the hometown bubble.

the hometown bubble.

I haven’t been very good about writing lately.  (I sound like a broken record.)  Aside from some journaling here and there and starting a few song ideas, I’ve allowed my mind to be distracted by other things… travelling, packing/unpacking, being outside as much as humanly possible, Harry Potter books (I’ve decided to read the entire series for the first time), putting the finishing touches on releasing new music, learning songs for sessions and shows, visiting my family, happy hours on patios, and my newly acquired love/hate relationship with Crossfit.  (Yes, you read that correctly…Crossfit.  I know.)  It’s actually quite pitiful how much I think, “I should write today…about this…oh don’t forget you want to write about that…” and then I don’t.  Case in point, I’m sitting at my kitchen table with the window open, listening to it storm outside.  The dogs are all at my feet because they don’t like the thunder.  I’m settling in and getting in a good headspace to start writing and I see my boyfriend’s car pull into the driveway with a much-needed new bag of dog food.  So I feed them, I send a couple emails, I wash a few dirty dishes by hand, I check my Twitter, and I think how absolutely LOVELY it would be to curl up on the couch with these pups, listen to the rain, and read more Harry Potter (I’m halfway through Book 6.)  But I have to write.  Kind of like when I set my alarm for 4:50AM for a 5:30AM CrossFit class because it’s the only time of the day my guy and I can both go together.  You dread it, you hate it, you want to push “Snooze” (and maybe you do once), but you know how much better you’ll feel once you’re done.  That’s exactly what I’m hoping happens with writing this blog entry. 

There’s a lot of ground to cover, but I won’t try to tackle even half of it in this entry today.  You’d be reading for hours.  I will, instead, commit to writing another blog entry by the end of this week.  So there, I said it, feel free to hold me accountable.

I’d like to give this afternoon’s attention to my hometown.  And my guess is, your hometown is probably an awful lot like mine.  So I’ll proceed…

I was born in Garden City, MI,  lived in a Polish neighborhood in Detroit the first few years of my life, and then moved 20 minutes west (with Metro Airport right beside us), to the suburb of Belleville, Michigan by the time I was a toddler.  The first home I have memories of is the little brick ranch that sat off a horrendously pot-hole-filled road right behind what used to be Dimitri’s Kitchen (which I guess is now called Mike’s Kitchen).  I made my very first friends there.  Friends that I actually still keep connected with via social media.  I lived in Belleville and only Belleville until the day I moved to Nashville, however, throughout my younger years, I ended up attending 3 out of the 5 different elementary schools within Belleville’s city limits.  Don’t worry, I was uncool through all 3 schools, ha.  Between 2nd and 3rd grade, my mother was expecting her 4th (and thankfully, last) child so we inevitably outgrew our little ranch.  We relocated over the bridge, on the other side of Belleville Lake, to a brand new subdivision, where at the time, we were the 5th house being built in the whole neighborhood.  Our new location had us directly beside Belleville High School and it was a dream for me to people-watch all the students, imagining my own “Saved By The Bell” episode when I reached those hallowed doors someday.  Yup, it was a whole new world on the other side of Belleville…

Our new home was walking/bike-riding distance to Main Street and all the glorious things you can only truly appreciate when you’re a kid.  Hours spent climbing and running all over Victory Park, sugar highs from Frosty Boy, hanging out by the library, loaded cheese fries from A&W, candy cigarette’s from the Dairy Mart, feeding the overzealous (and disgusting) carp off the boat docks at Reflections…  It was sublime and as a child, I had no interest in knowing a life outside of my town.

