Five weeks ago on a wintry Tuesday, I unlocked the door to my new Nashville apartment with a silver key and an expectant heart. Dad stood next to me in the brick doorway, his presence easing the arrival of newness.

Here, at last!

Together, we’d just undertaken a five-day road trip from California to Tennessee, smack in the middle of winter, arriving in Memphis the evening of my thirty-first birthday. Trying not to dwell on the life slowly dissolving behind me, I cranked Andy Grammer and Ben Rector the whole way, dancing like no one was watching (trust me, no one was watching). Our adventure included thousands of miles of oil wells and cop cars, candy bars and desert sunsets, care packages and tailgate parties—the stuff of dreams, right? Though it was January, the skies showed favor on us. As I followed Dad’s pickup in Sallie the Subaru—swerving to avoid chunks of gravel kicked up by semis—it was comforting to know I was always a hundred feet behind him. Except for that one exit I missed, where I whipped past him after following the wrong truck. (They were identical.) Truly though, that whole trip across the United States was a marker of God’s faithfulness in every possible way, from the clear winter skies to the kind strangers-turned-friends who moved me in. And being able to experience it with my dad was the best part. Actually, the best part was the impressive voice-to-text thread of father-daughter banter we generated that I accidentally deleted.

Our first morning in Nashville, we woke to an enchanting snowfall that melted by noon. Dad stayed for another two days, helping hammer, screw, and assemble things because he’s much better at that sort of stuff than me. Before he began the trek back to California, we made sure to visit Hattie B’s Hot Chicken as a reward for all the hammering. We also “did Broadway” just so he could get a taste of classic Nashville, except it was like 10 degrees out and our fingers turned to ice. Did you know you could “do Broadway” in 30 seconds flat?

Then, he left. And the silence was palpable.

Not only did I not have internet yet, I didn’t even know where the nearest gas stations were. This is probably the sort of thing you should consider before moving across the country, but I’d been so focused on crafting the perfect book proposal hook that something as prosaic as gas stations never crossed my mind. Here I sat on the other side of a dream come true, excited beyond words yet terrifyingly alone. I mean, living alone was something I valued deeply, but it’s different when your friends and family are inaccessible and six hours away by plane. A few tears came as I thumbed through the pages of Every Moment Holy, the beautiful book of liturgies published by Rabbit Room Press—the community that first drew me to this city. I was given this book the week before at my going away party, where Portia (a dear friend, colleague, and former housemate) had all my people sign it and surprise me with it. Talk about a stone of remembrance. Reading through pages of scribbled messages and sticky notes tucked inside, I took comfort knowing that no matter how hard this transition turned out to be, I was buoyed by the love and support of these people and was exactly where I belonged. It was just too early to see much evidence.

New life takes time to grow, and this apartment was the right place to take refuge against the gray and soggy world outside that was still hibernating for winter. Slowly, I began establishing rhythms again and tried to embrace this time of rest. My personality doesn’t do rest well, so I knew this quiet stillness was going to be good for my soul.

After visiting Nashville for five years, I knew it was a kind city. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the warmth and hospitality that people extended the first couple of weeks of being here. Whether they were acquaintances from past Hutchmoots, fellow Sacramento transplants, friends of a friend, or perfect strangers, I discovered not a sea of loneliness but an abundance of riches. (Of course, I wouldn’t be Bailey without the occasional hour of weeping—usually accompanied by one of Andrew Osenga’s haunting ambient songs. Hashtag Enneagram 4.) Within the first couple of weeks, I had already met with a weekly prayer team at North Wind Manor; helped a new friend host a songwriting retreat by arranging flowers and baking bread; been invited to join the Friends of L’Abri Nashville conference planning team; and enjoyed several coffee/chai/juice/cocktail hangs. It blew me away. Of course, it takes a while to find your home team—the ones you can bare your soul with—but this launching out into the wild blue yonder was going so much better than I had hoped.

Songwriting retreat weekend.
Belonging begins at a dinner table.
Friends of L’Abri dinner and discussion.

Besides focusing on writing and self-care more intentionally, one thing I hoped to explore in Nashville was the art of hospitality. Hospitality that extends beyond just an invitation to dinner, but radiates from hearts flung wide open toward others. There are a handful of nonprofits and arts communities exploring some really beautiful expressions of hospitality out here that would be a delight to partner with in the future. But for now, I’m grateful for those who have already demonstrated this to a restless California girl looking for adventure.  

Even on the best days, I still feel the growing pains. There are plenty of days when insecurity and discomfort win. When I think to myself, “Bailey… what have you done?” Things always look a little different up close, and even moving to the city of your dreams has its ugly side. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, and I’m still trying to find my sea legs. But in so many other ways, it already feels like home. Oh! Did I mention that my dear friend Rory decided to join the fun? She moved out here two weeks later, and we’ve already finished the last two seasons of Poldark. It’s a good life, and boy are God’s ways mysterious and always higher than ours.

Moving to Nashville feels a lot like stepping through the looking glass. Somehow, the places and people I once drew inspiration from are now part of my actual community—hopefully in ways that continue to grow. It’s nothing like I expected and everything I hoped for. That’s the beauty of a dream, I suppose. Even after it comes true, it keeps on surprising you.

North Wind Manor. Photo credit: The Rabbit Room.
Andrew Peterson and company at The Local Show. Photo credit: Jeanine Joyner.
Rory and I exploring the grounds near Belmont University.

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Bailey Gillespie is a writer originally from California who now lives in Music City (Nashville, TN). She loves exploring the intersection of wellness, art, and faith and encouraging others in their journey toward wholeness. Her writing has appeared on Foundling HouseVoice of Courage, and The Rabbit Room. Read more at baileygillespie.com or follow her on Instagram and Goodreads.