This has been a big year for me. I’ve faced some huge challenges, like breaking up with my high school sweetheart Jake, finishing my music degree, and living alone for the first time. It’s been a time of reflection and self-doubt, but all these changes have forced me to face a lot of my fears and become a more independent, more grown-up version of myself. Most importantly, it’s pushed me to get serious about songwriting. During all the turmoil and introspection, my saving grace was my guitar, and I’ve finally written enough songs to start sharing them online and piecing together an album.

As a birthday present to myself, I decided to take a solo trip to Nashville last month. I’d never traveled alone before, but after this year of personal growth, I felt up for the challenge. I had also never been to Nashville, and wanted to make a sort of pilgrimage to an important music city. My hometown of Austin has a great music scene, but there is something special about Nashville and songwriters. I just felt like it was a place I needed to be in order to gain a new perspective and build my confidence.

I was ecstatic to hit the road with only my guitar and and my roller bag. But to be totally honest, I was a little scared to show up in a strange city with no plans or familiar faces. Talk about pushing myself this was it.

I post a lot of my music on uSync since it came out. Through its platform, I’ve been connected to a few different music communities. I decided to use uSync to find a couple of emerging artist shows to get a feel for how local artists/writers network.

I decided to message Rachel, a songwriter whose music I found on uSync a while back. She was playing a show in East Nashville the night I was arriving in town. I love her music—her voice is haunting and her lyrics are so relatable. She’s been a big influence on my own music. I’m normally pretty shy about messaging strangers online, but from her uSync page and her shared playlists—I just got the sense that we had a kindred spirits kind of vibe. I started up a new Conversation with her and she replied immediately.  She sent me the address where she was playing, so I at least had that on my uSync calendar.

When I got to Nashville, I admittedly checked out some of the big tourist attractions. I splurged on a backstage tour of the Grand Ole Opry. When it was my turn to stand on the stage and look out into the empty theater, tears filled my eyes. Cheesy, yes—but it was amazing to stand in the exact spot as so many of the world’s most incredible musicians and to imagine all the legendary concerts that had happened on that stage. Then I ate a little picnic dinner in Peeler Park before heading over to East Nashville for Rachel’s show.

The show was amazing. Rachel introduced me to a group of her friends—all musicians and artists who lived around the Eastside. (Some of them I actually already knew on uSync.) Rachel killed it onstage with her solo stuff, and the second band was awesome too. After the show, Rachel and her pals invited me to go to a nearby bar, and I happily accepted.

It’s kind of crazy, but I really felt like I’d known Rachel and her friends for years. My hunch that Rachel was a kindred spirit was right. It’s amazing how—with the right technology—you really can find “your people” all over the world. It felt pretty life-affirming to realize that you can go somewhere totally alone, only to find out that you aren’t alone at all—in fact, you’re surrounded by people who share your ideas and your outlook on the world.

My new friends and I went to the Cannery Row, we checked out a show at Mercy Lounge that we found on uSync. When that show ended, it was pretty late. We got food at Sun Diner which is open all nite. All the East Nashville bungalows and historic buildings looked pretty magical in that middle-of-the-night streetlamp glow that seems to take on its own personality when the entire city is asleep.

When I finally made it back to my AirBnB, the sun was coming up. I fell asleep feeling happy and recharged. A year ago, I never would have been brave enough to travel to a new place all by myself. And I definitely wouldn’t have had the confidence to make new friends and spontaneously explore the city with them. There were times this past year where I felt like I was hitting rock bottom. But it’s true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, braver, and more confident.

I was sad to leave Nashville. After a few short days there, I felt like I’d made some lifelong friends and also fallen in love with the city. Back safely at home, I signed back into uSync and found that Rachel had sent me a message in Conversations. She attached a short funny song she and her roommates had written about the tacos we ate while we were wandering around a few nights earlier. The lyrics were goofy—mostly about how I should come back to Nashville so we could eat more tacos. I laughed out loud. When it ended, I picked up my guitar and plunked out another verse of the song. I used the mic on my phone and attached it to my reply. It was in that moment that I realized what the value of what "social" really means to me. It was a link that synchronized where I was at that moment with another human being 800 miles away.

I realized that my creative spirit could thrive even though I was in a different place and space. I'm no longer shy about my work and more confident to reach out with uSync to connect with other writers I might learn from. I realize that we're all a work in progress and that someone who was more confident and experienced than I also benefited from my presence and inexperience.

I continue to find ways to grow my online relationships and work. I know I am benefiting from engaging with others and that my own contributions matter too. Maybe someday soon, I’ll be heading back to Nashville to perform with my new band?