I’ve lived in the Bay Area for 10 years now. Lately, I’ve found myself searching for a sense of happiness, creativity and compassion. I know they’re there, just hard to find hidden under all the commutes, sky rocketing rents, school loans, and private school costs.
It’s easy to get caught up in a lifestyle and forget that success and happiness aren’t correlated to wealth and job status. We forget, because we’re stuck in a bubble of apps and teslas; neighborhoods and schools. So where did that ‘easiness’; that happiness go?
I know where. New Orleans…and I’m going to tell you how I found it…
I had enjoyed an amazing few days before I was introduced to the Nola way of life. I went to restaurants where I had incredible food and listened to amazing bands. I had breakfast every morning at Cafe Du Monde and ate my beignets on a bench beside the Mississippi River. I walked to Bourbon street and up and down Frenchman completely oblivious about what lies behind the scenes here until my eyes, mind and heart were opened to it.
They have many names: street performers, busker, peddlers-but artists is the best way to describe them. Before this trip, I didn’t really think much about them. Sometimes one would catch my attention for a second, maybe two-I’d smile and move on. I shamefully assume most were destitute and not once did it ever occur to me that some might actually love what they do.
I was lucky to meet a few humans whose passion for entertaining and performing bravely conquers: my, our, and your judgements about their circumstance and life. These are amazingly talented individuals who happen to make a living doing what they do best in the street. Passerbyers come and go, but day to day they remain-making us laugh, cry, and revel in awe at each individual talent we experience.
How many of us, truly love what we do? How many of us not only develop and practice our talents; but also put them to use every day for our job? Few. Sure we’re talented at our jobs, but are we passionate about it? Do we get excited to see the consequences of our job? Do we contribute to other people’s lives in a positive way? I don’t think a lot of us do. Take away the Street Artists of Nola and New Orleans isn’t the same.
Street artists get a bad rap. It’s unfair. I spent a day with someone whose passion for life and his job inspired me in so many ways. I sat next to him on Frenchmen Street as he wrote poems for people and greeted them with acceptance and friendliness. I watched as people throughout the city recognized him; shook his hand; and/or gave him a high five (in one case we got a small piece of pie!). I saw him help others in need; his compassion and willinginess to share what he can struck me in a beautiful way.
I leave New Orleans with a new awareness that a job is just a fucking job. A human performing on the street is no different than the CEO of a Corporation or a Janitor at a school. It shouldn’t be what defines us with others. Because it doesn’t matter what we have or what we do…what matters is how we live. Live and love what you do, humans. Be kind and good to each other…Life is too short to do anything else.