08 September 2011

More Adventurous...

"It's only doubts, that we're counting on fingers broken long ago. I read with every broken heart, we become more adventurous." -Rilo Kiley

Today, I received word that Ashley, one of my best friends, had arrived in Wales to begin a new adventure of both graduate school and living abroad. I've been considering for some time writing a blog about adventures and leaving home. And I've discussed with my friends at El Cassette Grabao about collaborating regarding our top songs that remind us of leaving home. So, perhaps this blog will be the beginning of our collaboration. (Ashley and I have included our portion of the collaboration at the end of this blog post...with videos of the songs we have chosen...)

The picture above is from the Claridad Festival in Puerto Rico from late February 2009. It was my first trip to Puerto Rico (with my best friend Jennie Ann). It was my first exposure to the cultural and political environment in Puerto Rico that would capture my attention and ultimately lead to my dissertation research...and hopefully a book in the next few years.

Since February 2009, I've traveled to Puerto Rico several times. If I sat down and counted I could give you the exact number...it is somewhere close to 7 or 8 or 9, but that is the thing, I've been there so many times that I'm not sure exactly how many anymore. But my love affair with the island is not the point of the blog.

Rather, I'm hoping to talk about the sense of fear and excitement that accompanies new adventures. When I moved to Puerto Rico last summer for six weeks for my very first research trip in the field, I was filled with contradictory feelings. I was scared. I was nervous. I was excited. I couldn't wait to arrive. And these are the kinds of feelings that seem to accompany every new adventure.

Sure, leaving home and going somewhere new for any length of time is scary. Actually, I'm pretty sure that more people don't go on these types of adventures because, well, they take you out of your element. They take you away from everything you've ever known, particularly when you are traveling far away, somewhere unfamiliar, like to a new country...as many of my friends have done this past month. Granted, six weeks in Puerto Rico is hardly the same as moving for a year or indefinitely to a new country, but I'd like to think that my adventures in the summer of 2010 and 2011 give me some insight into the feelings that my friends are currently experiencing.

The other thing about adventures is that despite the fear encountered in embarking on a new place...you get to experience something new. Every corner you discover something you've not encountered before. Every day brings something unknown. And little by little, you carve your corner in this new world, but the experience of trying it all for the first time...well, what can I say, it's like the first time, whether it is a first kiss or the first time you admit you care about someone.

You might be afraid, but you jump into those unknown waters and you do it. Why? Because you must. Ashley and I have discussed countless times the need we both feel to take these adventures, to leave home, to discover other places, to meet new people, and then, even, to return to people we've known for years and recount the experiences we've had.

And so, it is with all the fear and trepidation and excitement and adventures that I've had my past two summers in Puerto Rico (and hopefully, for a full year in 2012), that I send a cheers (saludos) to my dear friends that have embarked on these new adventures and journeys. The ones that have left everything they've known behind to do something different. To try something new. To do something they feel they must... because to not do it, well, that'd just feel wrong.

So this is a cheers to Carlos, Orlando, Sam, Jennie Ann, and Ashley...my five close friends who have all moved in the past month to embark on a new journey and adventure in a new place...I'm so proud of all of you, for the guts it takes to uproot yourself from the place you've called "home" to do something new. May your adventures be grand and full of trepidation and excitement.

The idea that Orlando (of El Cassette Grabao) and I had about our collaboration was to list our top five songs that reminded us of leaving home or taking new adventures. I'm going to publish them here, along with Ashley's top five...so that we can begin the collaboration between our blogs.

I'm counting down the days until my next adventure...


For Orlando and Juanluis of El Cassette Grabao...(I wrote this before I left this summer...)

When I first started thinking about collaborating with Orlando on this particular blog post, the idea occurred to me when he told me about moving for graduate school and I thought about Ashley my best friend here in Nashville, Tennessee, who is also moving from Nashville to Cardiff, Wales for graduate school in September. I thought about how during these times of massive transition, we often turn to music to remind us of the people and places we leave behind when we move from place to place. Not only do we find ourselves saying personal goodbyes, but in our last remaining days in a city or town, we walk through its streets noting to ourselves, “This is the last time I’ll walk down this street” or maybe more appropriate for myself, “This is the last time I’ll buy beer from this store where I’ve made friends with the people who own it.” And then months later, as we find ourselves in a new place, surrounded by unfamiliarity, we turn to the music...to remind ourselves of how it felt to be in that place, for that time, with those people.

