As my grandma (and all my family members and friends and anyone in my general vicinity) so wisely observed, I have a tendency to get REALLY stressed out about things that are REALLY not a big deal. One of the most challenging parts of my DukeEngage experience so far has been to fight this tendency, to beat back the anxiety that threatens to creep in like a constant cloud above my head. And, knock on wood, I think my time in NOLA has helped me to confront this challenge.
Take two weekends ago, for instance. The events of Friday, July 11 and Saturday, July 12 of 2014 could potentially have had severely traumatizing lifelong effects (see photo). Now, the old Carolyn might still be suffering from PTSD at the memory of that kitchen sink filling up uncontrollably with water and who knows what other unmentionable things from the drain. And spilling over the edge of the sink all over the floor. And threatening to seep out of the kitchen and drown the suite in putrid sinkwater. However, the new and (somewhat) improved Carolyn can look back at the events of that evening and pick out the good parts: the laughter on the trip to Wal-greens for cleaning supplies at 1:30 a.m., the good friends who washed all of our soiled dishes while we sat in shock, and the beautiful sunrise over the city that I watched while waiting for the plumber. While I don't deny my slight mental breakdown (my fellow DukeEngagers can attest to its occurrence), I didn't let the drain debacle pull me under. We cleaned it up, laughed it off, and moved on. Because really, it was just "small stuff".
My experiences at the SoFAB culinary camp have also forced me to recall the lessons my grandma sent to me. Once the camp got rolling, I soon realized that my carefully concocted plans for the activities just weren't going to cut it. Because sometimes, especially with 25 hungry kiddos bouncing off the walls, you have to throw your plans out the window and just go with the flow. For instance, one day we were playing a tag game out in the neutral ground (that's what they call medians in NOLA, don't ask me why). Before I knew what was happening, the kids were dropping like flies, howling and tearing off their shoes. As the frantic chorus of "FIRE ANTS!" echoed in my ears, I could have panicked. I could have been enraged that these creatures had completely distracted the campers and upset my plan for the day. But instead, I took a deep breath, pushed back the panic, and singlehandedly rescued all of the kids from being eaten alive - okay just kidding, we actually just ran back inside as quickly as possible and played Duck Duck Goose in the fellowship hall. As I sat in a circle with the kids and saw their smiles, I started to smile too at the memory of the episode outside. After all, it was just small stuff.
I'm so grateful that during my time here, I've been able to work on getting over the small stuff. I've been able to laugh with the kids at camp when the noodles go flying in every direction instead of into the pot. I've been able to hold a baby alligator without thinking too much about the alligator germs covering my hands. I've been able to walk through the French Quarter, watch amazing jazz musicians, and listen to inspiring stories from NOLA natives, all without worrying about the work I need to do later or what's on my to-do list for tomorrow. So I want to say thanks, Grandma - not for informing me that I'm crazy, but for helping me to appreciate the BIG stuff that makes New Orleans such an enchanting place to be.