AFD in NYC Episode 8: Summer Sabbath In The City

summer sabbath

So, here’s where I left you in November. I knew, part way through my time here last fall, that I wasn’t done yet. That God wasn’t done yet. That this story wasn’t done yet.

If you have thoughts to share, there’s a great place for that on instagram… @thatsoundsfunpodcast. I’d love to hear anything that came up for you in this episode and any suggestions of topics you’d like to hear future episodes about.

Previous Episodes:

AFD in NYC Episode 1

AFD in NYC Episode 2

AFD in NYC Episode 3

AFD in NYC Episode 4

AFD in NYC Episode 5

AFD in NYC Episode 6

AFD in NYC Episode 7

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Yeah, I probably should have checked in with y’all at some point earlier than today. So maybe let me pick up where we left off last fall. 

(If you are new to this podcast or this series, hi I’m Annie. I used to only live in Nashville, but now I live part of the time in New York City. This is the eighth episode in this series AFD in NYC. The first seven are linked in the show notes below and on my instagram- @anniefdowns and my New York recommendations instagram account- @afdinnyc.)

So, here’s where I left you in November. I knew, part way through my time here last fall, that I wasn’t done yet. That God wasn’t done yet. That this story wasn’t done yet. I didn’t have more answers right away, I still don’t have many, but I knew a few things. I wanted to figure out how to spend more time here, more extended time here. I wasn’t ready to give up my Nashville life but now, I was also unwilling to give up the New York life I had built.

Some friends were not using their apartment in the city this year, so I am renting it from them. AIRBNB is no longer legal in New York, so I do not rent it out when I’m not there. It’s a home base for me in New York, where I can leave clothes in the closet and snacks in the kitchen and shampoo in the shower. It’s my home. It feels like home. I’m not sure how long this exact address will be my address up here, but a lot of people ask me, “How long are you going to do this?” and my answer is, “I don’t exactly know but I don’t have another path or another plan. This is what I do now. I’m a dual citizen- Nashville and New York.”

In fact, the only art I’ve hung on the walls here at my little apartment are four maps- Nashville, New York, Edinburgh, Atlanta. Every city I’ve called home is represented here.

Speaking of questions y’all have… I did a Q&A slide on my stories last week and asked you guys what you wanted to know about my life here- and a few themes popped up right away, going in the same direction I hoped to go today. But a few are just quick answers, so I’ll do those first:

  1. Do you feel safe in NYC? Are you ever concerned about your safety?

I understand this question, there is a lot going on in the world and sometimes it can feel like New York is the concentrated version of what is happening elsewhere- protests for things and against things, smoking weed on the sidewalks – midtown always and only smells like pot now, and tiktoks and news stories of random crimes in the streets, like women getting punched in the face. Yes, all that is true and all that is here. But I am not afraid. I live on the Upper West Side, a relatively safe neighborhood, and even so, I actually live very cautiously- which you may not know from my personality- but I’m not a big risk taker, I lean towards NOT A GOOD IDEA. So I don’t go places often that don’t feel safe to me, I don’t talk to people who put off strange vibes, I only wear one airpod when I’m walking or jogging or riding the subway, and I just don’t stay out that late. I’m not a late night person in ANY city, it’s just not my vibe. If I am out late, while I am a huge fan of the subway, I don’t ride alone after 10pm when I’m leaving a Broadway show. I take an uber or a taxi home instead. So the long and short of it is, yes, I feel safe, but I am also very cautious.

  1. Am I dating anyone special in New York?

No, I’m not, but I LIVE for the storyline that I’ve been keeping a secret romance from you. HOW “YOU’VE GOT MAIL” OF ME. I wish LOL. But I’m not in a secret romantic relationship. Am I open to dating men in New York and have I communicated that to my community here? 


And am I meeting people and putting myself in situations to meet men and giving it a go when the opportunities come along? 

Yes. Totally.

  1. How do I afford living in two cities?

I totally get y’all asking this question because it is true that New York and Nashville are both big cities that can be expensive. I’ll answer this simply- I afford my life the same way you afford your life. I prioritize in my budget what matters most to me and I remove from my budget what matters less. I’ve made financial decisions and changes this year to make this dual-citizenship life possible. 

But by far the biggest question is, how do you LIVE in two cities? How do you have community and connection and sanity when you have two lives? 

Yeah, that’s my question too.

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In some ways, I was built for this. For jumping all in for two weeks and then jumping all out. It works with my personality and my strengths. Making new friends, pursuing friendships, carpe dieming at every turn because I’m not here forever, wherever the HERE is. It just fits me.

And in some ways, I’ve trained for this. For the last twelve years that I’ve done this job, I’ve traveled one to two weekends a month for speaking events, sometimes more, and my Nashville community got used to me not being at everything. It’s honestly sewn into the rhinestone fabric of our town- lots of people travel a lot for their job- on tours, on weekend warrior gigs, so lots of people are gone part of the time. Interestingly, that’s true in New York too. So I’ve spent sixteen years in Nashville learning how to live in a city full of in-and-out community, deep but not always present or available, and that is serving me here in New York City. 

I have FOMO a lot too- missing an event in Nashville because it’s when I’m back in New York. Missing an event in New York because it’s while I’m in Nashville. I tell people a lot that I feel a huge advantage to get to go to fun events in both cities AND I now have two communities and two home-base cities where I’m missing out on things.

