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 have Courtney Towner. Courtney hails from deep in the heart of Texas (where the women grow on trees) but these days finds herself designing, coding, and giving back in New York. Her friends back home may think her Big Apple life is ^2 fancy, but she still considers herself a “visitor from a strange land” making her way in the big city.
New York, NY
Who are you and what do you do?
I am a very curious person; I always have been. I like learning and making things. I’m a web designer, and in my current role at work, I get to build products with really talented teams for clients. I also volunteer regularly with Black Girls Code and with a food distribution program that operates out of Manor Fellowship Church on the West Side.
Time North of the Mason-Dixon line so far?
Almost 2 years.
What brought you to New York?
I came here for an internship. I had just made a pretty big switch in my career, and it was my first digital design opportunity.
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?
People always ask why I don’t have an accent. I have to explain to people that there is an audible difference between a Southern accent and a Texan accent. People usually don’t believe me…
Also, while in Texas recently, I discovered a place that only sells sweet tea in like 1 million different flavors. So yeah, that’s usually something I also have to explain: the existence of sweet tea.
Describe life in NYC as people at home picture it. Describe life in NYC as it actually is.
People think my life is super fancy and that I walk around in fashionable outfits and take cabs everywhere. They also have a very limited concept of distance. I once told my aunt that I was walking somewhere and it would take me 20 minutes to get there, and she was really shocked and confused that I would walk for so long.
My real life is not like a TV show. Before I moved to New York, I was really nervous that I would get lost in the mass of people. Yes, there are many people here, but just like any city you do what you need to do every day. I go to the grocery store (although I do not buy as many groceries as my Southern friends who can drive them home), I go to work, I work out, I volunteer, I try new places. I mean, my life is no different than theirs: It’s just saying I’m doing it in NYC makes everything more fancy. Like ^2 fancy. So they go to work and I go to work^2 fancy, if that makes sense.
Where do you consider home? Why?
I consider Texas home. I lived in Georgia for an equal amount of time, but while Atlanta will always have a special place in my heart, my roots are in Texas. I was born there.
Do you miss where you’re from? Do you see yourself going back?
Yes I miss it!! Although if I moved back to the South, I would probably go to Austin or Atlanta not Amarillo. Who knows though — life is funny.
Do you consider yourself a Southerner? Do you consider yourself a New Yorker? Why or why not?
I am not sure I will ever consider myself a New Yorker, but I do not really seek that as a goal. I am fine being an outsider to all of this. I guess I think of myself as “a visitor from a strange land,” and I am okay being that way while I’m here. I do consider myself a Texan, which to some people means a Southerner, and I don’t try to hide or subdue my “Southernness”. Although when I studied abroad in London, I made a conscious effort to stop saying “ya’ll,” and now I hardly ever use the word.
Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines New York for you?
Which food/drink/song/book/movie/artwork/quotation/gif/etc. defines where you’re from?
What is the best cure for homesickness?
Hugs. Usually when I feel homesick I just need a really great hug from someone (not the butt-stuck-out ones but the “bring it in for the real thing” kind).