I was a Belleville Cougar cheerleader when I was 8-10 years old, which lead me to cheerleading for South Middle School and the first couple years of high school.  Turns out, I was too cynical & sarcastic to be a good cheerleader even at 9 years old, and I never outgrew it, who knew.  I was heavily involved in dance and singing at Jan’s School of Dance.  The owner/instructor, Jan Oliver, scared the hell out of me as a kid.  She was strict but she was good, and she called me out on my laziness.  She also gave me some of my first public singing performances at our dance recitals over the summer.  I was involved in my hometown’s Strawberry Festival, whether it was singing/dancing in the parades, performing at the craft fairs, headlining on the ‘main stage’ with my comically bad band at the time, or coming in 1st Runner Up in the Strawberry Queen Pageant.  *cringe*

Throughout high school, I started performing at every local event there was…charity dinners, Music in the Park, choir concerts, tree lightings, church revivals (shout-out to Faith Assembly), talent contests, the whole works.  Suddenly, my dorkiness was irrelevant because everyone knew I could sing.  The local papers wrote about me and for the first time ever, I felt almost cool.  I started performing bigger gigs on bigger stages with bigger artists, and Belleville had a unfailing, “That’s our girl” way about them in their support for me.

All of that was great, but the closer I got to graduation, the more I wanted out.

Nashville was calling.  Literally.

I got to feature my hometown of Belleville, Michigan on USA Network’s “Nashville Star 2” when I was a top 10 contestant back in the day.  I was still working as a hostess at our local Cracker Barrel and I’ll never forget one morning, while refilling a gentleman’s coffee at 7AM, seeing my face on the front page of the newspaper he was reading.  That’s when I KNEW knew…It was time to go.

I’d visit Belleville multiple times a year, every year, for over 10 years.  The first 6 years or so, I’d come back and find it, uh, uneventful.  It was the same few storefronts that managed to stay afloat downtown somehow (one of them being the Chamber of Commerce, so I don’t think that really counts), the rest were closed and the buildings stayed empty.  There was no night-life, no trendy bars or restaurants, the closest theater or mall being 20 minutes away.  I was really just visiting for my family’s sake.  Nashville was so big, so exciting, something to do every second of every day…forever a new place to discover, new friends to meet, coffee shops to bring your dog, countless boys to date, any and every concert you could ever hope to see, studios and writing rooms and stages to be on.  I was so certain I could never be anywhere but Nashville for the rest of my life.

I’ve always joked, “God put a bubble around Belleville.  Nothing’s changed in 20 years.”  And although I’ve always thought those exact words to be true, the way I interpret that statement started to shift about 4-5 years ago…

Somehow, as life went on, my hometown started to become my place of solace, my refuge.  I needed a break, and Belleville gave me one.   I needed away from never-ending construction and condos and bar-hopping and bad boyfriends and insufferable traffic and comparing my dreams and my progress to everyone else’s.  I needed my family, yes.  But I also needed the simplicity that I once rolled my eyes at.  I needed to sit in Horizon Park, right beside Belleville Lake, and breathe…just like I’d done throughout middle school and high school, when I used to look for my voice through writing poems, diary entries, and song lyrics down by the water.  I needed to walk my nephew to Frosty Boy and chase him in the park.  Because if I could watch his eyes light up, then I could forget about all the messes I kept getting myself into.  I needed the comfort of knowing that every member of my family was only a 5 minute drive from the other, so that they could remind me who I REALLY was, not this train-wreck persona I couldn’t snap out of.  And $3 drinks with old friends at Johnny’s was quite the welcomed change of pace from the $14 martinis/shoulder-to-shoulder bars/loud bands playing “Wagon Wheel”/getting all dolled up just to have boys treat you like they’re at a buffet/inevitably leaving my debit card somewhere-scenarios I’d been dealing with for years on end.

Whereas I used to look almost sympathetically at those that never got out from my hometown, I was now jealous of them.  Maybe the “world of endless possibilities” is too much, granting me too many options.  When you have so much in front of you, it makes you feel like you should never settle, like you’ll never be satisfied, therefore, you never do and you never are.  And that’s a lot to take on in your teens and early 20’s when you still don’t know your ass from your elbow.  I started to see my old high school friends that were raising their own families in Belleville in a whole new light, as I was on my 4th disastrous relationship of that year in Nashville.

When I made the decision 18 months ago to live 50/50 between Nashville and Michigan, I second-guessed it everyday for months.  It was that internal tug-of-war where the Nashville Rachel was supposed to be so much better, more evolved than the old Belleville Rachel, so how could I resort back after coming this far?  I’m happy to say, it didn’t take too long before I removed my head out of my ass and realized that both Belleville Rachel and Nashville Rachel can indeed coexist together.  They are both me, they both have a lot to offer to whoever will listen, and no matter what, I’ll never be able to out-run that nor should I want to.  It’s kind of like this brand new song I just wrote and recorded a couple weeks ago in Nashville, where the lyric asks, “How you gonna grow when you’re cutting off your roots?”  Perfect, right?

