
When I lived in New Orleans, I felt like I was a part of something. All of us, we all loved New Orleans, and we all belonged to her. It was up to us to take care of her and shelter her from the outsiders who didn’t understand why the city which care forgot could and would and indeed thrived.
I’m trying really hard. I’m taking my lemons, peeling the bright yellow skin, pursing my lips against the sour, and squeezing what I can. Every now and again there is sugar. Steven, my fiance, my lifeline. Shabbat dinners with our close friends. My beautiful baby niece. My baby nephew calling “Aunt Nini”. I’ve been told it can take a long time to become adjusted. But I don’t know if I want to adjust. I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to lose it. I’m holding on to what I found in New Orleans. To the person I became because of New Orleans.
Six years feels like a prison sentence.