My name is Shira Gur and I’m the person behind Nashville Forever. One of my favorite things to publish is stories about how ‘Nashville’ touched the lives of its viewers. Over the past year I published several of these stories and now I’m adding another one – mine. So here’s the story of why and how I became an ‘Nashville’ fan and how ‘Nashville Forever’ came about.
In the realm of Nashville fandom there’s a nickname for the die-hard Nashville fans – Nashies. I suppose running a website and a Facebook page as well as Twitter and Instagram accounts, all dedicated to Nashville, qualify me for this title.
That wasn’t the plan.
There was no plan.
And yet somehow one thing led to another and Nashville Forever happened.
When Nashville entered my life, I was back in school for the completion of my master’s degree.
It was a big deal for me going back, a personal triumph.
The story is I was supposed to complete my master’s 10 years earlier. It was meant to be just another step on my way for a PhD, an academic career and some other things that together formed my then version of a good life.
That was the plan!
And it failed.
And it hurt.
What happened was one day I just…stopped.
One day, a day like all others, I lost the ability to function. My thoughts were lucid and I knew exactly what I’m supposed to do but for some obscure reason, when it came to converting my thoughts into action, my brain refused to give the correct order for the rest of my body.
This “paralysis” first manifested itself in my academic work, when I missed one deadline after another (and then the extensions). Gradually it expanded and included all aspects of my life until I couldn’t do anything.
Eventually it got to a point where just getting out of bed in the morning was considered a big victory and I didn’t have many of those.
What made things even worse was I couldn’t pinpoint the cause and that made trying to stop it much harder.
It stemmed from everything and nothing at the same time.
Still, I tried to fight it; I used everything I had to do it but nothing seemed to stop my fall.
Life tested me before more than once and I thought I was strong but this was stronger than me.
To say it got worse before it got better would be an understatement. It was a long fall down. I lost years…and so much more.
Then it was a long, slow, inconsistent and excruciating climb up.
My decision years later to go back to school and pick up where I left off was the final step on that journey.
I had no expectations going back, just hope history wouldn’t repeat itself and this time I would be able to show up and do the work. That vanity of thinking I’m invincible and can do it all was no longer a part of my vocabulary. I could only do my best and hope it’s enough.
Thankfully, this time around it was.
Once that became clear a strange thing happened – I started to have fun!
I had nothing to hold me back anymore so I could enjoy the road and the simple pleasures that came out of spending more time in a place that always inspired me doing work I love. Learning the hard way how nothing in life can be taken for granted made it even sweeter and more gratifying.
Then another strange thing happened – I realized an academic career is no longer my dream and perhaps never was…
READ: More About Shira Gur
It was one of those unexpected defining moments. I ran into an old acquaintance in the hallways. Unlike me he stayed on the academic track and was now a professor at my old department. He was married with two kids, lived not too far from the university and just got back from a conference abroad. In other words – he had my life!
While we talked I expected a certain feeling to emerge inside of me – jealousy.
Not jealousy, not regret. Nada!
All I felt was…relief. It was his life, not mine and I didn’t want to trade.
There’s a quote by Lewis Carroll: “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” I love that.
Getting a second chance in life isn’t the same as getting a time-machine; nothing can turn back the time. Instead it’s a unique and precious opportunity to ask the same old questions and see if we come up with fresh new answers.
The girl I once was delighted on the opportunity to mend the past a get her old wishes, but the woman I became knew the moment had passed and fixating on it was turning back on the natural stream of life.
From where I was standing it was a waste of time and I didn’t have more time to lose.
It wasn’t a sad moment but a liberating one that brought peace to my heart and fresh new energy into my body and soul. It made everything feel lighter in a way and made me want to embrace life in a new way.
While I was getting used to this new state of being and started to explore life from the other side I stumbled upon a TV show about musicians at the heart of Nashville, Tennessee.
So on my spare time I was more than happy to immerse myself in this far away and exciting world that was so different from mine.
Nevertheless, it took me a little while before I became a Nashie.
That happened half way through season 1 on episode 1.14 ‘Dear Brother’ (Written by Nancy Miller and Dana Greenblatt), or to be exact, after I watched Rayna Jaymes, the queen of country music and most things in general, go on stage at the Bluebird café, and sing in front of her friends, colleagues and one Deacon Claybourne, a song called ‘Stronger Than Me‘.
That song, written by the wonderful Sarah Buxton and Kate York, can also easily be labeled as one of the most inappropriate birthday songs ever, since I believe there are few death-row songs happier and more festive. And yet this is the song Rayna sang to Deacon at his birthday party and this is what drove me to cross over to the dark side of the Nashies.
“Oh here I go again, walking the line killing time between my sins…”
From the first crooked note and first line I knew this song; I knew exactly what it’s about and felt it in my bones.
One of the many things you lose with depression is the ability to mask your emotions and adjust your behavior to norms. The more you fight it by trying “to behave”, the harder you fall. But if you don’t fight it – depression takes over and there’s no way of knowing where that fall will end.
