Mondays on Zelda & Scout are all about you! In a series we call “Just Folks,” we talk to Southerners who have found their way to New York about where they’re from, where they are now, and what home means to them.
This week, we heard from Sarah Sheppard! She is full of love for her North Carolina roots, but feels she was always destined for a big city life.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m a 25 year-old who grew up in the N.C. Piedmont. I attended UNC Chapel Hill, got a degree in journalism, and worked in agricultural advertising (yes, really) for a while before moving up here. I love all things pop culture (but especially movies, TV, and theater). I’m in a competitive karaoke league (Gotham City Karaoke, check it out.). I love to bake, but it’s harder to transport cupcakes to the office ’round here. I especially love my boyfriend, Jason, who I dragged up here.
Time North of the Mason-Dixon line so far?
Nearly 2 years (1 year, 10 months)
What brought you to New York?
I got laid off from my advertising job in my hometown and decided it was time for a major change. I dropped everything and moved to New York in October 2012. I worked freelance jobs and slung cupcakes at Sprinkles Bakery until I got my big break: advertising for Broadway shows. It’s high-stress, but it’s a lot of fun.
What’s the most common reaction when people learn where you’re from? What’s something about life in the South that you have to explain to non-Southerners?
Most common reaction (with surprise, occasional disappointment): “You don’t have an accent at all.”
I spend more time than I thought I would explaining how food might as well be another religion in the South. But there’s really not too much to explain, it’s just little things that come up…like that Bridal Luncheons and Bridal Portraits are a Southern thing, that the best desserts come from the South, the obsession with collegiate sports, etc.
Describe life in NYC as people at home picture it. Describe life in NYC as it actually is.
HOME: I was at a wedding in North Carolina where a couple turned to me and simply said, “We’re so jealous of your life.” I didn’t really know what to say, so I went with, “Thanks?” There’s a lot of assuming that I go to really glamorous parties all the time, eat really fancy food, and see a Broadway show every other night. And while I do those things occasionally, they are not the norm. There’s also some assumption that folks up here just aren’t as nice as folks down there.
My favorite way it’s described is by my college roommate, who just tells people: “There’s frozen key lime pie dipped in chocolate.” It’s true. It’s simple. It’s delicious.
ACTUAL: I spend hours on trains. I have no time to work out because of the hours I spend on trains. I once had a rat run over my foot in the middle of the sidewalk. All of my money goes toward rent, so I have no money for fancy meals or new clothes. I do occasionally go to a fancy client party (but I end up wearing the same dresses over and over again…see no money point above). I am so busy all the time, and even though it’s stressful, I kind of love it. I meet cool people and have made some really great friends. Also, New Yorkers are for the most part good to each other, and, dare I say it, better about it than Southerners.
Where do you consider home? Why?
I’ve been going back home a lot for weddings this summer, and every time I come back, my apartment in Brooklyn feels more and more like home. (Though sitting on a porch sipping an Arnold Palmer or a beer also feels like home to me, so clearly my affinities are split.)
Do you miss where you’re from? Do you see yourself going back?
It’s hard to see myself going back to that part of North Carolina specifically, or ever going back really long-term (if solely because I’m literally allergic to the South). I know I won’t be in NYC forever, but I’m not sure if a return to N.C. is in my future.
Do you consider yourself a Southerner? Do you consider yourself a New Yorker? Why or why not?
I consider myself a Southerner first and foremost…but one that’s always been destined for the rush of city life.
Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines New York for you? (choose as many or as few as you’d like)
Food: Seemingly unlimited vegetarian and vegan cuisine. New York is a vegetarian’s paradise compared to North Carolina.
To be more specific, the best Thai food of my life from Spicy Thai in Kensington defines New York for me. It’s a hole-in-the-wall place that I’m so proud to live around the corner from. I feel like it is a very New York thing to have my Thai/takeout place — a right of passage, almost.
Drink: Any alcoholic beverage crafted in Brooklyn
Song: “Thank You, Lord, for Sending Me the F Train,” Mike Doughty (The longer I live in Brooklyn, the more this song makes sense.)
This Quote: “There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man’s bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die.” – Walt Whitman
Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines where you’re from? (choose as many or as few as you’d like)
Song: “Carolina in my Mind,” James Taylor
Movie: This is a really weird response, but “Nebraska” reminded me of my family to such a strong degree that it’s my gut instinct.
This Quote: “Barbecue is the third rail of North Carolina politics.” – John Shelton Reed
What is the best cure for homesickness?
A night in New York that reminds you why you moved here in the first place. I suggest a night of experimental theatre (“Queen of the Night” is my new obsession), adventuring to a restaurant that would never exist in a million years in the South (Dirt Candy or Pomme Frites, anyone?), or finding a good view of the skyline and watching the sunset. Can’t get a view like that anywhere else.