“Rocky Top, You’ll Always Be/Home Sweet Home To Me”
Nashville got cool once I left. I try not to take this personally.
Growing up, my hometown was chain restaurants, malls, and country music. I spent my adolescence dreaming of leaving for a big city. A year after college, I did just that. Brooklyn offered the fast-paced, good-food, hip life I had always wanted.
While I was away, teaching and living and inventing myself in NYC, Nashville grew up and reinvented itself. Every trip home found it a little different, a little cooler. Now, Nashville is a foodie destination as much as it is a music town for every conceivable genre. No need to know how to line dance to have a good time, either. Nightlife caters to everything from an evening at the symphony to bluegrass to bass-dropping clubs.
I love going there.
Notice I said there, not home.
Because, indeed, Nashville is my hometown. But it is not where I call home anymore. The difference is important. I proudly own to being a GRITS (girl raised in the South). I still cheer for the University of Tennessee Volunteers, my alma mater. Heck, I even set my novels in Nashville because I love the vibe so much. But Nashville is not my home.
Maybe that’s why it’s easier to have fun there now. It’s a familiar destination. It’s also so different from my early memories that I can separate my childhood from the experience of being in Nashville.
My mother, bless her, prefers my trips home to consist of staying in her house and doing very little. Those can be nice visits with family. They can also be challenging, as is always the case when you’re surrounded by the people who knew previous versions of you. Versions of you who didn’t know how to embrace being A Bit Much. Versions that you still didn’t know fully yourself.
A friend of mine once said that family thinks of you as you were around 18 years old. That’s the you that cements in their minds. For this reason, it can feel like regression to be around your parents and siblings. Not only because they view you as a previous version of you, but also because it compels you to regress into that role.
Obviously, this isn’t true for everyone. Does it hit for you, though?
Some visits to Nashville are trips home to visit my parents. But some are trips to Nashville itself. Two weekends ago was one of the latter. I’ve gone to Nashville with friends, lovers, and alone. But Nashville on the 3rd Saturday in October 2022 was A Bit Much in the very best way. The Vols beat ‘Bama (if you know, you know). I finally lived out a scene from my first book and had a dinner date at Etch. Bluegrass, cover bands, and an epic concert at the Ryman Auditorium rounded out the weekend. And, I spent time out, enjoying being this version of me with my parents.
Being A Bit Much isn’t always angst and struggle. Sometimes it’s outsized joy. Sometimes it’s looking around at a moment and living it fully, loving it for what it is and not asking for more. Sometimes it’s your hometown as the perfect destination spot.
Sometimes, it’s just being at home in yourself enough to be comfortable anywhere.
What have you outgrown and yet returned to appreciate? It can be a place, behavior, character trait, hobby–anything. Describe something that you have come to embrace as you’ve grown into yourself.
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