Thanksgiving.

I put my Christmas tree up a week and a half before Thanksgiving.

Because I wanted to, and because it felt joyful – and I’ve felt pretty joyful lately.

Because life is good. And because life is hard. Because sometimes I cry, and sometimes days are hard. But there’s always a silver lining – which seems to take so many different forms, I can’t even count them lately. But overall, it’s all just so wonderfully good. Because even when it isn’t, there’s laughter in a story or comfort in not being the only one who has done something without thinking.

So, I put up my Christmas tree. With an extra strand of lights, and as many glitter ornaments as Walmart carried last year.

Last year was my first Christmas truly by myself. Previously, I either lived with my parents, or I was at school, or I went home from school or I had a boyfriend. Regardless, last year was my first Christmas in my own apartment, with my own puppy and my own decorations. So I did exactly what I wanted – which was all the silver and gold and perceived classy Christmas ornaments I could find.

And I dressed my dog up in reindeer antlers and sent Christmas cards and did every cliche Christmas thing I could think of. And dated a guy I was into in the beginning, but eventually talked myself out of because of one reason or another – who knows at this point what my actual thoughts were. Truthfully. But I wasn’t single on Christmas and he had a lot of qualities I appreciated – even if just to realize those qualities still exist in people.

But I did Christmas exactly the way I wanted. And I spent New Years in Nashville. I liked it well enough, but told the guy I was seeing it was just okay – probably because I wanted to see where that was headed and I didn’t want him to think I loved it that much. It wasn’t a fantastic visit. It was crowded and streets were closed, and Samantha and i spent a lot of money on useless things.

But we spent New Years at the Bluebird. And probably spent too much money on those tickets. Because that was the theme of the trip. But it was magical – in the way that things that are meant to be seem before they’re actually meant to be.

And then that whole dating thing didn’t work out. I decided I wanted to move, because there was magic in the air, after all. So I worked and I saved and I moved and I cried and I smiled.

Which led me to this exact moment. Where I feel grateful – just the way a person should the week before Thanksgiving. My Christmas tree shines bright. My dog is next to me. I miss my family, but I’m so grateful for phones and videos and a group of people who love me even when I don’t understand why I do things.

A year ago, i would’ve never pictured this is where I would be. I like dreams and more than that, I like daydreams – but turning them into something? I suppose I haven’t ever done that before. Not really. At least not on this scale. Until now. And I suppose until now it’s never made quite as much sense.

But I understand why I did this, even if it’s just because it feels right – even on days that things are hard. Because sometimes the larger picture means more than the details. The details are tricky, but this picture – this picture feels right.

And I’m grateful.

On Thursday I’ll make green beans like my mom does every Thanksgiving, and a chocolate pie, because my Granny always made one for me. And I’ll miss them as I surround myself with new people and new friends in a new place.

But I’m so grateful.

Moving Forward.

My daydreams growing up never included meeting someone on the internet. My daydreams this morning never included meeting someone on the internet.

But it seems to be the only way to meet people. I mean, people stare at their phones so much of the time, how is a person ever expected to get someone’s attention without the internet? We go places with people we already know and when we don’t, we grab a phone and talk to people we already know who aren’t there.

So, the internet makes sense. But it feels weird.

I’m in a new town where I know few people and the holidays are coming up – which leads to a ton of loneliness. I’ve spent holidays alone before so it’s not completely new or a life-changing experience, but it still isn’t the most fun I’ve ever had.

So, I’ve had several friends mention online dating. Because I constantly talk about how guys never talk to me in public and it’s not chivalrous for a girl to start a conversation – though I do it more lately than my grandmother would prefer I admit.

I constantly weigh my options on how I feel about the entire online dating phenomenon. It’s obviously not even really considered a phenomenon anymore as simply a way of life. But I’m a little behind the curve here.

I’m admittedly the worst 20-something I know. I spend a lot of time staring at my phone, but it’s mostly because I’m painfully shy when I’m not drinking. I often just stare at it so it looks like I’m doing something. I like lyrics more than production, books more than television and my eight-cup coffee maker more than a Keurig. I’d rather bake than run and I’m okay with the few extra pounds I possess because of that.

Finding someone online doesn’t align with any of those things. It seems new and progressive and scary.

