First, I am a librarian. After that, I am a photographer.
I know how to gut and filet a fish and how to pitch a tent in the rain. I can approximate time by reading the sun and know how to conserve energy while treading water if your boat has capsized at sea. I grew up in a place where basic survival skills could mean the difference between life and death, and where wild horses continue to roam freely on white sand beaches. I come from the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina, a string of mile-wide barrier islands infamously known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.
After high school, I left the Carolina coast for New Orleans and Tulane University. My first year at Tulane was marked by the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. I remember the sinking feeling I got in the pit of my stomach when, in August of 2006, near the end of my family’s drive down from North Carolina, I saw the many houses still with blue tarps on their roofs, and thought, terrified, “This is what it looks like a whole year later?”
Looking back though, I couldn’t have made a better decision than to attend college at Tulane, at that exact moment. In the wake of Katrina, the city welcomed me with open arms, taking me in as one of her own. And from that moment, I knew I was a New Orleanian, honored to be a part of this great city’s rebirth.
A year later, during the spring semester of my sophomore year, I lived abroad in Cochabamba, Bolivia. When not at university, I spent my time exploring the city and Bolivia’s incredibly geographically diverse regions, learning a new language, and volunteering at both an orphanage and a home for the mentally disabled.
While there, I did and saw so many amazing things. I white-water rafted in the Amazon. I slept in the campo. I learned how to roast guinea pigs and eat ears of corn with fresh cheese. I saw flamingos in the desert and chased after cigarette-stealing monkeys in the jungle. And I cried each time I held the infants at the orphanage where I worked.
My time in Bolivia irreversibly shaped the person I am today. I became the explorer and writer I knew I could. Moved by so many of the experiences I had while down there, I couldn’t help but put pen to paper, and write. Each new experience, each new acquaintance, was a unique story, begging to be shared. Returning to Tulane the next fall, I immediately enrolled in the Creative Writing program, where I spent my remaining two years of undergrad.
A year after living in Bolivia, I met the love of my life… at a kegger I threw for my twenty-first birthday in the white, two-story house I shared with seven Tulane frat guys on the corner of Broadway and Freret. That night, my future husband and I locked eyes across a crowded room and immediately fell in love. We moved in together a few months later, and in true New Orleans fashion, were married a few years later (12.12.12) under the live oaks before dancing to our reception with friends and family in a second line parade.
Since first attending Tulane, I have called New Orleans home. But, it has only been after years of living, working, exploring, and falling in love with this city, that I feel confident in saying that New Orleans, and nowhere else, IS my home. I may be from North Carolina, but I feel that I have always been a New Orleanian. And, all my travel, both domestic and international, has only cemented this further. There is no other place in the world like New Orleans, like my home.