I give you all of this backstory because recently my hometown has been shaken to it’s core.  There’s been a few tragic (and unfortunately violent) losses that has left Belleville stunned and speechless.  It makes no sense.  One loss, in particular, hasn’t left my thoughts since it occurred a couple weeks ago.

I was down in Nashville late last month, loaded up on meetings and studio sessions, and for once, not really reading what anyone was posting on social media.  I was updating my Instagram story fairly regularly, detailing me in the studio and all, and I saw a somewhat familiar Instagram user that had viewed my story earlier that day.  Curious, I clicked on her page and went through some of her photos.  This girl was a few years younger than me and went to school with my sisters, also she hung out with some of my old childhood friends, so I’d see her pop up on Facebook sometimes. I hadn’t physically seen her in a few years.  Last time being at a local bar, where she came up to hug me and tell me that she had started singing out and about recently and how she thought it was so cool that I moved to Nashville.  When I looked at her Instagram profile a couple weeks ago, I saw photos and videos of her singing, posts about yoga and meditation, intellectual and inspiration quotes, and I thought to myself, “She’s super pretty, she’s into fitness and music, she’s single and child-less and likes to go out, I should become real-life friends with her.”

She was gone 24 hours later.

She died inside her house that sat off a dirt road less than 2 miles from my parent’s house.

And just like that, the bubble I was so sure would always cover Belleville burst.  The reality that my hometown is not exempt from ‘the world’ hit hard.  The reality that a young woman…just like me…just like my sisters…just like you…could be taken…?  This isn’t a troubled past/wrong crowd/drugs/bad neighborhood/a photo shown for 15 seconds on the local news.  It’s so much to process and it will continue to be so much to process.

I share this story, not because I have anything new to contribute.  I don’t have details, I don’t have all these memories and stories.  All I have is perspective.

Egypt Covington was one of us.

I’m still Facebook friends with a lot of people in my hometown that are terrified/enraged and quite a few of them are saying the town has gone to shit.  Despite these recent tragic events, I have to say that I disagree.

All the things I couldn’t see/appreciate about my hometown while growing up are still present today.  There’s something soul-stirring about the loyalty of a smaller-town community, regardless if it’s progress rate.  For a long time, my eyes were fixated on the “new and shiny”.  But now I’ve seen the new and shiny, I’ve lived the new and shiny, and the new and shiny doesn’t claim you when you feel forgotten, or when you’ve forgotten yourself.  But your hometown does. 

I’m proud to be from Belleville and to stand with a community that took care of my family and I.  This town gave me the love and the platform to create these big ol’ dreams of mine.  This town let me cry on it’s shoulder every single time my heart got broken, whether by these dreams or some stupid boy.  This town let me start over.  So no matter where the music takes me, I will always appreciate landing on this stretch of runway that continues to welcome me home.  Bubble or not.

 

 

Burden or light.

www.RachelWilliamsOnline.com

I don’t know when it happened exactly.¬† I just know it happened.

It wasn’t¬†overnight.¬† It wasn’t one catastrophic event.¬† It wasn’t someone’s words that lingered.¬† It wasn’t one specific loss that did me in.

So I guess it was an endless series of things…life…that didn’t seem¬†all that noticeable¬†at the time but “out of nowhere”, somehow, it all¬†culminated into a big ball of everything.¬† Defeat.¬† Exhaustion.¬† Emptiness.¬† Fear.

I lost faith in myself.

I lost trust in not just a dream, but in my purpose. 

No one understands the weight and the weightlessness¬†of someone’s dream except the one dreaming it.¬†¬†They can try to explain it to you, the highs and lows…You can nod your head and say, “I get it” but we both know you’re lying.¬† Because someone’s vision for their life is theirs and theirs alone.¬† The words will always fall flat to the most hopeful of dreams and ambitions.¬† My story will not resonate in your soul like it resonates in mine.¬† That is fact.¬† And each of us can choose to see that as a burden or as a light.¬† In my life, I’ve switched back and forth on how I view mine.¬† And as of lately, it’s been on the heavier side.

