It was 4365 days since our first date. Many things had changed and many things were different. First, and most importantly, I was sitting accross the table from a woman that I wanted to be with in the exact same way that I wanted to be with her on our first date – that desire had not increase, it had not decreased, it was litterally the exact same. 4365 days later we were sipping wine instead of drinking beer. And we were at one of the coolest resorts I’ve ever been to – The W in Punta de Mita, Mexico – instead of the somewhat dingy bar at PM in Nashville, TN.
We were celebrating our 10 year wedding aniversary and there was another thing that was identical to our first date 4365 days prior – and that was the subject of our conversation. Over dinner and drinks we discussed who we were, how we fit into the world, what we wanted, and what we cared about. The answers to those questions had evolved, but the core of the people behind those answers were exactly the same. In those years we had gotten engaged, then married, bought and sold homes, had two beautiful children, shifted career focus, won battles, lost battles, and still remained curious, ambitious, and in love.
The conversation bounced back and forth between where we’ve been in the last 10 years and where we wanted to be 10 years from now. But at a certain point, the conversation got hung on one particular subject: the city we called home. I said the exact same thing as I did on our first date: “Ashley, I want you to know that I intend to move from Nashville at some point. On our first date you said you were interested in that idea, I’m hoping you still feel the same way?” But her answer was different this time. On our first date she said that she was open to it, but this time she said, “Yes, I’m open to it…” and here’s what changed “and we need to do it now.” For the first time ever, I wasn’t the leader of this idea, but the one thinking “oh shit, how do we pull this off?” But she knew good and well, that if I was given the green light, it was going to happen.
For Ashley, it was the challenge. She wanted to know if she could stand on her own two feet, away from the support that surrounded her for her entire life. Ashley comes from a family that is so connected that at times there are blurred lines between where one member’s identity stops and another begins. So she wanted the challenge of independence, but she also wanted to challenge the notion that Nashville was the best city for her. She was open to that being the case, and was perfectly happy to call Nashville home for the rest of her life, but she didn’t want it to be because she never tested the idea. She needed the challenge so that if Nashville were to be home, it would be because it was her choice.
For me, I’ve always felt stifled by Nashville. I’ve always felt like if I were my truest self in Nashville, I wouldn’t thrive – and therefore I had to be someone else. And beyond my personality and my values, Nashville always felt limmited in it’s oppurtunity – it’s just not very big relative to a city like New York. For some that’s safe and comfortable, but for me it was… boring. It’s funny to put that idea out there, as I feel like I should appologize, but for better or worse – if I’m going to be honest – it’s how I feel. That said, I do want to clarify one thing – I’m not saying the people who live in Nashville are boring. I know many smart, interesting, inspiring people in Nashville – it’s filled with folks living important and purposeful lives. But what I am saying is that I, Casey Culver, was not inspired.
So there we were, sitting accross the table in Punta de Mita like two deer in head lights, ready to do the damn thing. Ashley said, “if we’re going to do it, we need to move before the kid’s school starts. And we’re going to do it. So…”. To which I replied, “That’s in 6 weeks. It often takes me six weeks to do a menial task. That’s crazy.” She looked at me, lifted her eye brows, slightly titled her head to the right, and gave me a slight grin. She didn’t say a word, but I knew exactly what she was thinking – You say it’s crazy, but you are crazy. You want this, and I know you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get what you want. You’re smart, I’m smart, and we’ll figure it out. So stop thinking about ‘what if’, and start thinking about ‘how’.