Saturday, September 28, 2002

Randomly Still in Nashville.

Sometimes I just can't believe the unstable, constantly shifting thing my life has become in the past 9 months. Despite all plans to the contrary, I now find myself in Nashville for the fourth week in a row - tending a small dog I despise, shipping a historic guitar to Hong Kong, and dating a member of Nashville's landed gentry quite by accident.

It's like the hand of fate enjoys slapping me around or something.

Up until last December, I led a quite orderly, planned life. I was a student who often had up to three part time jobs all at once. I kept a planner with events scheduled a year or more in advance. My rise from a disgruntled mall worker in semi-rural Tennessee to a grad student in Boston working for Harvard was the result of living a rather carefully controlled life according to long term goals and lots of hard work.

Then I finished school, and found I had no goals left to reach (other than at some point in the future becoming a mother). I also had no full time job, no money, and had graduated in the worst economic decline in 25 years. I decided that given my options, I would deliberately go on about being aimless for a while. I dyed my hair blue, and spent the summer with my roommate Aral eating pie, collecting unemployment, and getting inebriated on the roof of our neuvo-brownstone.

Things have just spun all out of control since last winter. And while I'm now making a good deal of money and still trying to set myself up for good in Atlanta, I have no good idea from one day to the next how things are going to go. And it's dawned on me: I hate being aimless. Screw this. I have an interview with the CDC in a week and a half, and I'm actually starting to get excited about working for the Federal Government. I need order. I need structure. I need my books in order on my shelves. I want a long term plan.

Which is exactly why Nashville is so bad for me. Nashville is all these shifting layers of things - on one street, you're in the city, but two blocks over you're in the country. Nashville is rich, Nashville is poor, and I'm pretty sure that short blonde woman jogging down the street the other day with two armed guards was Tipper Gore. Last Sunday's paper had a whole editorial page dedicated to why people in Tennessee don't care about education - and no one protested, they all just shrugged their shoulders in agreement. The treasures of the city's formerly healthy music business slide through my hands into boxes marked for other countries, and our house sits next to one where Waylon Jennings used to live - the street that dead ends in front of us is Amanda. No one here listens to that stuff, not even me. I am poor enough to drift here for just one more week - being an undertaker for Music City pays and pays and pays.

There isn't enough money or liquor in the world though, that could keep me here past this Friday though. No Sir. No way, no how. It's my birthday weekend, and Friday I'm riding up to the Jonesboro storytelling festival, to laugh and eat and drink with Kati, Christi, and Dust. I will see all the stars from a mountain is Mosheim. I will hug an old teacher. I will refrain from mocking the Pagans, and with any luck, I'll make it through this birthday - nine months after my graduation, with my life nothing like I thought it would be. Nine months - it's like I've given birth to an entire year of wandering. I always thought I'd graduate and start to get all domestic, or maybe get my novel published, or at least fall in love. But nothing ever happens the way you want it too.

I started a casual dating relationship with a friend of Tony and Andrew's. Neither of us expects it to develop into anything - once you get past your early twenties, you can almost tell right from the beginning if something's serious or not, and this is nothing, just two people who can have intelligent discussion, flirt, and hang out with each other. He's got perfect grammar, his paperbacks are in alphabetical order by author, he's 27 and went to Montgomery Bell Academy here in town - where the rich kids go. I've never known an MBA boy before - that crowd tends to stick to its own. The guy I'm dating is part of Nashville I've always been aware of, but never actually experienced.

This guy rates about a 7.5 to an 8.2 on the scale of Joshyness, my own personal scale of men. I developed this scale using the standard of Josh, a guy I relentlessly crushed on without ever dating. See, Josh was a 10 on this scale because I never saw his apartment, never got him naked, never heard about his deep neuroses. He remained a perfect and unattainable goal - distant and beautiful and brilliant always. I never had to fight with him about whose turn it was to call. We never had a huge argument. Actually, men in my life lose a point on the Joshyness scale just for failing to know more than one language or not having traveled outside the US enough. And I'm OK with that. The scale is irrational, arbitrary, and constantly changing. It reminds me of how uncertain romantic relationships are. I look at those around me in long term relationships and notice what a constant struggle even the most permanent of bonds can be, and count myself lucky to date anyone at all. As adults, it's just lucky to run into someone who's on the same wavelength as you every once in a while. So the two of us like to hang out. It's too bad he's a Nashvillian through and through, and I'm destined for Atlanta, beautiful, steamy, and much more structured.

Dating is random. Nashville is random. I'm random. This post was random. I'm sorry.

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