My parents were already married by the time they were my age. My grandparents certainly were; the majority of my extended family is married now – all within about five years of my age. They were at least engaged by this time in their lives.

Part of me is still busy throwing a pity party that I didn’t get that life – that mine chose a different path than theirs. That I’m not already married and thinking about kids and decorating a house and making dinners and in bed by 11 on Saturday nights for church on Sunday.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my life. I’m doing my best to make the most of where it is and what I have – and it’s all really, really wonderful. I feel strong and independent and secure in who I am – specifically the things I’ve done and choices I’ve made all on my own.

But I’m still kind of lonely sometimes.

So, how do I transition a pity party and slight acceptance into excitement and forward movement?

I guess giving it a try. Because I guess that’s part of life – trying scary things and seeing if they work. Maybe it doesn’t and I hate everything about the entire experience – but at least if I’m still single in ten years, I can’t say I didn’t do everything I possibly could to ensure the happiness I desire.

I suppose life is truthfully all about moving forward, even when it’s terrifying.

A radio and a life story.

When I told my parents I was moving to Nashville, my mom asked why I wasn’t moving to Austin.

“It’s kind of the same place, right?”

I huffed and puffed and assured it wasn’t the same place.

“Things are different there. Plus I’m just tired of Texas,” I said.

I’ve loved country music as long as I can remember. One of my first memories was when I got a radio. I was probably four – in my head that’s how I remember it at least. I still remember – clear as a day:

“I have a radio station you’ll like,” my Granny said.

Maybe I remember it so clearly because I loved her voice so much and because I miss it so dearly. Maybe because that moment defined so much of my life up until this moment. She turned it to the country station, and so begins the story of my life.

As a kid, I couldn’t sleep without the radio on. Well, I guess what I really mean is I couldn’t go to bed without the radio. I never slept. I would listen to the radio count down the hits of the day – most times the ballads were my favorite.

For Christmas when I was six
I got three tapes. George Strait, LeAnn Rimes and Reba. Granny gave them to me – said she thought I would like them.

Boy did I.

That was LeAnn Rimes’ first album. She was from the same area of Texas as I am, and Granny’s hairdresser’s son played fiddle with her. I loved Granny’s hairdresser so I suppose I loved her by default in the beginning – but that album. I listened to it on my Walkman constantly.

The following year, she released “How Do I Live.” I loved it so much my dad would help me tune every radio in the house so I could listen to it in surround sound each time it came on. And I sang along at the top of my seven-year-old lungs.

I spent a lot of time at Granny’s growing up and I spent a lot of time watching CMT. I saw “It’s Your Love” for the first time and wondered how someone could be so pretty and sound so pretty, too. I loved “Carrying Your Love with Me.” I didn’t know why George was walking around with a suitcase, but I loved the way he sounded. And looked, I suppose. I listened to “Every Light in the House is On” regularly and Clint Black’s “Like the Rain” was a staple, mostly because my dad loved it, too – and he didn’t even really like country music.

Then “Cold Day in July” came out. I spent years trying to convince my parents I needed a banjo because I wanted to be just like the brunette. I never got one – banjos are pricey – but my dad at least took me to look at them. They released “Home” and everything I thought about music before then changed.

That albums sounds like a home to me – warm and inviting, cozy and safe. Many of the lyrics are a direct contrast to that – they’re filled with ghosts from the past, death of a true love and confusion about changing seasons of life. I guess that’s how life goes, though.

In high school I started listening to more Texas music – back when it was Texas music and everyone was really proud of it. For me, the songs told stories like the ones I heard on the radio growing up. I like stories so I was drawn to it. A lot of things have changed about that whole scene since then, but I remember why I liked it in the beginning. The words were real.

I still remember the first time I saw Walt Wilkins. I was in The White Elephant sitting on a couch surrounded by a bunch of people I didn’t realize at the time would be some of the most important influences in my life. I remember hearing his words – full of hope and passion – and realizing that’s what I was looking for in all of the words I listened to.

High school came and went – I spent my time at parties, but drove to them forcing all of my friends to listen to acoustic guitars and poetry. There was a girl once – I don’t even remember her name – who got out my car and looked back at me:

“I love that everything you listen to is so sad,” she said.

I guess that was the first time I realized not everyone listened to the same things I did.

I moved on to college outside of Austin. I spent a good amount of time drunk – as people will do in college – mostly surrounded by musicians. I still think the reason I never really acclimated to school was because I spent most weekends of my freshman year seeing bands in some other town.

