"How do you know each other?"
"What brought you to New Orleans?"
At least, that's how most of my initial conversations went in New Orleans. Seventy five strangers, all women, gathered in New Orleans for a mini weekend vacation. Most of us had never met in real life but we shared a few things in common: creativity, entrepreneurship, and a willingness to show up and be seen and heard by people just like us.
We are writers, designers, health and wellness gurus, photographers and makers that just so happen to listen to Kathleen Shannon + Emily Thompson on Being Boss, a podcast for creative entrepreneurs. We connected online but wanted to experience the magic of meeting people just like ourselves, in real life. So by train, planes and cars we flocked to NOLA.
I admit, it seems a little weird to go on a vacation with people you don't know. But there's a lot of power in seeking out and sitting down with people just like you. We all used the same words, laughed at the same things, and asked the same questions. We had similar struggles and aspirations in our businesses. I didn't need a buddy or sidekick...I was 100 percent comfortable no matter whose table I sat at or what group I took a walk with. Going with the flow never seemed easier. Every woman felt like a sister, an aunt, or a friend I was meant to meet in this lifetime.
While some of us were full-time entrepreneurs, others were hustling a 9-5 and a side business (like me). For the first time in a very long time, I didn't feel abnormal in owning a side business. I came to NOLA half-expecting to be exposed as "not enough" by all these other amazing women and business owners. Instead, New Orleans was the wash of worthiness I needed. I wasn't alone, weird, or behind in my business. I'm doing it right, and right alongside so many others. I didn't feel ashamed in the least to say "I don't really have it all figured out right now...But I'm getting there. And I'm making money doing what I love."
I wasn't the only hippie girl with woo-woo ways in New Orleans. As we wandered the notoriously mysterious and mystical French Quarter, we stopped for tarot card readings and crystal shopping. New Orleans is a Scorpio city: seductive and haunting. When you're there, you feel like someone is with you — following you — whispering a spell with hot breath, making you fall in frenzied infatuation with every decrepit building, drooping balcony, and dive bar. You get a sense that something else is there, and by the time you whip around to get a better look, it's gone. Now, days after leaving, I still feel the ache for New Orleans. She becomes a ghost in your memory — a lingering energy, like a dream you can't explain or shake.
I ate seafood for days. During one lunch, a girl who had never stepped foot in the south cried over her very first bowl of gumbo. That's how wide open our hearts were in New Orleans.
And the drinking. Oh, the drinking. Thanks to New Orleans, my heart may never be the same. Neither will my liver.
All in all, it was a trip I will never forget (well, for the most part...I forgot a few hours on Bourbon Street). I came back to all my client work with a bigger heart and a greater sense of possibility. As creatives, we are the makers and doers and rebels of this world. We are messy and wild and imperfect. But the work we do matters, no matter how small and "on the side" it may seem. It's vulnerable and scary to own your life as a creative. But, every vulnerable and scary moment propels us to create and serve in bigger, fuller ways.
We are the magic makers.