On my way to work this morning, I found myself wiping tears with my t-shirt. They were a physical manifestation of a bubbling over of feelings. All kinds of feelings, not entirely consistent with one another. We humans are complex creatures.
Sometimes I forget that I wasn’t actually living here ten years ago, that I didn’t actually have to evacuate. I recognize that sounds glib in some ways. It’s not intended to gloss over the trauma that so many of my fellow New Orleanians experienced. I think it just speaks to my connection to my hometown, even as I sat 4,000 miles away, trying to grasp what was happening.
I’m grateful for this life. This colorful, messy, frustrating, rich in some ways, poor in others,interesting, conflict-filled life. One in which it’s clear that our desire to wrest control of nature is never to be entirely fulfilled. Where if we turn our heads for just a little too long, vines curl in through our windows (and sometimes our walls). Where the ground beneath our feet is really not too solid, and moves as it wishes. Where maintaining a manicured yard can be a full-time endeavor, and still may be not quite achieved. (I don’t even pretend to try.) Where something is in bloom, and color is to be found, year-round. Where water makes up a large proportion of our environment and sometimes, obviously, bests us.
I’m frustrated by the pain and struggles and inequities that so many New Orleanians face on a daily basis. I’m also frustrated by those who speak about the great opportunities that the post-storm environment has provided. And frustrated by the measures used to gauge our “progress.” By whose standards are we being measured? At what point does the use of these measures, and the efforts to meet them, also translate into a city that has been wiped of its unique characteristics and culture? Where is the balance between becoming any-city and being/becoming a place where all have the chance to thrive?
Ten years ago, things were different here. Some things were better, some were worse. Change in and of itself does not indicate progress. But is an inherent part of life and, sometimes, something to strive for.
A little less than ten years ago, it was not clear that the city would continue to exist. It was not clear that some neighborhoods would continue to exist. I think we should celebrate that the former did not come true – we’re here, we’re living. At the same time, we should, and do, mourn the lives lost. And work harder for the people and neighborhoods that we’ve failed thus far.
Like I said, complex.