Do you remember the Sesame Street song that goes "one of these things is not like the other, one of these things is not the same?" The song could have been about apples and oranges for all I know but those lyrics have stuck in my mind all these years later.
When I look back on my second year in Nashville, it's clear it has few similarities with my first year here.
1st year: practicing social worker, blogger, figuring out community and highway system
2nd year: licensed but non-practicing social worker, wrote a novel, blog, nanny, changed churches, still figuring out community and highway system
Both years I knew Nashville was exactly where I was supposed to be, no matter what. But do you know what's the biggest change of all about this second year here? I am exponentially happier.
Exactly two years ago, I drove out of Wheaton. For logistic reasons, I drove into Nashville the next morning and the moving truck followed shortly thereafter. It was the biggest leap of faith I'd ever taken and I had no idea what Nashville would hold for me.
I never expected to like this city. Before visiting my best friend and her new husband here more than 7 years ago, I believed the city was synonymous with the only genre I dislike: country music. I could never possibly fit in amongst rhinestones and cowboy hats, I thought. And then I came, saw, and experienced. I found Nashville was so much more than country music. What began as a yearly trip turned into twice a year and then thrice. I enjoyed spending time with Tracy, yes. But there was something about Nashville that kept beckoning me back.
Here I am, two Southern years later. A new and improved version, shall we say.
I am settled in who I am, confident, restful, content. There are momentary dips, yes. But overall, I am happy.
When you start fresh, you realize a lot of things about yourself. Strengths, weaknesses, when you rise to the challenge, when you don't. What you really want out of a community and what you're willing to do to get it. Which friends back home will keep in touch and what your communication preferences are. How you respond when family experiences difficulty and you can't be there to help or comfort. What you really, truly believe about God. And especially, what you want out of this life.
I've had to confront myself on some junk. I've embraced my introversion- and this has only made me more of a people person. I'm figuring out the balance of investing here, while maintaining relationships back home. I see my potential and some of the ways God is using me.
I see how following my dreams has molded me ever more into the woman God created.
Nashville gave me clarity about my goals. Surrounded by so many creatives, it's easy to see how long-held dreams transitioned into action plans before I even realized I was doing it.
I would have missed out on so much had I decided not to move.
May seems to be my personal catalyst. Last year at this time, I drafted my letter of resignation. When I started my job in June 2010, I was no longer sure if social work was for me. But if anything would keep me in social work, I knew it would be this position, the reason I'd decided to go into social work in the first place. Despite my long detour with hospice, I kept the dream of working with children with cancer in the back of my mind.
Even though I liked my new job, I finally knew I wasn't a social work lifer. I wasn't sure what I'd do instead but figured I had a few years to figure it out. Instead, the call to write grew steadily stronger until I could no longer ignore it. Next month will mark a year since leaving the children's hospital so I could focus on my dream.
Last week I sent out my first ever query for my novel. Another leap of faith, sending off something held close to my heart. There are no guarantees, just as I had no guarantee when I moved here or when I quit my job. But when I'm fearful of rejection, I remember the freedom that accompanies a confident (or even tentative) step forward. I don't have to have it all figured out.
It all makes me wonder: what on earth will my third year here hold?
*Linking up with Any May a Beautiful Change in support of Katherine Willis Pershey's book Any Day a Beautiful Change, which I cannot wait to read!