Thank you, Nashville

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Six years ago, we were so excited to move to Nashville. It was a place for me and Mary-Margaret to establish ourselves as a married couple apart from our extended families, coupled with pouring ourselves into our careers, we would create a new long term identity. We were starry-eyed and naive, and now, at the end of the line, we are so thankful for Nashville.

It’s amazing how time moves. Single days can feel like they last an eternity- entire eras of your life can pass before you know it. Looking back at the last six years, they felt both fleeting and interminable. The highs and lows are woven together in a yarn that has unfurled from its ball meandering along the timeline of our lives. 

We were different people. I suspect this is the case with many in their late 20’s, having worked hard and excelled, facing challenges both professional and personal, overcoming and failing all before their lives have started- and then for it to happen again. To experience the tension between the satisfaction of a hard’s day work and wondering what all the 12-15 hour days are for, the enjoyment of celebrating another marriage anniversary, the close friends who have come to Nashville and then move away when they get another job- a better job in a city closer to family. Wondering if we should be closer to family? Is it giving up to leave the city for a slower, less productive life? Is productivity the truest measure of a successful life?

There was so much going on in the city to enjoy. Sometimes I think people rate a city to be great based on how many fun things a person can do when they don’t have children- the festivals, band stands, the restaurants and night life, the excitement of the night life- not just Broadway, certainly not Broadway. The little hole in the wall bars, really good karaoke singers, concerts at Ascend in a slightly tipsy state atop the cool grassy hill, Jason Isbell at the Ryman. Oh man, Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires singing duets together at the Ryman.

There are so many craft beers, too. We tried a new one every week for two years. Florida didn’t have growlers when we left. We bought so many growlers! Beer on the go. Who doesn’t love beer on the go? Turns out there are only so many recipes for IPAs and Brown Ales. But it was fun to try them all. Thank you, 12S Taproom. 

Working at Vanderbilt was hard and rewarding. It had a diversity of cases and people. The top physicians in the region, the States, even the world, demanded the best of Mary-Margaret, realizing in her all her potential. Maybe shouldn’t have physicians work so much they don’t sleep? Not sure how that’s good for a patient. But we made community where there wasn’t any with others experiencing the same thing via resident parties and dinners and inside jokes about pathology stains. Thank you, Laura and Neil; Charlie and Laura Leigh.

I got to pursue a life long dream of coaching at the Division 1 level. Even though it didn’t work out, coaching at Vanderbilt validated years of hard work. It meant the world to me to be recognized for my potential and being fought for to get me on board. I shook quietly in humble adulation when I saw my name on the website for the first time. I got to work with the best coach in his field and All American athletes, and ask 1,000 questions, eventually finding rest on the track. Thank you, Clark. 

Thank you, Nashville, for Saturday morning breakfasts with Mary-Margaret, every Saturday for years; trying to find the absolute best coffee and then best food, debating which tradeoff we wanted, good coffee or good food? Why did you change Edgehill Cafe??

It was a joy to attend Christ Pres every Sunday. Our first Sunday when we visited and we sang “Be Thou Mine Vision,” “Come Thou Font,” and “The Doxology.” When the service had liturgy and discussed Christianity as an ancient religion distinctly not American, and told stories, and how Christianity is not for its members but for the flourishing of the world. Being asked to be a deacon, to hear my opinions, to give me a place to belong. Imbuing in me the infectious affection for the gospel. Then sitting in the back row weeping every Sunday after Anna was born, never feeling condemnation, only mercy, as we heard the preaching that said it was okay to be sad- to be unashamedly sad at the things we should be very sad about; allowing two very broken people to sing “The Doxology” with faith and distrust. 

Then baptizing our son, Langston. Our pastor bringing insight to his name I hadn’t considered after thoughtfully considering every meaning. His name meaning “long stone” is the Ebenezer Stone like the Ancient Hebrews would build to remind them of God’s faithfulness. Thank you, Scott, Stacey, Ken, Todd, Casey, and David.

Thank you Nashville for all the parks, the running trails, the public golf. Thank you for all the kitschy murals to attract all the tourists like moths to light so they aren’t clogging up the streets. Counterpoint- pedal taverns, no thanks! But thanks for banning the scooters even if it was just for a few days before we left. Thank you for all the unique neighborhoods and cultures. You are a city built upon neighborhoods.

It was hard to leave for a year, which felt like a breath, and then back for only one more year. Our friends, the Wauds and the Grahams, welcomed us like we never left. I’m not sure the Beth and Leigh are human, I mean they might be angels. They exist in Nashville for the betterment of everyone around them, especially the tough ones who need it the most, and they do it with joy. Thank you, Beth and Leigh. 

I never quite understood when someone said, “that was a lifetime ago,” until I moved to Nashville. As the city grew so rapidly, we measured ourselves as much by how much we change as by how much the city changes. Each building marks time and memories, and there are more buildings and memories here than we could have imagined when we started. They mark a different time and place.

I contend that Florida is the best state in the Union for all the reasons- cultures, coast, weather, food. But Nashville has shown me a city of villages, something Florida doesn’t have. Neighborhoods abut each other. Local groceries, parks, restaurants, and churches are in the middle of each little village. And the houses, the little brick houses, the cottages, the California moderns. All the porches. Nashville does community whether it is comfortable or not; a proximity to one another, and each others’ willingness to engage in the highs and lows.

Now, the Allens are more patient, less self-reliant. Our worldview has widened to be more loving, accepting, friendly. A lifetime ago, we moved to Nashville, young and naive, and now we leave it tougher and sweeter. Thank you, Nashville.