And as I sit here on this office couch in Kingston Springs, Tennessee, the reality of my situation is sinking me into these couch cushions more than my big ass.

I cannot ignore it.

I cannot turn off the voice inside.

There is no fire extinguisher to put out whatever is trying to burn brighter inside of me.¬† I’ve looked for one.¬† Whether it was in a bar, or in a bed, or holding new nieces and nephews and trying to convince myself that “This wouldn’t be so bad”…¬† It didn’t work.

So, I have a choice.

We all have a choice.

Burden or light.

Somewhere along the way, a lot of us quit dreaming.¬† It became too hard.¬† Too unattainable.¬† Or, you gave up on yourself before you even started.¬† Or, you turned¬†40 and you deemed yourself “too old”.¬† The world,¬†your family, your significant other¬†told you there was no security in it and you believed them.¬†¬†Whether it was a teacher¬†who once wanted to move to Hollywood or a plumber who dreamed of being a writer all through high school.¬† You went another way because¬†you were unsure.¬† And it’s not to say you don’t live a happy life now.¬†¬†Your life is valid¬†and important.¬† We need the teachers, the¬†bartenders, the taxi drivers, the construction workers, and so on to survive.¬† But maybe you had other aspirations once upon a time.¬† And maybe, just maybe, it’s okay for you to still have them today…even if it’s not what’s bringing in your paycheck.

Being in Nashville the last few days has been a very eye-opening experience.¬†¬†Living here 50/50 is good for me.¬†I’m starting to see it differently, literally and figuratively.¬† I’m having different conversations.¬† And even the conversations that might be the same, I’m choosing to take away different information from them.¬† And the thought that keeps nailing me in the back of the head is this… the dreamer’s dream is as big or small as they make it.¬† It’s as heavy or as light as you want it to be.

I don’t know who/when/where it says that you can’t¬†pursue whatever it is you want to.¬† Or that there’s an expiration date/age for going after something with all your heart.¬† Or that you¬†can only¬†choose “one thing” and stick with it until you get rich or you die of a broken heart and a shriveled liver.¬† Really?¬† Those are my only¬†options? ¬†I call bullshit.

This weekend I was humbled by a few conversations with good friends.

I have confessed my insecurities and my crippling self-doubt about¬†finally releasing my new music and stepping into the “artist” role again.¬† I have teared up admitting that I’m afraid to pick up the phone or shoot the email¬†to ask for help because I feel like no one cares anymore.¬† It took too long.¬† I’ve paralyzed myself by attaching everything to this big vision of how I thought it should be…all the ducks that needed to be in a row…that now that it’s taken longer than it was supposed to,¬†I’m somehow inadequate.¬† My fear became too all-consuming for me to commit and pull the trigger.

Their response to my bleeding heart confessions…?

Do it.  Write it.  Sing it.  And they will come.  The time is now. 

How uncomplicated & undramatic is that?!¬† After this long & drawn out internal war I’ve been waging in my head that has drained me completely…THAT is the solution?!

Yup.

1st conversation:¬† One of my dear friends is a photographer here in Nashville.¬† An incredible photographer at that.¬† She called me up and treated me to breakfast because she wanted to ask for my help.¬† At 32 years old, she wants to start writing songs.¬† Can’t sing, can’t play any instruments, but wanted to follow this creative path because it called to her.¬† She’s not looking for it to produce a hit song or a publishing deal…she just wants to write.¬† I was so blown away by this concept that when she asked if I’d help her, I answered with a resounding, “Fuck yes.”¬† So the next day, she came out, I helped piece together one of her tunes and she was over the moon.¬† She’s still on such a high from absorbing information I’d shared with her about song structure and the business that she can’t stop writing…or singing my praises.¬† And it’s just like, holy shit… how brave that she doesn’t know what she’s doing yet but she’s just doing it anyway.¬† I used to be her.¬† And if she can be her and not feel afraid to dream new dreams, then what the hell is my excuse…?