I moved back home. I decided I was done seeing music regularly, because musicians were jerks and I didn’t like being around them. Truthfully, it was just a sort of broken person taking out her brokenness on other flawed people – which I guess we all are. I wanted to blame someone else for why I felt the way I did, and they were all the closest thing to me without being me.

So I dated a guy who played guitar as a hobby, because it was a hobby and not a career and his lifestyle was stable. But I never understood why he didn’t want to do things on weekdays and why we never went out on weekends. I missed walking away from a bar wondering if my hearing was only slightly impaired from the evening or wondering if I had finally gone deaf for good. I missed repeating lyrics in my head on the way home so I wouldn’t forget to look them up. I missed being around people who understood it wasn’t just a song – it was little pieces of a diary I wished I had written myself.

Eventually we broke up, and everyone asked where I was going. The answer was never Dallas, because I never like Dallas to begin with.

People asked why I wasn’t moving to Nashville.

“That’s really far,” I said, “Plus it’s just like Austin.”

But I kept coming back to it.

“I really think it makes sense for you,” my cousin Beth said. My family is much more level- headed than myself, so I actually thought about it for a minute.

And it started to make sense.

So I visited. I decided I really liked it but it wasn’t that big of a deal. It was a nice place to visit. But I didn’t know if I wanted to live there.

Then I missed it.

And I remembered the feelings I felt when I saw Merle Haggard’s handwritten lyrics. History was literally in front of me. The history that shaped my entire life.

And I wanted to be surrounded by that history. The things that shaped so much of my life and the words that understood me, even when I didn’t.

So I decided to move.

“You’re so brave,” they said. I never understood that. It’s not brave to put things in a truck and move them somewhere else. It’s scary sometimes, but not brave.

It’s actually not smart at all, when looked at from an objective view point. I gave up a salaried job to work in a bar, where I listen to music each night. I sing along to cover bands and sometimes hear words that rip my soul open. That’s why I like it, though. I guess that’s why I think it makes sense.

The thing about being here is it really does make sense in my head. I traded a lot of things for other things that make a lot less sense to a lot of people.

But I’m surrounded by people who get why I am the way I am. I’m sure a lot have similar experiences as I do, about how they came to love this town and how they ended up here.

And some days are hard. A lot of them are. I don’t sleep a lot and my life is mostly uncertain.

But I feel like I belong. For the first time in my whole little life.

And I guess that’s my life story. And how I ended up here. And why I’m so head over heels with it all right now.

Protect your heart.

I spent a lot of time in church growing up. Churches have extreme views in relationships – views that are sometimes somewhat disagreeable.

So, the big thing I used to hear growing up was, “Protect your heart.”

It used to make me mad.

Why would I intentionally leave out details of my life from a partner in the name of protecting myself? Isn’t that the whole point of finding a soulmate? Putting everything on the line – risking it all for the sake of potential happiness?

So I didn’t. And I cried. And I protected my viewpoint – getting hurt is worth it – the potential for a fairy tale exists.

And I cried some more. And slowly I built a wall or two.

Because crying isn’t very much fun and I realized I didn’t want to do it anymore.

So I started protecting my heart.

But wait, I don’t agree with that.

I did it anyway. Because defense mechanisms seem plentiful as we get older. I don’t want to do that one thing I did last time because it hurt a lot and I feel broken now. And broken isn’t pretty. Broken is messy and takes work to get over. And I want a fairy tale. Not work.

I’ve felt pretty introspective lately and I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot.

Even though I thought I was protecting my heart – I wasn’t. I still feel broken.

Wait, what?

The problem isn’t openness. It isn’t with letting people in. It isn’t whether they deserve to be there or if it’s a good idea to let them see the bad parts because what if they judge me or use them against me.

it’s who I’m letting in.

Having an open heart isn’t a problem. It’s not about walls and who wants to scale them. It’s not who wants to work hard enough to get inside and who’s willing to wait around the longest to see if I’m worth their time.

It’s about putting it all on the line. Risking potential hurt in the name of my fairy tale. The one I desperately want and deserve – because everyone does.

The thing about fairy tales is the princess always ends up with the right guy. It’s never that one guy who dated other girls but still told her she was special. It’s never the guy who didn’t want a relationship. It’s never the guy who dated multiple people at the same time just to make sure.

