A gentle breeze carries wisps of hair away from my face. Leaning into it, I inhale the nostalgia of smokehouse aromas. All those winters when warm chilli filled me up. That first taste of Barbecue. That crispy hot wing that only Nashville serves. Early Friday evening, along with young families and grandpas and grandmas, Neil and I sat down to eat our first dinner together in Nashville since 2009. After discovering that our go-to southern spot had changed up its menu to offer smaller serving of all our favs, we ordered a few things to create a meat and three dinner between us. Last time we ate here, we were newly engaged fantasizing about our soon-to-be New England life.
Six years later, here I was again fantasizing about my next year o’ freedom. A year. A full year. The moment I think it, fears march in setting up camps. Are you sure? Will you find what your looking for? Will you freakout and go back again? Are you good enough? Will you be able to depend on Neil financially? Does this mean you are not strong enough to be a teacher? Does it mean you aren’t a good teacher? Does it mean that you won’t teach again?
Finding meaning: An obsession I can’t kick.
Six years ago, things were clear cut to me. I had my go-to restaurants for Southern, Thai, Indian, pizza, Mexican, and even popsicles. I knew I was going to teach for ten years before deciding my next step. I would marry in 2011 and live in Boston, hopefully gaining that classic accent in the process. I followed the curvy line on the map faithfully trusting the outcome would always be in my favor. At the time, Nashville was comfort with its luscious green lawns and rolling hills. A mix of nature and suburbia with a dash of city. Houses that instantly made you dream of starting up your own cooking show just like Paula Deen and sipping sweet tea on the porch. With road names like Old Hickory, and Elliston Place, and Church St, and Woodmont and Charlotte, who wouldn’t be transported into her own depiction of the great Southern novel.
Although a trip to Nashville is not one without a satiation of nostalgia, it’s hard to ignore the in-your-face gentrification, changes, whatever you want to classify it as that has happened and still happening in this city of mine. It occurred before I even landed into BNA airport. On the plane, I quickly discovered thanks to their trilling excitement that I was seated next to and in front of a bachelor and bachelorette party who’d chosen Nashville as their destination without having been there.
It used to be that Nashville was a tourist location not for the masses, but for those who loved country music. The airport alone was so small when I landed here to live that I was unsure I’d survive in such a small city. Never did I think that East Nashville would be over taken by so many hipsters that I wouldn’t fit-in in my thirties. It may sound like I long for the old days, but the truth is, I am so excited about the newness of this city. Farm-to-table has definitely arrived in Cashville. Boutiques filled with local vendors trying to make a difference in this world are popping like popcorn on the streets of Germantown. Food trucks are earning enough money to lease their own restaurants. Thriving, swelling, multiplying into a mini New York would be an understatement. New houses are being built in trendy walker friendly neighborhoods. Bike lanes now trace even the roads of Belle Meade and Bellevue. The same neighborhood where I jogged in the shoulder lane years before.
Change. Evolution. Inevitable. Why, then, do I sit in fears about the future? Transformation always appears to have occurred over night, but it took six years for all these changes to come to Nashville. It’s not done and I don’t know if it’ll ever be done. When I glance towards the first year I spent in Nashville, my evolution is glaringly obvious. Not only have I visibly aged gently, my beliefs and experience have meta-morphed into a better version of my self. I am a confident teacher. I am going gray. I am a confident swimmer who gifted her Finding Nemo kick-board to her 10 year old cousin. I own figure skates and can ride down hill on a bike now. Small feats; large impact.
So yes, I have 12 months in front of me. Each month a blank slate. Instead of swimming in fear, I could employ gratitude for it. Not many people can say they have no plans and that’s okay. Trusting the inevitable shift that comes slowly on some days and like lightning on others, I bow in front of the calendar at the beginning with me and me alone.