Although I’m only leaving Nashville for the next weeks to stay in San Juan, I thought it would be interesting to bring together two different people that I both know who are saying goodbye to a place they’ve both lived for many, many years. Orlando will leave San Juan and Ashley will leave Nashville. They will uproot from what they’ve known for years and travel onwards to new adventures. That being said, I’ve had to say goodbye to many places in the past. I’ve moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to Asheville, North Carolina to Boone, North Carolina to Asheville (again), and Charlotte (again), then onwards to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and finally here to Nashville. For each there are songs that will always remind me of the people and places of those time periods…and so here you go, my five songs about leaving things behind…and moving forward to something new.

1.Crazy- Patsy Cline

My first move was from my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina to Asheville, North Carolina to start college. That first night was one of the most difficult. I had never left home before. I was sharing a dorm room suite with three other girls—Allison, Misty, and Tori. That first night was spent unpacking, opening letters that my best friends and family from home gave me after they helped me move in, and too many tears. In a moment of loneliness and loss of our homes and families and friends, the four of us gathered in a room and realized we all had one thing in common—our love of Patsy Cline. And for the next couple of hours, we listened to Patsy Cline on repeat, while we told stories of all that we left behind.

2.Misunderstood- Wilco

When I left Asheville after two years of college, I was ready to leave. I didn’t venture far—only two hours away into the mountains of North Carolina, but my time in Asheville was always marked by the feeling expressed in this song. The leaving and the returning to Asheville, the complications of life and love, and the sheer feeling of wanting to scream at the top of my lungs—“I want to thank you all for nothing, I want to thank you all for nothing at all.”

3.South of the South- David Dondero

Dondero is one of my favorite musicians of all time. He is an old friend from when I was in college; however, it wasn’t until I lived in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina that I was able to meet up with him again. When I heard this song, I knew—it completely captured the southern states of the United States….the humidity, the screen doors, the coastlines. “My own sweats basting me, thunderstorms are chasing me.” Saying goodbye to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina was probably one of the most difficult places I had to leave. I fell in love with the kitsch and the tourists and the ocean and the pink houses. It’s been three years since I’ve lived at the beach, but for those of you that have traveled the coast of the south—you know what I mean, it stays in you. It just never leaves. It will always be home, no matter how far you travel.

4.Nashville Moon- Magnolia Electric Co.

I haven’t left Nashville yet, at least not for long—six weeks last summer and again six weeks this summer. But every single time I leave for field research, I hear this song in my head. Because every time I leave, I think of all that I leave behind. In the last couple of years during my time in Nashville, I’ve felt a real sense of community—in my neighborhood and with my “Nashville” family. So, I know when the time comes to leave in a few days, I’ll miss all of it…and one day in the close future, I’ll be saying goodbye to Nashville forever. And now, with my friend Ashley leaving Nashville, I can’t help but also think of her, leaving behind everything she has known for years…but onwards, mi camarada for new adventures.

5.I Must Belong Somewhere- Bright Eyes

Although there are places that I have obviously become attached to in my past, there are some folks—and I include myself in this—that don’t feel like they really belong anywhere. This past month, I took a road trip for almost two weeks, where I drove through many of the southern states of the United States. And during a ten hour drive through Alabama, I realized I often feel more at home on the road. I think there are just some of us that feel like we belong somewhere—but we aren’t quite sure where. In the past couple of years, I’ve started to feel that way about Puerto Rico. Although I only get to spend a couple of months there every year, it becomes increasingly more difficult to leave. And while I might not feel like I belong anywhere, I think rather the reverse is true, there are tons of places I belong—with all of my friends spread throughout the world, whether in Charlotte, North Carolina or Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee, or San Juan, Puerto Rico.

One extra for the sense of "home" that we all long for...

6.Home- Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

I think this one might reflect what I’ve expressed already in what I wrote about the Bright Eyes song—but I’ve been careful to think about how I define the word “home” lately. When I wrote recently on my Facebook that my home was on the road, he inquired, “What does home mean anyways?” And, again, I recognize, home is in the faces of my friends…wherever we all may be at the moment.

And here are Ashley's top five songs, though at the time, she didn't feel the need to expand on them, maybe now that she has arrived in Wales, she can add to her list...She referred to them as goodbye songs, so I'll let them speak for that...

1) Coldplay, "The Hardest Part"

2) U2, "Kite"

3) Amy MacDonald, "Mr Rock and Roll"

4) Duffy, "Rockferry"

5) Travis, "Closer"

6) Smokey Robinson, "Tears of a Clown"


And now, I'm going to listen to all of Ashley's songs in the remaining hour of this Thursday night and think about all her great adventures to come....We look forward to the challenge of collaboration with Orlando and Carlos. Bring it. Dale!