The princess always ends up with the prince – her soulmate.

And she let him in. Because he was good. Not because he was cool or had a cute smile – sure, he always did – but his heart was even better. The prince didn’t debate whether the princess was a good idea. He knew.

So I suppose I’ll work on my selection process. And I’ll keep protecting my heart – at least until someone makes sense.

Until I find my fairy tale.

Sunday.

If the lights can draw you in and the dark can take you down, then love can mend your heart. But only if you’re lucky now.

Three weeks and a day. 22 days. 528 hours to acclimate to new surroundings.

Needless to say, I’m still adjusting.

And I suppose I haven’t had a lot to say about it.

Between making friends, missing soulmates and trying to love every moment I have, I think my emotions have been in shock.

So I haven’t said much. Because transitions come with a lot of baggage that we slowly shed, and I haven’t shed mine yet. I moved but the baggage is still there, so why would I talk about that?

Because in 50 years this entire thing is going to look completely different.

In its entirety, this has been three of the greatest weeks of my life. I’ve seen kindness in strangers, found laughter in new friends, felt butterflies in a spark and walked away from some hurt.

I’ve been let down by people I never thought would let me down and felt my heart burst out of pure joy.

I’ve spent countless moments thinking about how lucky I am to breathe. Because sometimes its as simple as being thankful for life. Starting somewhere – at the core of it all – is vital to making some moments special. So I did. So many times.

I’ve seen the sun shine in new ways, and set with a whole new array of colors. I’ve spent hours thinking about how that same sun sets on so many others who are on their own journeys, but found the same grace in those moments. I felt lucky beyond understanding and more thankful than words could ever describe.

I’ve worried about money in ways I haven’t worried about money in years. I’ve found peace in faith that I haven’t felt in as much time.

I’ve felt a song lyric rip completely through my heart and soul, which is why I chose here in the first place.

I’ve met broken women finding their way back to life. I’ve felt my heart break for them while feeling so proud of strangers, and found an indescribable amount of hope in them.

I’ve spent more time talking and less time writing. Which felt unnatural and uncomfortable, but necessary and new. I’ve put my emotions on display in an awkward manner, and chiseled a few bricks away in the process. I’ve found comfort in words in a new way.

I said goodbye without explanation and without guilt. Because I realized I’m worth more than that and they’re not worth the words. And that was a good enough resolution.

And today I feel peaceful, joyful and thankful – I have no idea where this rollercoaster is headed, but it feels right. And that’s all I ever wanted.

5 a.m.

There’s something about silence at 5 a.m. that sounds like nothing else – at 2 or 3 or even 4 silence is deafening. It’s a reminder of many things; anxiety, uncertainty, loneliness – sometimes an odd mixture of all three.

But 5 a.m. feels different. In the most elementary way, it’s a reminder that I made it through another night. That a new day is soon dawning and I’m still breathing. The silence reminds me to say thank you for that, and remember not to take it for granted.

The quiet reminds me that I’m here alone, but less in a lonely way and more in a blessed way. That I’m lucky enough to be capable of spending parts and pieces of my life alone. I’m not anywhere in life I don’t want to be nor spending it with anyone I don’t want to spend it with.

Occasionally I hear a train in the distance and it reminds me of the past. I think of how many people in how many years have felt the same things; how they’ve been reminded of fears, hopes, dreams, joy, happiness and mortality all in this same moment in their mornings years previously. I wonder how their lives turned out. I hope they kept their faith. I pray they felt hopeful and joyful for the rest of their days, and continued to dream as big as the sky and had days that felt so perfect they thought they lived in the clouds.

And I guess that’s what I like about 5 a.m. It’s full of promise. A promise of things to come. Of my own hopes and dreams and even fears realized. It makes me happy to be alive, and so grateful to be living another day.

Nashville

The train just rolled by.

Its horn another portion of the song of the evening – with the crickets and frogs that are filling the night air.

They all join the last few fireflies I saw earlier tonight.

Each one adding to the comfort I’m currently feeling.

I signed a lease today. On the cutest house I’ll have lived in. With a roommate – which I haven’t had in more than a year.

I don’t have a job yet; not a real one. Just leads and crossed fingers and a lot of hope.

And so much excitement.

It just feels right.