Hello! Hi! Hey! Welcome. I can’t believe that you are finally reading this. “Finally” because this publication, this very page that you are reading now, is the culmination of all my hopes and dreams. That’s scary when you really stop and think about it. It’s enough to frighten me, that’s for sure. If only you knew, dear reader, how far I have journeyed to bring you these words. So here we are, at the beginning. These are The Elysian Stories. They do not belong to me, but I suppose that is the beauty of this project. My name is Kathryn, but familiar faces call me Katie. I am a writer; that much may seem obvious. I have almost exclusively written fiction throughout my life, finding comfort in my own imagination since I was a child. But these stories that I bring to you, The Elysian Stories, are something entirely different.
They are, for all intents and purposes, the telling of our tales, the ones that make us who we are. As I am struggling through this critical autobiography, it is dawning upon me in real time, that I cannot start The Elysian Stories without giving mine first. So much of this vision is wrapped up in my experiences and the people I have met, the people who have taught me and touched my heart. So I suppose at this point, it would be beneficial to introduce myself in full.
I was born and raised in this community. Aside from a short stint for college in Lafayette, Louisiana, the Northshore, our little cluster of parishes and cities, has been the entirety of my world. I have had much of my lifetime to come to appreciate everything that this place has to offer. The food, the festivals, the small town charm with a big, warm voice, the lakes, the rivers, the rolling fields of countryside, the people, mostly the people, have stuck with me. Perhaps that is due to the type of person that I am. I am a people person. The Elysian Stories was born simply out of my love for my fellow man.
I did not choose writing as my career path. I didn’t choose it because at the center of who I am, I am rabbit-hearted. I am often fearful of the unknown and writing did not seem to be the solid foundation upon which I could build a life. So I made the practical decision to become a social worker. Psychology and Social Work are, and will always be, the fire behind everything I do. I am a humanitarian. I have cherished every moment (and every dollar) I have spent learning the ins and outs of social justice and mental health. As a licensed social worker I have had the privilege of meeting a great many people. To experience their lives in their most raw and uncut moments alongside them. To hear their hopes and dreams, to lament their deepest regrets and pains. Through this process, I came to realize two indisputable truths in my mind.
One: People, all people, are inherently good, interesting, and worthy of love. Trust me on this one. The world is fallible. Both pain and success will change you. It will shape and mold your decisions and your responses but once you remove the layers of those experiences, each and every person has a unique story to tell.
Two: People want to be heard. They want to identify and be identified with. There is a very innate pleasure that comes from the tradition of story telling. Stories that come in many forms from the recounting of legends around an open fire, in the pages of our favorite books, in the exchange of testimonies between new acquaintances, in the information-age posts we share on social media. Our love of stories has not expired but has evolved. We consume those stories in dozens of different ways on a daily basis. And yet even with our expansive technology and ways of communicating we often live our lives with blinders on, constantly racing towards a bigger and better life experience. It becomes harder and harder to appreciate and connect with the world and the humans right before us.
I wanted to bridge that gap. It didn’t become apparent to me how this was possible until I began writing for a living. Two years ago, through the will of fate itself, I found myself writing again. I was given the Hail Mary opportunity to write for a magazine that focused on local events and people. It wasn’t everything that I had dreamed it would be, but it pushed me from my socially awkward bubble into the waves of this community. It made me realize how deeply interesting and complex the people of the Northshore truly are but also how many stories go untold.
I believe our lives are most accurately and beautifully represented in the experiences of the average person; in their hopes, in their losses, in their successes, yes, but also in their mistakes. It is a type of authenticity, to share your story with great honesty that we humans crave but fear so deeply. This is the heart of the Elysian Stories. “Elysian”, meaning paradise, a word we have claimed for our own here in the New Orleans Metro area, that connects us with our local culture and “Stories”, simply because this will be the focus of this publication. To showcase how varied and how incredible humanity is even right at our own doorstep.
This is a work in progress. I think it will always be. That is the nature of these types of things. We are built to evolve and to grow, that much is true. I can tell you with absolutely certainty, I do not know what The Elysian Stories will look like in a year, in five years, in ten. My hope is that others will come forward to share their stories with me. To let the people of this community hear you in your truth. I hope it will become such a movement that no one will remember who I am but that it will instead become an autonomous, living, breathing entity that binds us together. That is my hope. But for now, allow me to introduce you to our hidden gems. You will meet them as I meet them, with insatiable curiosity.