Not Your Typical Love Story By Khadeidra Le Gendre
If you're looking for a romantic tell-all, swipe left*.
Maybe we don't give Tinder enough credit. Sure, the dating app is famous for awkward and downright bizarre encounters, it's been labeled superficial and vain, but on the bright side, it has the power to bring people together who otherwise would not have met. If nothing else, that redeeming quality led to the chance encounter that left a permanent imprint on my personal North Star.
I traveled to New Orleans for the first time in 2017; I decided on extending a business vacation to experience the culture and see more of the Big Easy. I'd never traveled solo before. As an only child, I'm used to being my own company - but usually in a familiar setting! This was prime time for panic, but it was also time to break out. I swiped right on a fellow first-time NOLA visitor and after a couple days of chatting (when I figured it was safe), we planned to meet in the early afternoon at the Royal Sonesta Hotel.
Sure enough, I was impressed by the elegance of the lobby, with its dazzling chandeliers, extravagant fountain and gorgeous fresh floral arrangements everywhere I turned. I tried to keep a straight face as my date (and I) stumbled past the outdoor swimming pool, after having one too many cocktails at the Pool Bar on the terrace. I digress here, only to strongly recommend The Hammock, or it's rum punch equivalent if you ever visit the Sonesta. If you're feeling extra bold, go ahead and ask for a dash of Angostura bitters: a botanically infused alcoholic mixture, made of water, 44.7% ethanol, gentian, herbs, and spices, made by House of Angostura in my native country, Trinidad & Tobago.We moved to the rooftop lounge since we were both sweating bullets at the pool bar. Being a designer, I was distracted by the beautiful French doors leading onto the opulent, covered wrought iron balcony. I loved the birds-eye view of the cloudless sky, overlooking the street musicians and foot traffic on Bourbon, Conti, and Bienville Streets.
As aesthetically intoxicating as this afternoon had been, I was soon reminded - humans, not places, make memories. That evening, at the Sonesta balcony, I met someone I'll never forget. For way too long, I'd survived with limiting beliefs that the things I dream of were reserved for special people. People who are somehow different than I, somehow more suited for a higher tier of privilege. At this pivotal moment in NOLA, I met one of those special people, and I learned that she WAS different, but not in the way I had expected.
Have you ever felt someone's presence before seeing them? Well, she waltzed through the doors with such a gust of warm energy – I just had to turn my attention to see whose aura permeated the balcony. It was an older woman, tall, regal, with long, wispy blonde hair and olive-toned skin, wearing a monochromatic white linen outfit. A long, thin cigarette in hand. Susie, as I later learned her name to be, grew up in Venezuela, just 6.8 miles off the northwest coast of Trinidad. As a child, she spent some time in my homeland, and eventually, she migrated to New York. Forgetting where I was, and unintentionally ignoring my male companion (boy, bye!), I listened to her tell her story. It sounded like the vision board I'd constructed a few weeks prior had come to life.
When she revealed that she'd lived on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue for 13 years – I DIED, since living in the city is my dream. As Susie spoke and gestured, I noticed her ring, which bore a crest. I assumed that she was born into affluence, but I was wrong. She had a clear vision of her desires and was daring enough to take action. When I asked about the ring, she told me that she went to a jeweler and had it custom made. I'm a genealogy nerd, and I have an image of my family's crest. Believing that family rings were generational gifts of the wealthy, I never thought to simply have a ring made! Susie coolly described how she walked into every single building from 96th Street to 76th, asking for availability, until she found a building with an apartment for rent. She caught my mouth hanging agape, it was apparent that I didn't yet understand simple laws of manifesting abundance. As she spoke, it all began to make sense. Abundance loves clarity and specificity. Thought patterns drive emotions. Emotions underpin beliefs, and beliefs determine actions. Actions lead to results.
Susie traveled extensively. I could have spent the rest of the MONTH on that porch, listening to her talk about how her career in movement education took her to South Africa and Tanzania. *Tanzania happens to be on my vision board.* Growing up, she hadn't known about the field of movement education - but as a curious, brazen-faced young'un, she'd always gone where she didn't ‘belong' until she belonged. I'd found bits of my past, and future self in her. Before I applied to grad school, I remember feeling that ‘I didn't belong' at such a prestigious institute. I overcame that self-limiting thought by applying anyway. I'm now an active member of the alumni community.
When Susie finally turned her attention to my date (I'd forgotten he was there), and asked bluntly, "Is he your man?" I had to giggle. He wasn't and he certainly wasn't going to be, although I am eternally grateful that the stars *and Tinder* conspired for us to meet. She'd been married several times. While the prevailing definition of a successful marriage hinges upon longevity, there's something to be said for the fortitude it takes to get up and love again. Susie's done that, time and again. I admire that fortitude, and it gives me hope, as I've struggled to rise again from love gone wrong.
This serendipitous meeting was an exercise in self-reflection and self-direction. An eye-opener to the thoughts I must reframe to be happy and successful on my own terms. A life lesson in NOLA, darling.
Khadeidra Le Gendre is the designer
of the New York-based Afro-Caribbean brand, Fly LeGendre.
She works full time as a Change Management Communications Consultant, working with senior leaders to implement sustainable enterprise-wide change, in large, complex organizations. She holds a BBA in Marketing & Communications from CUNY Baruch College and MA in Social-Organizational Psychology from Columbia University.