Changes.

It’s the end of the year, so a lot of people are spending a lot of time talking about what they learned about themselves this year – and what they plan on changing next year. I’m no exception, I suppose.

But I’ve tried to avoid it. Mostly because thinking about change is scarier than the actual changes. We never notice change – it just happens. Life is fluid. Until we sit back and reflect. And then we remember how things used to be.

And that’s when we realize how much is different.

There’s this thing about change – as the time passes, more things seem to change than stay the same. I’m conflicted on the whole thing – I like the idea of new adventures and the opportunity to tell new stories. But sometimes I just want things to stay the way they are. Because change is uncomfortable and terrifying and growing pains are hard and they hurt.

The thing about change – and time – is I guess it doesn’t really care what I think about it.

It just happens. Sparks fade. People move. Things get complicated. And change happens.

And we don’t realize it – until we do.

So mostly I’m happy about all the changes.

I like where I am. I like who I’m surrounded by. My heart is filled with joy more often than it’s not.

But I can’t help but miss that spark. And a smile or two. Or miss the old times.

So it goes, I suppose. And I know one day I’ll miss these old times like I miss those, for reasons I don’t even realize yet.

And so it goes.

For now.

There’s something to be said for accepting who you are. There’s also something to be said about realizing you’re not there.

For now, I laughed at the moon on the way home. It wasn’t perfect either. But today was one for the books – and I’ll probably never be cool or have it all together.

And for now, that’s okay.

No Texting.

I started a personal Advent calendar. It’s filled with 25 personal challenges. Because it’s me, we all know, “Be Taylor Swift today,” is included (I stole that from the creator of this idea, and I can’t wait for it). It also includes, “sign up for yoga today,” “go for a run,” “write something, for fun,” and all things of that nature. I’m taking photos, rest assured, so there will be a pictorial representation at the end. Some are ridiculous, but I’m excited about them all.

Today’s — the first day, because I’m a bit behind — was not to text anyone for the whole day. I was allowed email and social media, because I kind of had things going on this week and couldn’t fall off the grid completely, but it was still nice.

It was wonderful to be forced into my feelings. I know, you’re thinking, “Wait, you’re pretty emotional, Sarah. Some might say overly so. How could you ever even imply you don’t like to feel things?”

Emotions, not feelings. Emotions are fleeting, while feelings linger. Feelings scare the shit out of me. So I avoid them.

Except today I had to feel things.

Because I couldn’t text my ex and tell him how much that Christmas song reminded me of him. Or happy holidays. Or any of the gray area I like to stay in sometimes.

I couldn’t text my best friend and tell her how her adorable baby (who’s the background on my phone) made my day approximately 14 times, but also made me miss them incredibly.

I had to be in the moment.

But I got to see so many smiles. I got to make new friends. I found a light in some of them that I’ve been desperately seeking for most of my life.

I cuddled with my puppy this afternoon.

I missed a Ryan Adams show and missed my friends terribly.

But I drove down the highway and saw my new home and all the wonder that surrounds it.

I looked at my Christmas tree and felt joy. And I smiled, because, shit, life is just so damn good.

And I guess I got to thinking a bit. About what I’m doing, because that’s what most people do when they have free time. They think about life and their lives and other people’s lives and how it all rolls around together in this crazy world.

So I got to thinking about life and what I’m doing with mine. Some days I don’t know. Most days I don’t know. But here feels so right.

One of my new friends told me the other day that, “things fall into place when they’re meant to be.” It’s funny how that works. Life has been so good to me so far, but it felt like everything I really wanted was one step away. I suppose it still could be, but it doesn’t feel like it. Anything feels possible, and even that feeling — that was enough to make the move worth it.

And I just feel joyful. For life and all that it is. It’s beyond thankful — I guess you might even call it happy.

I think this is the first time in my life when I can say that I’m truly, without any glimmer of a doubt, so happy.

Not because things are perfect. I work a lot. I have a couple jobs. I don’t really sleep, and I’m getting to know a ton of people in a strange place all at once. During the holidays. Away from my family.

But you know, I was thinking today about my definition of happiness. I don’t know that I’ve ever defined it as anything more than some imperfect version of a little more than contentment with a little joy mixed in. But I really thought about it today — I’ve spent the better part of this year specifically chasing happiness — what the hell is it then?

That moment where I feel so much love that there aren’t any words.

And I guess that’s what I’m getting at, what I haven’t been able to express since I’ve been here. The reason it all feels okay.

And I just feel loved.

I miss my parents more than I ever thought possible, and I don’t discount their love or any of the love I’ve felt from friends and family prior to this moment.

But that’s just the best way I can explain it.

I just feel loved.

That One Scene From Love Actually.

Love Actually is, without one glimmer of a doubt, my favorite Christmas movie. I own two copies because in 2012 I couldn’t find my first copy and I wanted to watch it on Dec. 20 in case the world ended. My boyfriend at the time asked me if I was sure that’s how I wanted to spend my potentially last night on earth.

“Duh.”

I love absolutely everything about it – the intertwining relationships and story lines; the old washed-up rockstar capitalizing on the holiday spirit and taking advantage of the system; English accents; Hugh Grant.

The self-produced eulogy. Joni Mitchell. January Jones playing a flirty Midwestern bar patron. That hit The Calling had that I unabashedly know every word to.

Daniel and Sam. Claudia Schiffer.

The prime minister driving across town to track down the love of his life who’s his (so-called) chubby secretary lady, Natalie. (This is my favorite couple of the whole movie, for the record. I know everyone was dying to know.)

Jamie flying to France to propose to his Portugese housekeeper. The scene in the lake.

The little girls excitedly convincing Hugh Grant and his driver to sing carols.

The modern arrangements of Christmas tunes that I would probably hate normally, but they fit so perfectly in the most perfect Christmas movie ever made.

But every year I can’t decide how I feel about the scene with Juliet and Mark (Keira Knightley and Andrew Lincoln). Juliet marries Mark’s best friend and he videotapes the whole thing. He’s pretty rude to her, and we learn later it’s because he’s in love with her. He has a real internal battle with the whole situation, and eventually shows up at her door. He coaxes her to tell her husband it’s carol singers, presses play on a tape and holds signs admitting his undying love for his friend’s wife and promises to love her until the end of his days. He says with any luck he’ll be dating a model by next year’s festivities.

Some years I love it. It’s a portrait of what love really is – devotion to someone without a need for reciprocated feelings. It’s simple and beautiful.

Other years it makes me a little angry and then I’m upset that I’m not happy during my favorite Christmas movie. I end up angry because — WHAT?

I thought about it for a minute and realized the reason it makes me angry is because it’s reality.

Maybe not for everyone. But that’s just the kind of shit I would do.

Fall for someone I can’t have and spend my days loving them for no reason, probably distracting myself from a whole bunch of really good options because I’m pining for someone I can’t have.

Oh wait, I do that all the time.

I think I end up angry because in my head when I do these things and daydream there’s always a fairytale ending and I get what I want. I’m used to getting what I want.

But I guess that’s not really life. Or love. Sometimes things don’t work out, sometimes people end up with someone else, sometimes it’s okay to just love someone for the sake of loving someone and just because the world needs a little more love in it.

So, this year at least, I love it. Because sometimes it’s just enough to show a little love. Even if you’re not getting anything back — because the world could use a little more, always.

And maybe one days Mark and I both will learn how to fall for our available options. I’ll make a Christmas wish for you, Mark. Good luck.

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.