Loving & Hating Nashville

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The sun is warm and it heats up my body as I feel sweat form on my fingertips from the humidity. The birds are singing and the train roars by, ever so loud. I am sitting on the porch of a friend’s house in Nashville, enjoying some peace in what has been such a hard city for me to find comfort in. The green plants everywhere make me happy, as does all the light that fills the small home. The art and music and wine make this place homey and comforting. This house I’m staying in is an escape from my sad and empty apartment. 

I took everything I could from Nashville and in return, Nashville took everything out of me. I haven’t figured out how to make this city my home and I don’t know how to stay. I reject the idea that this is where I belong but Nashville pushes back, saying that it needs me, reminding me that I have a job I love and a group of friends who would do anything for me, a group of friends that are so rare in their beauty and love for one another. My relationship with Nashville is one where one is scared of commitment and the other is too clingy. 

When my therapist asked me what home looked like, I started crying, mourning the idea that maybe I will never know what home is. I believe home is safety and security, where you are happy and content. She then asked me what happiness looked like, and I said it was the ocean and the sun and laughter. I’ve convinced myself Nashville can be none of these things. 

What Nashville has done is teach me all my lessons the hard way. I did not know true loneliness until I moved to this city. I was forced to get out of my comfort zone to find community because I started to understand I was desperate for the company of people and to not feel alone. Because of Nashville, I found friends at different jobs, at university and made mutual connections. I found people who would come over to keep me company if I was lonely, friends who let me crash on their couch for weeks when I was between living situations, friends who joined me for drinks after heartbreak and people who sat with me through all the hard moments that life brings. I learned to accept help and to let people into my life, because these things are important. We need relationships and community.

In Nashville, I also learned that life is hard and the second I get on my feet, it seems to knock me down again. It’s been a constant battle with myself to not give up and, instead, to continue to stand up every time I get knocked down. Since it’s just me here, I have no other option but to keep going. Nashville also taught me how to be alone. 

I learned resilience and courage here too. Despite the hardships that I blame on this city, it doesn’t let me down in its consistency of finding small joys throughout the day. Bursts of happiness like the sun, friends who feel like family, and job opportunities I’ve really come to value. 

The tough times in this city have taught me to face myself too. Now I can look in the mirror, acknowledge that I have changed and that I need to learn who I am again. It has been hard and beautiful all at the same time. 

Despite these new lessons, I keep running away, planning trips to escape this city I refuse to embrace. I search for myself in other cities and countries because I’m afraid that if my nomadic life ceases I will lose too great a piece of myself, and that if I stop moving I will become a different person. 

Despite running away, Nashville gently reminds me that it is okay to stay. That it is important to stop and learn who I am. This city helped me see that every time I moved, I reinvented who I wanted to be, and that I had done this for so long I had forgotten what it was like to just be. 

I know eventually I will have to stop running to catch up to myself. I am becoming myself here, where it is still scary to think about stability and who I really am. 

The biggest gift Nashville gave me was to show me that I can move again by myself and be okay, but if I did, finding a new community would be important to thrive in any new place. 

This city is hard and painful and amazing and thrilling and constantly changing and I love it and hate it all at the same time. I’ll always be ready to move and I may never say Nashville is home, but it is where I live for now, and it is good.