2nd conversation:¬† Friend of mine has been in town over a decade, singing and writing his ass off.¬† He networks like no one I’ve ever seen.¬† His hair, his clothes, his voice…all loud and proud and he gives off the vibe that he gives zero fucks what anyone has to say about it.¬† Sitting down for coffee with him yesterday, he caught me up on his journey.¬† After over a decade in this town, playing & hosting writer’s rounds and performing showcases as a solo artist, he decided to change it up and form a band to play downtown Broadway every Friday night, after never playing/aspiring to play downtown before.¬† And not just “play on Broadway”, but audition, rehearse, and put together a BOMB ASS SHOW that no one else is doing downtown and that people are flipping out over.¬† He posts videos of rehearsals, etc. unapologetically and people are loving it…he’s exposing his talent in a way he hadn’t before and it’s awesome.¬† Why?¬† Because he felt like it.¬† Oh, and he also started his own clothing/styling thaaang and he’s KILLING IT.¬† So who’s to say that “the dream” has to follow X, Y, Z to be recognized and appreciated…?!

3rd conversation:¬† Yesterday I attempted a Sunday Funday, brunch and all, and it didn’t go quite as I had imagined.¬† By 3pm, my friends had other¬†plans to tend to so I was left with a full belly, a couple of vodka sodas in me, and nowhere to be.¬† As I was driving back to the house and passing through Music Row, a friend/my favorite co-writer called me up and asked what I was up to.¬† I immediately spit out, “Meet me at the office.¬† Now.¬† We are writing a song¬†on a¬†Sunday Funday.”¬† So we did.¬† I’d had this song idea in my head for a few days and I guess I felt it hit too close to home to sit down and flush out by myself.¬† I needed backup.¬† Her and¬†I are good about doing that for each other, ha.¬† During our write/therapy session we started talking about how things in Nashville have changed so much in all the years we’ve been here.¬† We talked about the hustle.¬† We talked about the lack of the hustle as compared to some of these ‘newbies’.¬† We talked about the new crop of writers and artists coming here and how they are making things happen and how it’s easy to feel forgotten if you let yourself go there.¬† She works harder than anyone I know.¬†¬†She’s working¬†the graveyard shift at a “real job” so that she can try to pay her bills, takes a short nap during the day, and then wakes up and writes songs/goes to shows before she has to go work again with a few hours of sleep under her belt.¬† I don’t know dedication like that, I really don’t.¬† But she does it.¬† And when I watch her win CMA Song of the Year in the future, everyone in this town is going to celebrate the girl behind that dedication.¬† I told her, “What if we moved forward acting like we’re fresh off the boat too.¬† What if the stars in our eyes still existed, we just let life cloud them over.”¬† And then we wrote a really good song.

It’s not a prerequisite to have a tortured heart or be¬†a pessimist¬†to chase dreams.¬†¬†We choose that on our own.¬† And how we beat¬†ourselves up is farrrr worse than what anyone out there has ever said/thought about us.¬† So¬†I hope we can get¬†over it.¬† Because the alternative is to stop chasing.¬† And I don’t know about you, but I’m quite positive that I have no other skill sets and I’m miserable doing anything else soooo…this is it.¬† It’s time I start acting like it again.

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What is mine…

Yards.  Lawns.

People take such pride in them, right?¬† Mowing, watering, landscaping, gardening.¬†¬†Personally, I never got into it.¬† However, I do remember how I¬†enjoyed using my push lawn mower in my first rental house.¬†**See photo below for¬†proof**¬†I was about 21 years old, renting a one bedroom, 500 square foot house on a dead end street in East Nashville.¬† Mowing my lawn was my way of saying to the world, “Look at me, I’m grown up.¬† I’m independent.”¬† Never mind the fact that I was broke,¬†watching¬†the only¬†4¬†DVDs I owned¬†on¬†a little 15 inch TV (that had an attached VCR) from childhood.¬† But hot damn, I mowed my lawn.¬† That is…until my brand new lawn mower got stolen out of my backyard shed one weekend I was out of town.¬† How East Nashville…¬† I never loved mowing the lawn like that again.

It’s funny how seemingly insignificant little memories like that pop up and completely relate to your present-day life.¬†¬† How, you ask?

