I stood at the bottom of a hiking trail, staring at the path ahead of me.
While there was still plenty of light in the sky, the canopy of leaves from the trees blocked out most of the light, making the path seem foreboding and dark.
I closed my eyes for a moment, listened the frogs as they began to call back and forth to each other in tune with the cicadas. The cicadas in Tennessee weren’t like those that produced a low hum in the desert nights. These ones made cacophonous sound with abandon.
The summer air wrapped around me like a moist blanket. Ah, the gift of humidity. Another difference in my summer experience since moving to Nashville.
I took a breath and started walking down the shaded path. Immediately my skin felt cooler, prickling at the condensation that was floating through the air.
There certainly had been many experiences since moving to Nashville that were unlike ones I’d had at home. It felt, in reflection, mostly like a laundry list of challenges. I was questioned at my every move, strangers demanding I throw down my cards and show how serious I was about staying.
I could lament for hours about some of the things that belabored me, but aside from dull drinking talk, I don’t think it’s worth indulging in play-by-plays. I already seemed to possess enough skills to rehash it with myself and mentally exhaust my motivation late into the night. No-one needs more of THAT.
I hadn’t been down this walking path before, namely because I hadn’t lived in this part of Nashville before. There had been many changes in the recent months and seemingly unnecessary at times. But the one theme that continued to emerge was one the Universe almost seemed to be yelling at me by now: You. Are. Not. Meant. To. Be. Static.
I’d spent so much time drowning in my own self pity about things not working out the way I wanted here in Nashville. I’d desperately clung to an ‘idea’ of how I thought this was going to go. But in order to get anywhere near this ‘idea,’ major compromise was needed. I networked and saw how people responded to their own judgments of who they thought I was. I found myself purposefully downplaying my accomplishments, altering how I speak to appear less “academic” so as not to seem snobbish. I tried to convince myself and everyone else that I was 100% into songwriting and screw all the other things that I had achieved because THIS is who I am now. I’d been given trials, forced to draw very hard lines in the sand about the way in which I wanted my career to grow, and my core values I’d stick by while I enacted that plan. I was trying so hard to be something that I was not (after all, how can you turn totally away from the things that built you?). And all along the way, the Universe was saying (and not so ever-fucking-gently, mind you) no.
After finally arriving in a physical place (read: new home) that felt peaceful, that embraced my quirks and my hopes and my irrational fears, change was coming yet again (lets blame that pesky Mercury in retrograde pairing with that New Moon).
The farther I went down this little trail near my new abode, the darker it became. I considered turning around when something magical happened: I saw a flash of light. It was a lightning bug. I’d never seen one before moving to Nashville. I watched him float beside me like a teen tiny beacon. His friends slowly started joining him in his light parade, hovering low over the shrubs that lined the path I walked. Like my own escorts, they guided me with their small lights further into the woods. I couldn’t help but smile. Only in the darkest of moments (literally) can you appreciate the light that finds you there.
While digesting all of these recent changes and reflecting on recent journeys in my life (and what had shaped me to get here) it all seemed very clear… I am born out of adversity.
For whatever reason, I have this fated Phoenix complex. It would seem I only invoked change after I had been brought to ash by fire. I hoped it would not always be this way, but there was evidence to support this was where I thrived best.
I started this blog, and started traveling the world because I was rejected from graduate school. This blog became a way for me to connect with people, which turned into me getting visibility from larger news organizations, which eventually led to my job with USA Today. Hell, I decided to enter a pageant because I had been burned six months prior in a freak Fourth of July accident. In that moment, seeking only redemption of my self-esteem, I began a year-long adventure of growing community and my horizons, and it has sustained as a journey mentoring other women.
These are the moments when I shine the most, I thought, following the lightning bugs further into this Tennessean Fern Gully. Why am I trying to run away from it, when experience shows me so much good is on the other side?
I think it’s time to begin again.
And it starts with me emerging from a wood.