Once a week or so, I get nearly teary eyed, my chest tight with pride and contentment. And it's not because of Tessa, if that's what you're thinking. It's because of Nashville. Sailing along these streets, plodding through its parks, sitting at its coffee shops, chatting with its shop owners, I am hopelessly in love.
Twenty-nine years into my relationship with this place, I've grown to love it in a way that's emotional, protective and proud, not unlike the way I love Tessa. It's where I've lived my whole life. As with all the best love affairs, I've weathered long periods of doubt, felt panicked and trapped. Time keeps passing, and I find myself thinking, God, I've maybe lived nearly half my life already, here in this town. I've had tough moments when I've felt forced to throw some of my dreams overboard completely; basically all the ones that involved getting the hell out of dodge and living somewhere hectic and smelly and buzzing all night. But I've come to realize lots of things about myself and my sweet-smelling town, most of all that where I live has almost nothing to do with how much I can accomplish in life or how happy I'll be or not be. And I've made sacrifices for love, as corny as that might sound, that I don't regret making.
I wrote on the "About" page of this blog that living in the same city your whole life is like losing your virginity to your husband, in that it's virtuous and romantic but also pretty much a big bummer. (Hello! Big-time missing out!) For the record, I did live in Knoxville for six years—four years for college at UT and two years after that to work at Metro Pulse. After I was fired from that job (because I was young and stupid and thought life was supposed to be fair), I went home to our apartment and lay in Nekos's arms and cried my eyes out, stopping only when he suggested we pack our things and move (three hours away) to Nashville. He was waiting tables at a pizza place and was eager to get a fresh start in a place with an actual job market, plus he knew my mom and dad lived here. Now that he's here, I know I'll never convince him to leave. It's hard to believe he's not from here, the way he navigates Nashville's backroads (I ask him for directions constantly) and seems to be buddies with all its barflies. So here we are. We bought a house here, made our little girl here and have forged our friendships and careers here. Life could throw a curveball, but I think here is where we'll stay.
Over time, my panicked feelings about living here all my life have been eased by travel, which has only strengthened my feelings about Nashville's own specific sweetnesses. From the window of an airplane, Nashville doesn't look like much of anything; in fact it looks downright depressing compared to the lights of New York City at night or the grandeur of the Grand Canyon at 30,000 feet. Not until you're inside this place does it really speak to you. Sometimes it even sings to you, being Music City after all.
Speaking of New York, I spent my teenage years mooning over a map, putting a hopeful pin in the Big Apple, but that didn't pan out. It could have panned out, had I shrugged off Nekos and the love we felt for one another. But I wanted a partner most, more than any other far-flung dream I ever had. And he never wanted to live in New York; he wanted to stay in the South where he can eat meat-and-threes and watch SEC football and not get overshadowed by too much of everything. So here we'll stay. And, at least for today, I am really happy about that.
If you live in Nashville, what are your favorite things about this place? Or, if not, what do you love about where you live?
*The title of this post is from the Avett Brothers song "Smoke in Our Lights." Sigh. Suuuch a good song.