Because, in this exact moment, I am not taking ownership of my yard.¬† Nope.¬† I’m not tending to it, watching it, taking responsibility for it 90% of the time.¬† You know what I AM doing?¬† Obsessing about everyone else’s yard…who should be allowed on it and who shouldn’t be, where they need to water it, how to make it prettier.¬† All the while, my yard goes to shit.¬† But hey, at least I’m being a good neighbor, right?

Hopefully at this point, you’re getting my analogy.¬† If you’re not, maybe you should stop smoking so much weed.¬† Ha.

Boundaries are a real and essential¬†thing.¬† A thing that I’m forcing myself to acknowledge, understand, and set firmly for myself, regardless of my past.¬† Because if we’re being honest here, my boundaries¬†have¬†been¬†about as sturdy as a house burning to the ground.¬† Oddly enough, I never knew the problem was as severe as it was until the last few months…

The moment I sat still long enough, I felt it.¬† The weight.¬† Like a 12 pound dumbbell, just hanging out on my chest.¬† I can still breathe, I can still function, but fuck… it’s starting to irritate me and upset me in a way that I can no longer talk myself out of it.¬† And anyone that knows me knows that I can definitely talk myself into or out of anything, ha.¬† So now we have an issue that has to be addressed or else, I might end up on a episode of “Dateline”.

Factors into this new “boundary awareness”:

  • Being only a 50 minute drive¬†from your family instead of the 8 hours of distance you’ve had for the last 10 years
  • Moving in with my boyfriend
  • Constantly travelling back and forth between Nashville and Michigan every few weeks
  • Trying to remain friends with people I was¬†close¬†to when¬†I was¬†a hot mess
  • Having physical and emotional space¬†to re-evaluate some of the people I surround myself with, and¬† yet I still manage to get stressed out
  • Adopting a puppy that has NO SENSE of personal space…nope, none.

If I could tell you the countless hours I’ve spent worrying/discussing/trying to¬†find a solution¬†for someone else’s¬†health/finances/terrible exes they keep going back to/drug use/lack of sleep/car situation/relationship with their parents/retirement/toxic friends they hang around/Tinder hook ups and so on…you’d roll up a joint for me.¬†And then hand¬†me¬†some Ambien.

I always justified it as one of the following, “But it’s family…She has nobody else to talk to…I’m the only positive influence he has…If I don’t help, no one else will…She looks up to me…He could have a heart attack if I don’t intervene…If it were me, I’d need someone to help me like this…Oh, she’d do the same for me…” and a million other reasons.

But the truth is…

I’m tired.¬† People WILL live without me trying to solve their problems.¬† People WILL figure it out one way or another.¬† People WILL let me down and not come through for me like I have for them.¬† I too will live.¬† Friends/family should not expect me to carry their burdens nor should I so willingly volunteer to do so.¬†

I’m literally reading a book right now called “Boundaries”.¬† Real life.¬† A therapist I went to see a few times, roughly 7 years ago, recommended it to me.¬† I was grieving from a rather devastating break up (6 months later) so when he made this recommendation, I drove to Borders (yes, we still had one of those then) and purchased the book.¬† I read the first chapter and then never thought about it again.¬† Shortly after, I got back together with the ex that pummeled my heart, resulting in me ceasing my sessions with said therapist.¬† If that isn’t a prime example of boundary misuse, I don’t know what is.¬† The more I read, the more I talk about it, the more I realize that my boundaries have been blurred my entire life.

That stops.  Effective immediately.

I have a¬†yard.¬† It has a wooden fence all around it, with a little front gate.¬† The bad shit needs to be kicked out of my yard.¬† The good stuff stays for me to tend to, inside¬†my fence.¬† The gate serves¬†to close & lock¬†on toxic people /situations/ways of thinking that don’t show respect to my yard and my fence.¬† The gate will only open for love.

I need to own my yard again.  

I need to¬†learn to be the neighbor that smiles and waves and¬†tries to keep her dogs from shitting in your yard.¬† And even if/when they do, I will still not come over to your yard.¬†¬†Boundaries, y’all¬† ūüôā228361_6078485580_2108_n1