Journal 17 | 10 Personal Wins From My First Year in Nashville

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How? How has it already been a year?! I’m no expert on time, but I’m damn-near certain it’s not supposed to move this quickly.

Rather than get all soft and sentimental about what have easily been the most formative twelve months of my life, I’m instead going to break down this last year into a list of my proudest accomplishments in Nashville so far. If sappy is what you’re looking for, however, worry not. I’ve got plenty of posts in the archive to curb your craving for emotion. Like this old one reflecting on my big move to Tennessee, or this recent one thanking my apartment for being the best temporary home. (Yes, I wrote a love letter to my downtown studio apartment. No, judgment isn’t welcome here.)

So keep chugging along for a relatable and hopefully inspiring reflection on my first year away from the comforts and ease of home. Warning, it’s a long one.

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I’m now an expert Ikea furniture builder. Anyone who’s built furniture from the much-adored Swedish company knows that this is a mighty declaration. No one is an expert Ikea furniture builder — save for those you actually hire to build said Ikea furniture. And yet, here I am. Expert builder.

In this last year I’ve managed to successfully follow their near-impossible-to-read instructions (No words? Why are there no words?! What does this picture mean?!) and build three substantial pieces of furniture — the box spring/bedframe on which I sleep each night, my three-piece outdoor chat set, and a bookcase-turned-armoire that will hold all the clothing that can’t fit in the pint-sized closet at my new place.

I’m marking this as a proud accomplishment because 1) The guides to two of the three pieces I built specifically stated not to do it alone, yet I did and no injuries were reported, the pieces I built are sturdy AF, and no I don’t need no man!!! And because 2) Building furniture (specifically Ikea furniture) alone isn’t easy. It can actually be quite hard and frustrating. It requires a lot of patience, a lot of self-soothing, and a lot of internal pep talks. Getting through these less-than-enjoyable projects, though, made me feel like a serious champ and I truly believe I came out the other end of them a more capable lady.

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I designed a space that I loved. I am an avid Pinterest-er, I write for a home remodel and design company, and I follow at least 20 interior designers on the gram. So it’s safe to say that a good portion of my days is filled with images of beautifully curated living rooms, the coziest bedrooms, and swoon-worthy bathrooms.

When it came to my little studio apartment here in Nashville, of course I wanted to replicate those designs to a T. But the truth of it was, those large and perfectly executed spaces aren’t a reflection of me or the space that I lived in. And honestly, I didn’t have the money to purchase the pieces that could get me there. So I instead focused on what was in my lane. I honed in on the aspects of design that I love and filled my petite domain with things that would make me excited to come home each day.

The result was a bright and airy studio filled with various shades of blue, hints of gold, and natural wood elements — it was Southern California in a 588 square foot apartment. I was so proud of how my space turned out (check out this post for some pics) and it felt good knowing that I designed it specifically for me and no one else. The added perk was that others ended up loving it, too.

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I hung artwork on walls that didn’t hang crookedly. Why is hanging artwork so damn hard? Before moving to Nashville, I’d only ever used a hammer and nails or push pins to dress my walls with prints and decor. But since becoming an ~adult~ and living in my first ~adult space~, I figured it was as good a time as ever to take things up a notch. And by “take things up a notch” I mean use anchors to properly secure more substantial pieces to the walls.

I won’t lie and say I nailed it (pun intended) the first time around. I hung most of my art without a second pair of eyes, so it was pretty much trial and error for everything I set out to hang. I’d hammer in some nails, screw in some anchors, hang up one of my many framed prints, and only then would I step back and take a look at my handiwork. Let’s just say there are quite a few ‘whoopsies’ holes in my walls. Nothing a little spackle can’t fix. Or, you can just slide the bed and sofa over a few inches so that they sit centered under the artwork’s now semi-permanent places on the walls like I did.

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I found balance. In the post that I linked above to my apartment tour (here it is again), I mention how I became a ‘yes’ girl when I first moved to Nashville. If you don’t feel like clicking on the link (no judgment), here’s a quick synopsis: It was a personal goal of mine to say yes to every invite that came my way for the first three months I lived here. I did this in a bid to 1) make friends and 2) to not be lonely. Well, I’m happy to report that it worked. I made friends and I was rarely lonely! But I was also wiped out (as was my wallet).

The social calendar that I filled entirely in those first few months, while exciting, was definitely not sustainable — not for my mental wellbeing or my finances. I quickly learned that as much as I felt pressed to say yes (by myself, might I add, not from anyone else), it was okay to say no if deep down I felt like my psyche needed a break. It was okay to skip out on Tuesday trivia or stay in on a Friday night to refill my cup. My new friends weren’t going to drop me if I asked for a raincheck, and if they did, they definitely weren’t friends worth having in the first place.

Like the artwork I attempted to hang in my new apartment, this acquired knowledge of when to say yes and no came after a lot of trial and error. Back in California, I existed in a very stagnant and complacent state — one that I made no attempt to get out of. I rarely said yes to any type of socializing and was typically in my room with the door shut by 6 PM. It was sad. In Nashville, I initially said yes to anything and everything. Whether it was happy hour on a Tuesday, a concert on a Wednesday, or a late movie on a Thursday, I went even though I knew I wouldn’t operate very well at work the next day.

I’m finally at a healthy place where I can recognize when I’ve started to isolate myself too much in the name of “self-care,” or if I’m overextending by trying to do everything. Balance, y’all!

