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New Orleans, Je T’Aime

Blubbering through an unexpected exit from my happy place

The past few weeks, I’ve been fretting over writing this blog post. One reason is, I don’t like farewells. That’s why I appreciate a well-executed Irish Goodbye (aka ghost, aka French Goodbye, aka other names for leaving a party without telling anyone). But you can’t Irish on the city you love, can you? Obviously, you can, but it would be poor form. Clearly by now you’ve gathered that I’m leaving New Orleans. Not because the city is literally sinking, riddled with potholes and the local government is … well, messy. A lot of people are moving to other places for those reasons, and they’ll get no judgement from me. I get it. However, my husband Mark and I weren’t planning to leave or looking for opportunities elsewhere. Nonetheless, an opportunity found me, and it was too good to refuse. So, we are moving away from New Orleans.

We spent literal years visiting New Orleans and daydreaming about moving here before finally taking the leap to make it official. That was in 2014. It was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. The people of New Orleans welcomed, embraced and loved us. We’ve made cherished lifelong friendships here with people that truly have become our family. It’s going to hurt not having them in our day-to-day lives. As anyone who lives here knows, New Orleanians are there for each other. The generosity of spirit is rivaled only by the joie de vivre. The joie de vivre is probably what I’ll most miss about New Orleans. Everything and nothing is cause for celebration — even a funeral. I’m so glad we were here during COVID-19 lockdowns, because no other place understands how to find joy amid despair. This is a hard-won trait for New Orleanians.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m excited about a new chapter in a new city. We are moving to the Fort Myers and Naples area of Florida. I’m sure exploring a new place, enjoying beautiful beaches, the Everglades and around 264 days of sunshine per year will help curb my sadness over no longer living in this crazy place we’ve called home for nearly 10 years. But, I’d also be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that part of my heart is breaking.

As a writer, artist and history nerd with a love of absurdity and a (mostly former) almost debilitating people pleasing and perfectionist streak who has always felt a bit out of place, New Orleans made me feel as though I belong somewhere. Here, I have permission to be myself — geekiness, flaws and all. Here, I found my soul sisters (and brothers) The Merry Antoinettes, a Mardi Gras marching krewe dedicated to celebrating and satirizing the scandal and excess of the Court of Louis the XVI, for crying out loud. (Note: I’m coming back Jan. 26, 2024 to march in Krewe Bohème for Mardi Gras, so be sure to come out to the parade and see me.) Here, being an artsy, slightly damaged misfit isn’t something of which to be ashamed. “Normal” is what’s unusual in New Orleans.

It’s a deeply special and curative thing to be around a people who don’t expect perfection and, in fact, maybe prefer a few dents and cracks — in both the buildings and their inhabitants — because as we all know, nothing and nobody is perfect and attempting to be perfect brings with it a bottomless barrel of mental health problems. The compassionate acceptance and nonjudgement of New Orleanians has made me a better, kinder human being — to others, and myself. For that, plus eleventy billion other reasons, I am grateful.

Thank you doesn’t even begin to cover it, but I’m going to attempt a few words of thanks.

Thank you for following this blog for the past nine years. Thank you for your emails — both the (mostly) complimentary and the (occasional) critical ones. Thank you for adopting me. Thank you for accepting me for who I am. Thank you for not judging me, ever, but certainly not for this run-on sentence coming at you, nor when you see me sobbing uncontrollably while driving across I-10 away from the city, internalizing the Louis Armstrong song everyone else quotes when they leave this dysfunctional, magical, beautiful, loving place, because now I will really know what it means to miss New Orleans.

Thank you for everything. I’ll see you soon. I love you, New Orleans.



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P.S. Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? Are you glad you never have to read a new post in this blog space? Do you have Fort Myers or Naples recommendations? Email me at melanie@myneworleans.com, until Sept. 21, because Sept. 22 is my last day at this email address. If you want to follow along on my adventures as the new deputy editor at Gulfshore Life magazine in the Fort Myers and Naples, Florida area, follow me on Instagram at @melaniewarnerspencer.

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