I have an important announcement to make. I feel like this will be a really long post, just to warn you, but I have some things I want to express. So here we go...
August 22, 2009 was the day I moved to Cleveland, OH from Nashville, TN. 8 years ago today. 8 years that have seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. I vividly remember driving into town for the first time, only knowing 2 other people here: My boyfriend at the time and his roommate, who was/is a friend of mine as well. I think back through all those years and I literally get a big lump in my throat. I've experienced so much sorrow, pain, joy, excitement, laughter and tears, personal growth, and change here. Some for the better, some for the worse. I have thicker skin but a harder heart than I care to have. I suppose that happens to everyone who has been through the fire. But that's not where I'm going to stay.
When I reflect on the years that have passed, I want to cry for the 26 year old who decided to leave her dreams and hard work behind for a boy who would never love and respect her the way she so desperately wanted, needed, and now I know, deserved. I want to turn back time and tell her not to go. To tell her to listen to those around her who love her. To tell her that true love doesn't give ultimatums or make you choose. I think back on the last 8 years and honestly, it's bittersweet. But mostly, it hurts. The career paths I worked so hard in that were never right for me, the men who trampled my heart and self-worth, the churches and friends who abandoned me, the harsh and never-ending winters, the terrible landlords and different apartments and houses that somehow never fit me, the people who made me feel like I didn't belong, the careless words that ripped me apart, the loneliness...
Cleveland just hasn't been the kindest to me, despite my best efforts to try and try again. Cleveland is a beautiful city with so much to offer, but for me, Cleveland has been like that cute shirt you see in a store window. You buy it and take it home, but you never really wear it because there's just something about it that doesn't quite fit you right now that you try it on at home. There's nothing wrong with it. It's a great shirt, but you don't feel comfortable and confident when you put it on. But you can't take it back because you ripped off the price tag, so you keep it in your closet and try it on over and over through all the different seasons, hoping you'll eventually fit into it the way you want to. But that day never comes, and so what you're left with is a great unworn shirt that's hanging in your closet because it was never really meant for you. I don't say any of this to tell you my sob story or to have a pity party. I'm just telling you where I'm coming from and sharing part of my heart with you.
The exception to all this messiness is, of course, the wealth of beautiful and amazing people I have met here and the incredible friends I have made here. Friends who have walked with me and talked me through all the difficult seasons here. Who I have made some of the best memories ever with, who have challenged me, made me laugh, made me better, helped heal my broken heart, gave me perspective, and who have always, always been there for me. I'm so thankful for the friends who left me behind because I learned who my true friends really were and are. I'm thankful for the lessons and spiritual growth I experienced here. I'm thankful for the ways Cleveland surprised me by being more beautiful than I was told it would be when I first moved and all the special ways it has unveiled itself to me over the years that I didn't expect. I'm thankful for the opportunities I've been given here musically and professionally. And honestly, I can say I'm thankful for ALL the pain because it's made me into a stronger woman. It's given me new songs to sing. It's shown me I need to reclaim my life and not stay stuck in my defeat. Although I'm still fighting some of those battles, I'm not losing them anymore. And that is saying something.
So now comes the announcement part. I don't pretend to assume anyone is all that interested in or concerned with my choices, but I wanted to officially let people know for those who may be interested that I'm moving back to Nashville in September. I'll be out of Cleveland by the end of August, back in my hometown to enjoy some time with my family first, and then heading down. (You may be reading this and already know this because I've told you personally or because you figured there was a reason I was selling most of my earthly possessions...haha) This is a huge decision and one I haven't taken lightly. I have thought about moving back for literally years but I was always too afraid/embarrassed/every emotion you can think of, to move back. But after spending time there again last month, I knew right away when I drove over the Tennessee line that it's where God wants me to be right now. I have been praying for what seems like forever for God to show me where He wants me, what he wants me to do, etc and I feel like He is showing me a small part of that path right now. I don't know exactly what He is doing or what He has planned for me when I get there, but I truly feel called there. I've never been able to say I feel called somewhere before. I've heard many people say it and always wondered what that feels like. Now I know. It feels like peace. You don't even have to think about it much, you just know deep inside that it's right even in spite of all the various unknowns. Aside from being sad about leaving my friends and being farther from my family than I'd like to be, I have such a peace about moving, and that is not something I have felt in a very, very long time. I've considered Columbus quite a bit over the years as well because I've wanted to be closer to my family, but have never felt confident in that decision as it being right for me and what I want to do or try to do.
I feel like it's well overdue to give myself a fresh start. I was talking with a stranger when I was visiting Nashville last month and they asked if I left anyone behind when I moved. At first I said no, but then I realized I had. I left myself behind and all my dreams to fall into someone else's life.
As my time here in CLE gets shorter and shorter, I'm trying to soak in all the things about the city I love. The parks, the lake, my friends. I'm getting a little anxious about the move and all the unknowns, but then have to remember that He goes before us in all we do. Even so, I know I'm not heading into this dream world where the grass is greener and life is somehow easier. In fact, I'm mentally preparing myself to be challenged and to challenge myself more than ever. But I do think I'm heading back to a place where I once found myself and liked who I was when I found her.
And I'm really excited for the journey and to share some things about it with you as I go! If you made it this far, thanks for letting me share my heart with you. And if you are one of the many friends I've been blessed to meet here, I hope you know I am so thankful for you, will miss you, and am always down for a road trip back or visitors!