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I survived summer in the south. As someone who sweats even when it’s snowing, this is a huge accomplishment for me. Aside from the inability to make a decent group of friends here, a southern summer was genuinely the biggest fear I had with this move. I’d like to say I’m being dramatic but I’m not. Humidity and I do not go well together… or so I thought!

After experiencing all four seasons (more on winter below), I can say with certainty (and surprise) that summer is hands down my favorite. The atmosphere, though exceptionally humid, is buzzing and everyone seems to have an extra pep in their step. Oh, and for the first time (like, ever, btw) I am not the only one sweating from every single pore on my body!

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I opened myself up to the potential of love. Other than quickly mentioning it in previous posts, I haven’t written much on a micro-relationship I had that started at the end of last summer and ended in the middle of last fall. I didn’t avoid it because of shame or deep heartbreak. I just didn’t think there was a whole lot about it that was worth unpacking on my end. Until now.

It was a relatively quick relationship; a blink-and-you-miss-it kind of thing. We met in September at a bar (fun fact: I approached him, and I used a line on him and it worked). We grabbed drinks the following week, and for the next couple of months, we had a genuinely great time dating. He took me on some of the best dates I’ve ever been on — all of them included food so I was a happy gal. We had a wonderful time together, but it was all very lighthearted. Nothing super serious.

Toward what ended up being the conclusion of our little thing, I began wondering what it would look like if we made the effort to make things more serious. But for some reason, I couldn’t figure out how to get there in my mind. Yes, I’ve 100% thought before about a happy future with a loving guy by my side. But until this particular one came around, I hadn’t actually had a physical human to place in that role.

In light of this, I had a tearful and real and honest conversation with a friend. I came out of it realizing that I have a deep-rooted fear of opening up and letting someone in — something I was unaware of until then. Considering I have spent most of my life as a single and securely independent gal, this made sense.

The guy I was seeing was the first one in a loooong time that made consider opening a door that had remained tightly closed. And as much as it sucked when things didn’t work out (he ended up moving out of state), it felt good knowing that the door was there, waiting to be opened when I was ready to open it.

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I survived my first non-California winter. I recognize that the majority of the world experiences winter as it’s supposed to be — brisk, frigid, frozen, snowy. But having spent 25 winters in Southern California where the temperatures don’t really dip lower than 60, I can’t say it’s something I was totally prepared for.

From what I’ve heard, this winter in Nashville was mild compared to years past. It only actually snowed maybe twice? But dang, it was cold. And it was quiet. And it was a just a dash depressing. Everything was dead and brown and gray and no one was happy.

The dreary setting fostered a similar feeling inside my mind as well. I’ll admit I wasn’t my best self between the months of November and January. But hey, I’m here. And I survived. And I feel much better prepared for next year!

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I started to ask for what I want/deserve. Maybe it’s because I moved away from my family and lifelong friends and can’t lean so easily on them anymore (or because I am no longer on my parents’ insurance plan) but I grew up this year. A lot. I feel more like an adult now at the age of 25 and 11 months than I did at just 25. Crazy what a year can do.

In light of this new-found maturity, I’ve started to ask for what I want. I no longer shy away from hard or uncomfortable conversations. I face them head on because the emotions that I carry (anxiety, disappointment, dread) in place of having the answers are not worth it to me anymore.

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I’ve made lifelong friends as an adult. I love my friends (see this). They’re a hugely important part of my life. I have friends from high school who are, simply put, my people, and I have friends from college who have quickly caught up and become significant players in my life as well. I thought I had tapped out my luck when it came to friends. But man am I glad I hadn’t.

To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t considered the idea of meeting friends in Nashville that I’d care about as deeply as I do. I figured there’d just be a handful of guys and girls that I’d get into shenanigans with every now and then. And I do that quite often with them. But I never imagined just how important these people would become and how much of an impact they’d have on not only my time in Nashville, but my life.

It started with my friend Nick (who I lovingly refer to as my Craigslist friend). He posted an ad on Craigslist for an apartment listing that looked promising, and in my desperate search for a place to live, I reached out. Turns out this wasn’t a scam (thank the lawd) and Nick worked for a legit apartment locating company. He was the one who helped me find the studio I lived in…  which just so happened to be in the same building his apartment was. We quickly became besties.

Nick was my first friend in Nashville — so warm and friendly and compassionate and selfless and real. In the last year, we’ve spent countless nights sitting on his top-floor balcony, looking over the Nashville skyline, and talking both lightly and with depth. We’ve watched a number of shows and movies and indulged in plenty of take-out in his elaborately decorated apartment — an apartment that has quickly become a second home to me here. It’s been a true blessing being his friend.

Nick was my first friend, but with luck, he wasn’t last I’d make. I have Eliot and Ellen, Jacqueline and Ryan, Laura, Mary English, Kelly, and Erin. So many great ladies who have helped to make this last year the best of my life. And I’m forever indebted to them for taking me in. They made me realize that there’s always room for more love and more fun in your life if you’re receptive to it.

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I can get to my favorite grocery store without maps opened on my phone. I don’t have much of a back story on this one. I’m just damn proud of myself that I can get to Whole Foods and back without having to look at my phone.

If that doesn’t say I’m home, I’m not sure what does.

 

Like I mentioned way, way, waaay up there in the Intro, these last twelve months have been the most formative of my life. I’ve grown in ways I didn’t even know possible. I’ve taken risks I would otherwise not have. I am just so happy here in this big little city in the south!

Here’s to another twelve.

Cheers, Nashville!

M

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