That’s if you will the catch 22 of depression and that’s why one of the dominant feelings during depression is exhaustion. This constant struggle wears you out in every possible way and isolates you. Oh yes, if I forgot to mention, depression is a very, very, very lonely place.
So you search for ways to get better and try to escape because the pain is unbearable, but one of the perks of depression is it comes with a false view on life you mistake for an absolute truth. You feel like the darkness you see and feel is the world as it really is and everything else is a lie.
At this state one can do anything to numb the pain and just rest (and that’s why I think so many people who suffer from variations of depression become addicts).
Once you experienced it, there’s no turning back. It’s not like the flu when once you heal, you forget you had it. Every little disappointment, challenge or cancelled plan can trigger it again and in one split second you’re overwhelmed with this exhaustion, pain and cold, harsh pessimistic “realism”. It took me a long time before I felt stable and strong enough to take upon myself new challenges without the fear of breaking down.
Everything about ‘Stronger than me’ from the lyrics through the melody, the arrangement and the delivery reflects what I just said and then some. It’s an accurate description of what happens when you trigger a painful dark place you have no desire to revisit because another trip might, literally, kill you.
It was raw, exposed and truthful. I was beautiful.
“I should write something like that” was my first thought. That jealousy I couldn’t find at the university appeared here. There was something there I wanted for myself; I just didn’t quite know what it was.
My second thought was how brave Rayna Jaymes is. In front of me appeared this powerful and beautiful woman. All eyes were pointed at her and she was very much aware of that but didn’t let it distract her. This woman wasn’t a slave to her image and we know it because at that particular moment she went against all common sense and chose to open up and share her truth, as melancholy and inappropriate as it is, instead of engaging in small talk, sing ‘Happy Birthday’ or stay at home.
The reason for her decision was it felt right to her. Her truth was relevant for her and another person in the room and for her that was enough.
Related: More About Rayna Jaymes
My third thought was how brave Connie Britton, the actress behind Rayna, is. There she was, standing in the middle of the Bluebird café surrounded by the who’s who in country music and accompanied by JD Souther, Pam Tillis and one of the writers of that song, Kate York – and pretending to be this legendary country artist. She immersed herself completely in her character and that world and I believed every word that came out her mouth.
My last thought was how wonderful it is there is a community that enables it. I may have felt nervous for Rayna Jaymes and Connie Britton for taking risks like that, but on-screen at least it all seemed perfectly normal.
No one at that scene acted as if she did something out of the ordinary – just another artist sharing a story. Even later, when Rayna talked to Deacon, he simply said it’s a pretty song.
When it ended I found myself shivering.
I didn’t expect that.
I didn’t know what to do with myself. I felt edgy; like I have so much to say but don’t know where to start.
I got up, went over to my computer and started writing.
Then I did what I always do when something catches my attention – research! I tried to find out everything I can about Nashville. That led me to Twitter and from there the way to becoming a full-fledge Nashie was short.
Whenever I stopped to think about my new-found status as a TV fan it felt a little…odd. I couldn’t fully explain or justify it, but knew it had awaken something inside of me that’s been sleeping for too long – my sense of adventure. I also knew that unlike my depression, it expanded my world and frankly, that’s all I needed to know.
The most valuable lesson I learned on my journey was to go with the flow and that there’s a big difference between that and drifting aimlessly. I wasn’t drifting anymore; I simply trusted my heart enough to let it lead me and stopped questioning everything for once.
This adventure opened a new world to me.
I met interesting like-minded people from around the world and formed new friendships. Several of these friendships didn’t last but a precious few did.
I discovered the world of social media and built Nashville Forever. I used my academic skills to teach myself new skills and researched my way into creating a website, writing a blog, managing a Facebook page, twitter and Instagram accounts.
When I think about it, today I use all the tools and skills I acquired while trying to achieve my other previous dreams – I write, edit, research, build and organize communities and above all – learn new things every day.
It’s strange how sometimes the things you want the most and work so hard for, you don’t get, but the things you don’t even dare to dream come true, almost effortlessly.
One of my dreams as a little girl was to be on the set of a TV show, but it always seemed so far way. The first time I got to Nashville I visited the set and met the people behind it and I didn’t even ask for it.
And there was more.
Nashville, the city, was probably one of the biggest surprises of my life.
When I arrived there I realized I’m one of them. No, I’m not a songwriter or any type of musician but I’m a writer and someone who is constantly looking for that authentic voice and those illusive accurate words.
In Nashville I found my tribe and I keep coming back ever since.
Nashville didn’t change my life – I did. Nashville inspired my life, directed me to a road I didn’t know existed and reminded me I don’t need to wait for approval to do what I feel is right.
Now I am sitting here, in Nashville, writing and sharing this part of my story with you. It’s relevant to me and maybe just another person but that’s good enough for me because it’s the truth.
I don’t know where this road will lead me eventually.
I don’t have a plan.
I don’t need a plan.
“It’s a long, long road to independence …but I’m already gone.”