I have been wanting to go to Nashville for a long time. I assumed since that is where country music came from, that would be where country men come from, and we all know cowboy butts drive me nuts. I was sorely disappointed when I found out that wasn’t the case.
Nashville is like most other cities of its size, bustling and busy, with some tourism sprinkled in and a charm of its own once the sun goes down. But my story doesn’t start there; mine starts with a rude phone call with the hotel where I was promptly told “check in is at 3 pm.”
“Can I park my car and check in later?” I start to ask before being cut off.
“Check in is at 3 pm.”
Well then. I googled “cute towns near Nashville” and figured I would go make the most of the extra 3 hours I had to kill. Lynchburg, TN was the first to come up. “Hah!” I thought to myself, “let’s go see the birthplace of the whisky that ruined my relationship, psh, yeah right.”
Then I realized something important. I just laughed about it. I laughed about something that has only brought me anger and sadness for the first time since it happened. Not a fake, laugh-it-off-in-front-of-my-friends-like-it-doesn’t-matter laugh. A true, genuine laugh of making light of an unfortunate circumstance.
A feeling of relief rushed over me, a feeling of letting go. I felt nothing but happiness and joy, like the path I am on is starting to feel right. These feelings of happiness weren’t just for me, but for him as well. I no longer felt the need for negative emotions. I am not jealous of the next girl he takes home. I do not regret our relationship or how it ended. I am not angry for the things he did, and I am not ashamed of how I responded.
Lynchburg it was. I started off on the hour and a half drive South and drifted into deep thought. I was thinking about what I should write in my blog about this trip; I had great ideas, but I wasn’t sure if it’s the right time to express them. Was this feeling of relief and happiness towards another person the end of the grieving process? Did I forgive him and myself for everything that happened or was this just another random emotion in a long and winding roller coaster of the ending of an era and the beginning of a new one?
I arrived in Lynchburg to find an overwhelming number of rules, procedures and warnings to get into the Jack Daniels’s facility. You had to reserve a spot online, pay to view the property, and what was I doing here anyways, I hate whiskey and am gluten–free nonetheless. Maybe it was a mistake to come, what was I trying to prove anyways?
Main street drew my attention and I walked around in the rain for a bit, looking at knick knacks I would never buy and again thinking about life. Jack Daniel’s. I’d never drink it, but we were always throwing away empty bottles. Can’t have a shot without a beer to wash it down, so let’s make sure to stock the fridge.
I’ve always struggled a bit with alcohol. If it is around, I will drink it. But let’s not only tell one side of the story, I am that way with all consumable products. If there is food in the fridge, I eat more. If I have books I haven’t read, I read faster. If there is tea in the waiting room, I drink it. I know this about myself and have made the valid conclusion that I have a minimalist mindset. I like to only have what I need, and if there is excess, I feel the need to consume it, or get rid of it. There is an easy solution to this problem, simply don’t have it around.
This works great, until other people enter the mix. We can’t control how others were raised, and we can’t let our mindset be the only one. My parents didn’t drink that often, and when special occasions came around they would make a special trip to the liquor store and get only what they planned to drink that day. His parents have a garage fridge that is stocked with different beers leftover from previous occasions, and keep a few different bottles of liquor on hand. Two completely acceptable ways of living, with two completely different types of families.
I found myself in the Lynchburg Winery, sampling wines. What the winery lacks in customer service and professional font styles, they make up for in their wines. The delicious southern flavors including peach, strawberry and muscadine give the white’s a refreshing and crisp summertime feel. I grabbed a bottle to go and headed back towards Nashville.
When I arrived in Nashville, I checked into my room after a 35 minute wait and the front desk agent walking out to have a cigarette because she “just can’t take this white people shit anymore.” I immediately started looking for food. I wanted something local and decided Nashville hot chicken would be it, but when I found out the only gluten-free option in the city was simply unbreaded chicken with sauce on it, I decided on wings instead. Spicy means something different in the South (I also want to add that I ate my spicy hot wings the next afternoon for lunch in 98 degree heat in Kentucky and almost melted).
After finishing my hot wings I headed out to Broadway. It was a Wednesday, so I figured it would be a quieter night, but when the shuttle dropped me off, it was already packed, and the sun wasn’t even all the way down yet.
I walked up and down Broadway, overwhelmed by the number of options I had to choose from. Each bar appeared to have a band, sometimes even 2 or 3 bands, and each establishment I passed was a bar. 5 blocks straight of bars, bands, neon signs and flashing lights. Heaven for the heart-broken.
I sampled a few different bands and got a cider. I started chatting with the guy next to me and found that he was from none other than, Boulder, Colorado. Every time I think I have escaped, I meet people from back home. Even weirder, he hung out with the same people that I did. I had to run.
I walked around for a bit and found myself balancing on a wall 5 feet off the ground, staring at the Country Music Hall of Fame and repeating to my best friend “when we get off the phone, remind me not to jump down off of this.” We chatted about life and why it is so hard to figure out where we want to go, who we want to be and what we want to do.
She reminded me not to jump and encouraged me to try one more bar. I made a loop and didn’t see anything that caught my eye, she told me to try again. I made one more loop and my attention was caught by a band playing in a big open bar with high ceilings and a killer light show. I figured there was probably a cover and said if there was I would just go home. They checked my ID and in I went.
“Damn, now I guess I have to get a drink,” I thought to myself as I walked through the crowded dance floor. Luckily for me, they had the local cider I had been wanting to try. I snagged a seat next to this cute couple having some appetizers and tapped my foot to the beat of a song I’d never heard before. I looked up the band and found they had a few original songs, none that I’d heard before, but they seemed to be pretty popular. (See their website here).
The band went for a short break and I felt a tap on my shoulder, “are you waiting for someone?” I nodded no and looked around, “why? is someone waiting for me?”
A few minutes pass and I hear “are you really here alone?” from behind me. I turn around to face a slightly intoxicated middle aged woman with her husband staring at me.
“Yep, just me,” I stated, immediately wondering if I should have used the “I’m waiting for my friends” or “my boyfriend is the bouncer” lines so I’m not kidnapped or date–raped (you never know with middle aged women).
“How can you just do that? Go out alone?” She asks.
“I dunno. You just do,” I awkwardly answered, not knowing how to explain to this lady that you can do whatever you want, you just have to do it. She stuck up her nose and turned away, shortly after, they left without saying a word more.
Then it hit me. I am that courageous, independent person that everyone is afraid of. The one everyone else looks at and says “how does she do it?” I’ve never been one to follow the crowd, and I’ve always danced to the beat of my own drum, but I never saw myself as someone who danced through the crowd to the beat of my own drum.
I am no longer afraid. I am letting go of fear. I am no longer broken. I am letting go of the person I thought I was when I didn’t think I could be the person I am.
I did 4 things in Nashville that made me remember who I am:
I danced. Poorly, with no rhythm, and mostly with my eyes closed so I couldnt’ see the people staring at me for looking like a weirdo.
I said no. I stood up for myself and for my rights and told someone “no” with confidence and compassion for myself.
I talked to strangers. I made friends with Canadians and introduced myself to the band members.
I laid down in a stadium parking lot and felt joy radiate through my body.
You don’t need to be complete to travel, you just need to be willing to learn.