A few weeks ago, I was thrilled to learn that my latest piece “Internal Combustion” was going to premiere in Nashville with the Nashville Composer Collective. Not only did this mean a performance (something we composers are always looking for), but it was also an excuse to go back to my old stomping ground for a few days.
However, my excitement was soon outweighed by apprehension. Would spending time in Nashville and remembering the life I once had make me regret the whole decision to move to Chicago? Or would Nashville just seem like a boring, quant town after three months of life in the big city?
But perhaps the biggest question was, why was I so concerned about my perspective on Nashville when I have all of these great opportunities in Chicago right now?
Well, if I’m honest, as much as I’ve been enjoying all that Chicago has to offer, it doesn’t feel like home yet. I may be starting to memorize the trains and learning the city’s ways, but the whole thing is still like speaking a foreign language.
I didn’t let myself think about Nashville when I first moved here, but as the semester has gone on and proven more difficult than anticipated, I’ve begun to long for the familiar—I’m homesick for a time and place that seems comfortable.
Nevertheless, I know I’m remembering my Nashville years through rose-colored glasses…
I only think about the positive experiences I had at Belmont, while doing my best to block out the negative parts of life.
I think about all the unique learning opportunities I enjoyed.
I think about the fun times and camaraderie my friends and I had in those years.
I think about the recording sessions I engineered and the sessions I observed with well-known engineers.
I think about my premiere with the Nashville Philharmonic in 2016.
And yet I don’t think about the lonely, miserable nights when the demands of my double-degree pushed me beyond my limits. I don’t think about sometimes consuming ungodly amounts of caffeine to keep working until the sun came out—and then forcing myself to power through a full day of classes and piano-practicing. And I certainly don’t think about some truly awful things that happened outside of school during my Nashville years which made everything that much harder.
It’s tempting to get caught up in a “grass is greener on the other side” mentality where the past seems better than the present—but all the while you don’t realize you’re viewing everything through a filter. I’m glad for what I had in Nashville, but I’m realizing that just because life is different now doesn’t mean it used to be easier or better.
Nashville versus Chicago is like apples and oranges. They’re completely different—that’s all.
So this weekend, I realized I can both be glad for the past and also stay focused on the present and what lies before me right now—because maybe in another two years, I’ll look back at my time in grad school in the happy way I look back at college.
But what happened with my performance with the Composer Collective last weekend? It went great—especially considering we had only one rehearsal, and “Internal Combustion” is a fast, dissonant, piece with meter changes every few measures. Huge thanks to my players and conductor for their hard work! Hopefully I’ll have a recording soon that I can share with you.
As I drove home from Nashville, I had no regrets. I loved my old life there, and I still love and miss the city and the people, but I’m glad for the present adventure of living elsewhere to see what more is out there. I may move back someday—or I may not. Or maybe I’ll go to yet another place like LA. Who knows?
Yet what I do know is this: I may not be struggling to complete all these big papers and projects as the semester draws to a close, but now isn’t the time to look back—it’s the time to soak in the present and keep an open mind towards the future.