Morgan Cogswell ::: Ministry director ::: Athens, Georgia
It's funny how relationships change. I would never have imagined I'd be having coffee with Morgan Cogswell, my Orientation Leader at the University of Georgia (and by proxy, practically the first person I met at college), in Williamsburg, Brooklyn 7 years later. It was clear from first meeting Morgan that she is a complete original. She is witty & confident & candid. She was a huge influence to me in my college years and is largely responsible for me joining a sorority (yes, that happened) and getting into web design. About a month ago, she messaged me that she was coming to visit New York. Fast-forward to today and we're having coffee, eating breakfast sandwiches, and dancing to a slew of amazing tracks including "No Diggity, No Doubt," "Scrubs," and various TLC songs.
What was the impetus for your trip to NYC?
I came to New York City on a whim, really. I'd never been on vacation by myself before and the idea of wandering a huge city alone, listening to the street noises and walking past thousands of strangers just seemed like the kind of trip I needed! Athens and the south in general can feel small, and I wanted to remind myself that there's a big world out there and that not everything in my immediate sphere is so pressing or impending. Also, any excuse to eat whatever I want, whenever want: that's basically the definition of vacation.
What do you love & hate about living in Athens, Georgia?
I have lived in Athens for almost 10 years now. That seems insane to even write that! But after spending 10 years in a place, it can be hard to separate yourself from it. I don't mean it in an existential "who am I?" kind of way... But Athens is such a part of who I am that taking a break and experiencing something completely new has allowed me to reconnect some parts of myself that I've been ignoring. The need for rest and adventure, for one! That's what's funny about that little city--- the things I love are sometimes the things I hate. Like seeing people I know EVERYWHERE. Sometimes it's awesome and you're like "yes! I love it here! I love these people and they're everywhere, everything is so awesome!" And other times, you just like... Wanna go get a smoothie in your sweat pants without speaking to anyone. It's the south! It can be so friendly but also so overbearing at times. I loved being able to wander the streets of NYC and not see anyone I knew, (except for Yvette Nicole Brown from Community. She was the only one I knew. I had a fangirl moment for sure.)
You were a graphic designer for 5+ years, but now you work with high schoolers at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Tell me about that career transition.
I haven't totally transitioned away from graphic design-- I still do all the design and web work for the church, and I have my hand in a number of design projects, but for all intents and purposes my corporate design life is over! I love that I have the freedom to create whatever I want. I can join in on projects that inspire me or help a friend out with a new idea or venture. Because it's not my full time job, I can be a little more particular about my creative time and how I spend it. Granted... My work with the high schoolers is a never-ending, energy-consuming endeavor, but it's awesome-- I think their youth and wonderment about the world helps me as much (if not more) as I might be helping them. The career switch actually opened me up to doing projects I really love and spending time with people I adore, instead of at a desk doing projects for other people. It's been fabulous.
Your blog has been such a constant in your personal & professional life. Talk about how it's evolved since you first started it.
Oh, the blog. Goodness. I've been writing on it since my junior year of high school, which is more than 10 years. It's actually the only thing I've done that's longer than living in Athens! It started out as a way to digest my thoughts about high school and chick flicks, but it's become so much more. In college, it was very visual-heavy. I went everywhere with my camera and thought for a while I'd be a photographer. There are years of the blog and pages and pages of my little corner of the Internet that are mostly pictures. It's always been fun to go back through old posts... But recently I've been writing more. If I had to be honest, writing is what I really enjoy the most! More than photography and more than even design, I love to write.
Usually the blog is just funny things or silly stories or the occasional recipe that I've mastered. It's a lot of music I'm discovering and small snippets of life. I often joke that only my parents would find it stimulating, but in truth I've found that--especially with the shift to writing more and more personally-- a lot of people read it! It's bizarre. It's akin to the first time you go skinny dipping--- It's terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time!
Describe your most recent series "The Art of Dating, Dying, and Everything In Between."
The series is is in part why I decided to take the trip to New York. I've been single for a few years now and as I get older and am beginning to understand myself and life a little more... Well I've just learned a lot! The series is about that exploration and learning. When I started writing the series, I kind of knew where I was going with it, but not in great detail. I'd just sit and write and let words spill out. I didn't edit too much... Usually just letting yourself go for it is the best. I think I'll write 2 more installments and then wait for my next existential crisis haha!
Has the response from family & friends surprised you at all?
It's been interesting to write things that are so vulnerable--- I have to constantly remind myself that really, the blog is for me. Even if no one else reads it, it's mine. It's my corner of the Internet where I can write and process and put pen to ink about the things rattling around in my head. Response from other people is icing on the cake-- and it's been totally surprising! I think people love that "oh you feel that way too?" moment... Someone else far away going through a similar thing is cathartic. Especially for me. The blog lets me bear witness about my life (the written embodiment of yelling "I'm here, world!" From the top of a mountain) and then there's a gush of peace when you realize you're not alone. Friends, family, strangers... Lots of people have responded to my words. It's been refreshing and heartwarming and really lovely. Writing something personal on the Internet can be dumb or dangerous, but for me it's been the best thing. Though, I do think sometimes what I write can worry my mom and she'll ask me if I'm happy--- but I just laugh and say "Yes! But I need to write it out. It's part of it."