Lately, it seems like everyone in Nashville moved here from somewhere else. The latest census estimates show Nashville has likely surpassed Memphis as the largest city in the state. Recent predictions have Nashville continuing to grow, reaching an estimated population of 2.9 million residents by 2040 (on par with cities like Denver and Austin). Houses are flying off the market. And the ominous warning many of us heard in childhood (that Nashville was going to be the next Atlanta if we weren’t careful) is a real concern to anyone sitting in downtown traffic lately.
I grew up here. The twin points of the Batman building were the backdrop to my childhood. I attended school in Hendersonville and visited family in Brentwood. My classmates and I went on fieldtrips to the Adventure Science Center, Nashville Zoo, and Bicentennial Mall. I worked on the General Jackson showboat and began my career as an intern in MetroCenter. And, finally, one day I flew out of BNA as a brand-new bride ready to explore the world with my husband for the first time. This is my home.
But I left it for a while. And like any long-lost love, I worried that I romanticized this city and my formative years spent exploring it. About two years after moving to Orlando, I commented to my husband after a Thanksgiving trip, “It’s just not home anymore. Florida is home now.”
Years passed. A baby was born. And we found a new home in Atlanta—the city of never-ending traffic and Coca Cola. The foliage was beautiful, and the people were kind. My nose perked up at the smell of a true brisk fall. My heart soared as the gentle twang of Southern accents once again rang out as the soundtrack to my days. It was almost home. Almost right.
But it wasn’t Nashville.
And the thing is, Nashville isn’t the same city I left. It has grown and changed, just as I have. Influenced by the men and women who take a leap of faith and begin writing their own stories (and, of course, songs!) here.
I have taken the best parts of other cities and brought them back home to Nashville with me. And you, newcomers and out-of-towners and re-locaters, bring the best parts of your cities here to us. We are better for it. We are stronger for it.
Our traffic still leaves much to be desired, but the rest of this city? Well, she’s just lovely. She has grown in scope and size and heart.
One day, my boys will grow up. Maybe they will move away. If they do, I hope they’ll take pieces of Nashville with them wherever they go. I long for them to hold open doors and love music and spend an extra few minutes getting to know their restaurant servers. When the weather changes quickly, and they aren’t sure what to wear? I hope they smile as they remember walking around the house in swim trunks and a jacket during a standard Nashville fall.
To me, this is what it means to believe in Nashville. Love the people it brings together. Cherish the collective power of that community. And let the city hold a little piece of your heart — no matter where you call home.