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Hey, Nashville-I Just Called To Say I’m Sorry

Hey, Nashville-I Just Called To Say I’m Sorry

In 2016, I spent a significant portion of my time fighting a love for my new home. I had arrived in January with a steel resolve to be brave in the face of all the new. I was happy to be at my job, but that was about it. Though Nashville did all it could to reach out and extend a welcoming hand, I flat refused to speak. I spent the whole first year of our relationship pining over my ex. No wonder we had issues.

I stepped into a new city still hopelessly and madly in love with Florence, AL. Nashville was a fine place for some folks to live, but it just wasn’t my type. It was merely a holding spot for me. A waiting room for me to park in while I waited for the Lord to tell me I could go home.

If you go anywhere, even paradise, you will miss your home.

-Malala Yousafzai

Home. Florence. One hundred and thirty-three miles southwest where all my people were.

I had no people in Nashville, and to be honest, I did a poor job of looking for them. I held my heart so far behind me that no one could come close. At best, I planted weedy roots that were violently ripped up once or twice a month when I pointed my car toward the Alabama state line and hit the gas. My mouth complained about my lack of ties to the city, but truthfully, my heart fiercely fought any connections. I didn’t want them, and somewhere deep inside my brain, I felt like I didn’t have room for them.

If I loved Florence with my whole heart, I had no more room for a new city to love. There wasn’t space for both.

But an affection for Tennessee was rising, quiet and strong and steady in the space beneath my chest.

I saw it first in April of last year. Green was coming back into the world again, arriving in brilliance after its hiatus. It sprung from the trees with all the energy of new hope and new life. My Cruze would come to the top of a hill on my way to work, and I’d catch a glimpse of rolling hills rising like a deep breath coming straight from the earth. And I would catch mine. In the cool stickiness of summer evenings, I watched the maple leaves from my patio flutter bashfully in the breeze. On Saturday hikes, the light would cut through the wall of trees so sharply I knew it was looking for my attention.

I stretched out on grassy lawns or scrunched in age-old pews and heard the city’s wild and brilliant heartbeat through guitar strings and voices loosed. I put my hand on the pulse of music that makes this city feel alive, like the soil beneath our feet is breathing the music from its own unseen lungs. Those of us who have to obey the laws of gravity get, for a brief moment, the chance to know what it feels like to defy it.

I’ve spent much of this new year trying to quietly apologize to Nashville. And Nashville, in all her generosity, is forgiving. Through all my foot stamping and tantrum tears last year, she never stopped singing. She never let her voice get too small for me to hear. And I’m grateful for another year to hear it and another chance to really listen.

You can have more than one home. You can carry your roots with you, and decide where they grow.

-Henning Mankell

There’s room for both, I’ve learned. There’s love enough for more than one piece of geography.

And I need them both, Florence & Nashville. I need every mile.

Florence is home. Safe. Still so very needed. Always will be. When I cross the city lines, it refills my tank with courage. Tells me with its slow drawl that it’s glad to see me. Tells me it’ll be here waiting when I come again.

Nashville is growth. Smothering with its enormity. Terrifying. Luminous. Gleaming. So welcoming and warm. It pushes me to be brave. Demands more of me than I thought I could give. Asks me to climb to new heights, but promises a great view. And it delivers.

There are a thousand ways to go home.

-Rumi

So, Nashville, I just called to tell you I’m sorry. I’m glad to be here. I’m glad you welcomed me and gave me a new place to call home. I’m glad you didn’t give up on me.

And Nashville—the view really is amazing.

 

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A Moment in Trig

A Moment in Trig

I have never been good at math. What comes easily to brainy mathematicians is about as easy to me as sawing off my own arm with a butter knife. Not easy and certainly not without pain or tears.

Which is why, when I was answering the cursory, “What did you do this weekend?” question at work a few Mondays ago, I found myself smiling at the irony in my answer.

“What did I do this weekend? Well, I went apartment shopping, started reading a book on the rise and fall of the Russian aristocracy, and went to a concert with my high school math teacher and her husband.”

I don’t need to tell you how strange it is that a less than average math student somehow became friends with her math teacher.

(I also don’t need to tell you that my coworkers have expressed mild concern about my social life.)

The first time I realized Mrs. Finch would be my math teacher, I was terrified. I had heard about how difficult her classes were, so you can imagine my panic. I didn’t need a tough teacher for math to be challenging. Saying the word “math” without trembling was challenging enough.

But during my time in her classroom, I learned that Mrs. Finch was as compassionate as she was tough. Over time, I came to respect her not just because of what I had heard about her, but because of who I knew her to be: a patient, kind, and fair instructor. I valued the time she spent helping me comprehend difficult concepts, and appreciated the way she sympathized with my difficulty to learn something that came so naturally to her.

She has been a great teacher all of her career, I’m sure, but I remember the exact moment I knew it for myself.

It was trigonometry, and I was miserable. I was the lone junior in a class full of extraordinarily smart sophomores. They were breezing down the trig path, while I was trudging slowly behind.

In one of the units, there was a string of vocabulary words that we had to learn, and I lived for weekly quizzes on the terms. Memorize the definitions? That I could do. Apply them on a test? Well, that’s where the problem came in.

One day, near the end of class, Mrs. Finch perched on her stool, folded her hands together, and put on her, “We need to talk about a new assignment” face. She went on to explain that she was giving us an assignment using all the vocabulary words we had learned during that unit.

She wanted us to use the words to write a short story.

I looked around the room at the brainy sophomores and knew with certainty that this assignment was for me. She knew my strengths. She knew that English was my best subject and that creative writing was where I excelled. She knew. And she created an assignment that would capitalize on my gifts and give me one small victory in a class in which I knew consistent defeat.

While the rest of the class groaned about an assignment they felt was unnecessary, I nearly burst into tears of gratitude.

That’s when I knew she was a great teacher. And that’s when I knew we would be friends.

I don’t remember anything about trigonometry.

(I actually couldn’t even remember how to spell it without looking it up on the Google.)

If I were in a life or death situation and asked to solve a complicated math equation, I’d just shrug my shoulders and say, “Go ahead and kill me now. I’ve got nothing.” I don’t remember any theories, Pythagorean or otherwise. But I do remember that moment. I do remember the feeling of pride when I finally handed Mrs. Finch a completed assignment that I was confident in. I do remember how grateful I was (how grateful I am still) that my gifts and talents were being valued and cultivated by a teacher in an entirely different subject matter.

Though I did not choose to teach, had I entered that field, there are several teachers from my career as a student that I would’ve wanted to emulate.

Mrs. Finch, my friend, you are one of them. Thanks for seeing me, for valuing me, and for contributing to the woman I am today.

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Mrs. Finch and me at Puckett’s in downtown Nashville a few weeks ago. Photo courtesy of her sweet husband, Randy.
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