I was 23 years old rummaging for coins in a sticky cup holder so I could purchase a small, black coffee at McDonald’s. That summed up my life in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and much of my life in Nashville from 2013 to 2016.
Like I said earlier nothing in my life had been that challenging up until then. I was your textbook millennial, I know.. I’m pretty sure The New York Times and Fox and The New Yorker and every other very opinionated publication has done a piece on exactly me, the doe-eyed, privileged, white suburban girl who graduated with a bachelor’s in Sociology in 2012. My parent’s allowed me to have a carefree childhood. School had come easily to me, not because I was particularly intelligent, but because I mastered the art of working smarter, not harder.
So this decision to cut myself off from my roots, be financially independent, and move ten hours away from my upbringing without a stable job was starting to seem like the worst decision of my life.
This world was not mine, sleeping on a Craigslist mattress on the floor, waitressing six nights a week, living in the Bible Belt (being a Catholic girl who got yelled at by the Bishop at her Confirmation when she was 14 years old and had since sworn off the idea of organized religion – that wasn’t the only reason, but you get the idea), and subletting a room from a chef I had never met, Mario. But yet, I was living this life.
I had dreams, we all do. I wanted to work in the Music Industry and I pictured myself in an office on Music Row. But having a vision wasn’t enough, I needed to apply to jobs and really grind – I might’ve been a millennial but my mom raised me to at least understand that. So every morning I applied to countless positions, positions that I later found out would get at least 500 applicants each.
I convinced my parents that this is what I wanted to do and I was sticking to it.
I applied and applied and applied. I played gigs and I served food. I will never forget this time because I was so remarkably lonely and so unbelievably broke. I’m not one for crying too much, but I remember crying at lot. Not only did I put myself in some town (that might well have been on Mars – They had a donkey themed annual festival and the bank employees wore camo in honor of opening day of deer season – I was very out of my element), but every dream I had was crushed by the realty of a world I never knew existed around me. A world that didn’t give a shit who you were, where you were from, or what you knew. From that, I learned that the only thing the world cannot deny is hard work. I’m talking down and dirty, roll your sleeves up, never sleep hard-fucking-work. Talk is cheap. Never trust anyone who talks, only trust people who yield results. I promise you, the grittier you are (grit: noun \ ˈgrit \ firmness of mind or spirit : unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger), the more your dreams will come true. That’s a fact. The longer I stayed in a position I didn’t like, the grittier I became.
During the fall of 2013, Nick, a Tennessee boy from the restaurant, took me out in Nashville and laughed with me about my new misadventures. He showed me the skyline, the Batman building, and listened about my friend who had passed away two weeks prior to my move. He told me about his history with getting in trouble with the law (which admittedly was very surprising because he was so clean-cut and handsome – dark complexion, beautiful features, and very fit) and his amazing, uplifting journey since. He paid for all of my drinks the first night we hung out and paid for almost everything after that when we’d go out. I think he knew my financial position and just wanted me to be happy and comfortable, so he would sneakily pay bills without saying anything or embarrassing me. To this day, that is one of Nick’s greatest traits, he gives and he understands without question. I think that’s what drew me to him then.
Nick and I developed a friendship with the chef, my roommate, Mario, and the three of us would drink PBRs, watch movies, and laugh as Mario cooked amazing dishes for us. On our days off, we would go on “shopping sprees” to the Dollar Tree and scope out all the best thrift stores in the area. These guys were my friends, my confidants. They listened for the following months when I didn’t get job interviews, and they comforted me when my childhood dog passed ten hours away. And I did the same for them. We bonded, and Nick became my best friend. We all had this weird circumstance of working at the restaurant and being in this little town together. During this time these friends also encouraged me in starting, BANDADE.
So I got grittier and I found light in a situation that I thought was devoid of joy. These people became my friends because they were good and they were honestly. They were working hard and paying bills and getting by just like me. My world began to shift. It shifted from someone who studied society in college to someone who participated in society. It shifted from someone who read about poverty to someone who lived pay check to pay check. I distinctly remember standing in line at a local Wal-Mart using the last of my money to buy milk and eggs for the week, when the person in from of me pulled out food stamps to purchase a cartload of Starbucks ground coffee, juice, soda, the best hotdogs and hamburgers, candy, and chips, and I thought, “Huh, this is life. This is what I studied. The application of it and sometimes the hypocrisy in it. I don’t know how I feel.” Honestly, these months are the most significant of my life. I absorbed the blows life had to offer, failure, death, mental illness, and anger, and powered up, just like a video game character, with the help of some really wonderful friends and family.
Grind, I did. Like I said, I applied endlessly, but that didn’t seem to be enough. By November I was ready to give up and move home. But my parents insisted that I follow through with this adventure. They visited me in Tennessee for my birthday in November and forced me to go on a ride around Music Row with them. I did and I distinctly remember my mom pointing to the biggest building that housed one of the most renown music companies on the block and saying, “Caitlyn, don’t you ever give up. You are going to work at THAT company one day. I know it.”
Well, it wasn’t until right around then that a customer at one of my tables back in Spring Hill at the restaurant recognized my name on a cheaply printed gig flyer, that I got a break.
Sidenote: This is significant because we all need to remember to give people breaks. Not matter what their situation or what we think we know about them, everyone deserves a break. Someone gave me a break and I plan on passing it along throughout my life.
It turned out that the customer worked at the aforementioned company on Music Row (one that I had applied to jobs at for years) and he had grown up with my dad in a small shoreline town in Connecticut. The world is so small!
This wonderful stranger invited me out to coffee with his wife. They asked what I wanted to do and my answer was rough, unsure, and probably right in-line with those New Yorker millennial articles. I’d polish my answer over the years. Still, they were kind, and told me to put their names down as a reference on my next application to the company. I am positive this little act is what got me my first professional interview on Music Row.
Only a month or so later, I was waiting in the massive marble lobby that my mom pointed to, in my best clothes, waiting for my interview.
(DISCLAIMER: This blog primarily chronicles my six month trip around the country putting on concerts. And really my life in general… You don’t need to, but, if you have the time, I recommend reading the blog posts prior to this one for the full context. Thanks for reading! ❤ Knight Pines)
Nick out on our first night in Nashville, 2013