I thought about sugar coating this post a bit, but that’s not how I want this blog to be. You get the honest truth – good, bad, easy, challenging, simple, complicated.
Almost exactly a year ago, I found myself standing in the middle of a crowd, lights flashing around me, shouts and music competing with each other. I think for a moment I was probably in shock. We had just landed, jumped in an Uber, and directed the driver to bring us to the party! Shortly after, we tumbled out into the streets, backpacks still on, and joined the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans. We made it just in time for the Krewe of Endymion. Beads and glow sticks whipped around me – and I realized I had to actually pay attention! I couldn’t be wrapped up in any other thoughts – fortunately.
I found my friend, Lauren in the crowd. She was a Mardi Gras veteran and was buying us hurricanes. We toasted – to change and to our own adventures and the party began!
We had bought our tickets probably 30 hours earlier. We didn’t know exactly where we were staying or what our plans were, but we were there! And before long, we were covered in beads, glitter, and lights, balancing drinks and fried food, and pushing through the crowds.
A few days earlier, I had finally made a break from an unhealthy relationship that had been hurting me and holding me back for years. I felt emotionally bruised and deeply exhausted, but I was done crying. People told me to stay at home for a few days – process, cry, eat gallons of ice cream, but honestly that’s not what I needed. It was not worth mourning. No. It was time for celebrating my first steps towards regaining my confidence and my sense of self-worth. So I needed a party! The biggest party imaginable…
I am so lucky to have supportive, understanding, and equally adventurous friends in my life, and Lauren is my ultimate rally-er! When I told her I wanted to get away and see something new, she took me to Mardi Gras. No questions. Seriously! I honestly don’t think we asked ourselves a single logical question! And for that, I will always be grateful.
We spent our nights there – as you can imagine – catching beads, dancing, singing, and making new friends whose names we’d forget the next day. I thought I would find it completely overwhelming, but somehow it wasn’t! People were friendly, the music was amazing, and the drinks were cold and plentiful! Eventually, we found our friend Charlie, who was – somewhat miraculously and incredibly hilariously – navigating Mardi Gras on a knee scooter, and had invited us to stay with him and his friends.
During the day, we planned our sight-seeing around meals (obviously!): beignets for breakfast, then gumbo, spicy red beans and rice, jambalaya… Eating a beignet at Cafe du Monde had been one of my life goals anyway, so this was really a win-win trip for me! It was every bit at satisfying and sugary as I had hoped.
Leaving Cafe du Monde was a turning point for me: I had just checked off one of my life goals! I was seeing a new city. I was with friends who were relieved for me, and who really cared about my health and happiness. I felt truly excited and free for the first time in… honestly, too long.
On the way to meet up with our friends, we stopped to have our Tarot cards read by a woman in Jackson Square. Believe what you will about Tarot, but the woman told me all I needed to hear. She looked in my eyes and told me, “The mountain is behind you.”
So here’s what I envision now when I think of New Orleans: I remember fried food and bright blue drinks. I hear music everywhere, songs overlapping one another. I think of sticky air and crowded streets. I feel beads crunching under my feet. And I feel such relief – like that weightless sensation of running down the last few steep steps of a mountain – that is now behind you.