From The 410 To The 504

From The 410 To The 504

Trading Crabs For Crawfish, And So Much More...
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I’ve lived in the same house, attended the same school, and been in the same city for 18 years. So naturally, when the college search began, I was ready to go wherever the process took me. Almost instantaneously, I fell in love with Tulane and New Orleans. I mean, how could you not? New Orleans is unlike any other city that I’ve ever been too. Visiting for the first time only strengthened my love for this magical place, as I rode the streetcar down St. Charles in awe of the towering mansions, restaurant-hopped all over the city for incredible meals, and strolled beneath the towering oak trees on the campus that I would one day call my home. While I could not be more excited to experience everything that this new place has to offer for the next 4+ years, I also recognize some major differences between the Crescent City and the Charm City of Baltimore, Maryland:

Crabs vs. Crawfish

If you hail from Baltimore or any of the surrounding areas, you know that feasting on crabs in the summertime is an absolute must. I don’t just mean crab in dips, soups, or cake form, but the real deal; a high pile of steamed crabs covered in Old Bay (a Chesapeake Bay flavored, all-purpose seasoning blend of 18 quality spices and herbs that goes well on chips, wings, and especially crabs). We crack em’ open to extract all of the meat ourselves, right there at the table. This task is a Maryland staple at the end of a long summer day, but down here in NOLA, people look perplexed when I even mention the idea. I’ve only been here for a little over two months, so I have yet to attend a crawfish boil, but you can bet that when April rolls around this seafood pro will be peeling crawfish like a native New Orleanian in no time.

All Four Seasons vs. A Lack Thereof

Northerners like me understand the cycle of winter, spring, summer, and fall. I typically spend my summer days relaxing at the beach or cooling off in the pool, then watch as the leaves begin to change into bright shades of orange and yellow in fall. The first snowfall usually hits around late November or early December, and then I shiver and suffer my way through winter by counting down the days until I can venture outside without a coat again. But down here in NOLA, the “cycle” goes a little more like this: feels like 105℉ one day, torrential downpours and flooding the next, then sunny and 82° but with 90% humidity the day after that. While this unpredictable weather might drive some people crazy, I love the fact that the temperature almost never drops below 40℉, even in the middle of winter. If you also attend a school in the South, you probably envisioned your future self on Snapchat in 60 degree weather as your friends up north down their sweaters and snow-boots. By the time January hits, all the native southerners will be pulling winter coats out of their closets, and I’ll be jumping for joy as my North Face gathers dust back home.

The Inner Harbor vs. The French Quarter

Back in Baltimore, when families go downtown, they typically go to the Inner Harbor. A stretch of land along the Chesapeake Bay, the harbor is filled with restaurants, shops, museums, and lots of boats. I’ve been going downtown to the Inner Harbor ever since I was a little kid, whether it be for a visit to the National Aquarium, a celebratory dinner, or just a family outing on a nice day. But after countless visits over the years, the Inner Harbor gradually became less exciting. So in coming to Tulane, I love having a new area of my city to explore. From the artwork on the fence of Jackson Square, to the neon signs on Bourbon Street, to a stroll along the Mississippi River, each day spent in the French Quarter is unlike the time before it. There’s always something new to see, hear, and of course, taste.

You can live in any city in America, but New Orleans is the only city that lives in you.

Cover Image Credit: Movoto

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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The System

The cross I was bearing, I built.

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SNA
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I was so young. Naive and oblivious to this whole other world. My comprehension of foster care was bunk beds lined up across a room and "Annie." So my understanding of me going into the system was based on ignorance and the belief that I "didn't belong."

I was 12 turning 13, and my mother had told the judge she didn't want me to come home because of my toxic behavior. I was defiant, disrespectful, and had anger towards her specifically, inexplicably. I spent my first year away from home. Crying every single day, my thin pillow saturated with tears left from kids from years past, but once again I felt I was "different," so I knew I'd be going home.

Waiting for phone calls that never came, letters never opened and visitation board that never had my name on it.

The confusion turned into sadness, sadness into anger, anger into pain and finally pain to understanding. Realizing that there was no savior to this story. That I was looking for a way out, instead of a way through. Uprooting me from my home school, friends, isolating me from my family, I felt true abandonment. Accustomed to being left, I didn't grow attachments. Separated myself from feeling because I knew I could never survive that type of heartbreak again.

My first heartbreak on this earth, my mother.

Birthdays never celebrated, existence never validated. I was left to be a ward of the state. How did I get here? To this point. I had a choice to make. I leave the shattered glass on the floor, my life fragmented by my own hands from displaced anger. The cross I was bearing, I built. No one's fault or no concise place to put the blame. So here I am devastated and broken. Shattered heart and a hardened soul.

Forced to make grown-up decisions but being told to stay in a child's place. Having others make choices about my life while sitting there bound by silence. No one caring to hear my side or understand my pain. I was a dollar sign. Another by-product of a broken system. Falling through the cracks, people missing the obvious signs. I spent two more years being taken care of by people who work shifts. Inside of houses that were not homes, surrounded by faces that were not family. Crowded but isolated.

Then one day in late August, I got a call from the social worker, that she wanted me back.

Confusion coupled with resentment. I had spent years cultivating my peace but not ever confronting my chaos. She was my storm, my 9/11, my tornado. When I saw her, I saw red. Like a bull in a ring, ready to fight without direction. Because just talking feels like a battlefield when you're used to surviving instead of living. I, always ready for a fight. She, always ready to defend. Both leaving with our guns smoking, not remembering who fired the first shot but bleeding from the bullet of the words.

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