All that is true and it all lives in my chest all the time. 

Friendships now require a little more attention and attentiveness, and honestly, some simplification. I have liked AND I have grieved ways that living part time in New York has caused some Nashville friendships to fall out of social rotation purely based on availability. But also, it’s really good for me. I tend to keep every person I’ve ever met as a dear friend and try to hold them in my hand like grains of sand but it doesn’t work. And having half the time to hold has made it easy to notice which friends reach out to me- which relationships are balanced in pursuit- and which have always waited for me to reach out to them, which were sunsetting long before I’d have been willing to say so- not all friendships are meant to be forever, and this has been clarifying and also sad at times. And I’m still in the absolute middle of it. It’s only June, I’ve only done this a few months. Who knows how this will progress.

But I’m not processing this alone- just in my own mind and on this microphone. I’m seeing a counselor in New York that I really love and respect, I’ve got Mentor Nancy, pastoral voices, and my family and best friends in both cities walking this with me. Helping me to continue to shape the life I want, even if it’s a bit unconventional right now, especially to how I’ve lived the last four decades of my life.

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So the other big theme slash question you also wanna know is about me and God. What I have learned. What I know about God that I didn’t know before I started living in New York last fall. (Thank you for asking, you know I love this question!)

But this one is a bit more complicated. 

Finding a dual city rhythm for social life and church life and my physical and emotional health have come easier for me than finding a rhythm with God in two cities. On top of that, this spring has been the most professionally challenging time I’ve ever experienced, we have made, and are currently making, painful decisions and taking some risks that scare me, and experiencing some profound pruning. (I know, I hear you, pruning is good. Tell me that in another season and I’ll agree more quickly than I’m able to agree right now.) And this spring has caused some fault lines and fissures with me and God and in some ways, the learning has been so deep and profound that I feel like God and I are surviving, but not thriving. Co-existing, cohabitating, but not as connected. 

Many of you know this feeling because you are in committed relationships, like a marriage, where you have done lots of years with someone and you have grown together and changed and had easy seasons and hard seasons. Yeah, it’s like that.

A thing I hear preachers say a lot is this idea that when things are bad, we run to God and beg Him for help but when things are good, we coast on our own. You’ve heard pastors say this too, right? Trying to remind us to have daily rhythms with God, not just throw up 911 prayers. 

I’m the opposite. When the sea is calm and my life is peaceful, I am great at maintaining and focusing on my personal spiritual life. When things are sad and hard and overwhelming, I shut down on God. I put my head down and do the next day, the next thing. I bulldoze through my life just trying to survive the storm or drive through it to the other side or whatever. I do not stop and feel and ask and grieve. And honestly, this is survival and it is good and many of us, if not all of us, do it. It is a skill God has given us to get through what we are not sure we are capable to get through. BUT. Some of us- ahem ME- take that skill that is meant to be partnered with the strength of God to ease up the burden we feel and instead we do it on our own, in the strength we can muster each day, and it absolutely drains us. It has absolutely drained me.

And. Let me just say about me and God. Don’t worry about me. His grace has been sufficient. It has been more than enough. He has held me close and He has helped us, our team and our decision making, so much. He is ALWAYS faithful. 

So what do I know about God that I didn’t know last fall? 

A lot. But most of it is painful. I sat with a family I love at breakfast last week and we talked about how to hold a life that is flourishing and being pruned. They are farther down this road than me, as public people and as business owners and entrepreneurs, and it was so so helpful. We talked about how pruning changes our DNA for the better more than we even realized, but it’s hard. Really hard. About how to hold all the best and worst things of each day at the same time. So I don’t exactly know what I know about God now that I didn’t know in October, but I know there is a lot to unpack from the last nine months as I walk towards my Summer Sabbath.

As you may know, each summer I take a few weeks away from work and social media. (So, after I post about this, I’ll be off social media until July 8th.) It is a vacation for sure, but these weeks aren’t when I adventure, they are when I get quiet and still. I need desperately to get bored. I need my brain to get some rest. I need to lay all my feelings and experiences over the last year in front of God and myself and I need us to categorize and discuss, possibly argue, certainly cry, and hopefully heal. I need to come back from the front lines into the medical tent and get some of these wounds tended to. 

We live by a phrase at AFD Inc that I’m sure you’ve seen- Work hard, pray hard, rest hard, play hard. I will abandon the first for the next few weeks and hope to increase the back three- pray, rest, play. (As a matter of fact, our whole team will be off for the same two weeks because this isn’t just a motto for me, this is for our whole company. They need to pray, rest, and play for some of the same reasons and many more.)

So I will be spending my Summer Sabbath in New York City, instead of Nashville, Georgia, Edinburgh, Colorado, or the beach. Partly because, back to our budget conversation, it’s already paid for and a choice I made when I chose this life was to have my vacation budget go towards having a permanent place here. So I will be in New York.

My friend Meredith asked me on Sunday, as we walked through the street fair and bought dumplings for lunch, what I planned to do on my Summer Sabbath- did I have a bucket list, she asked. I thought for a lot of seconds and honestly, the only thing that came to mind is that I am training for a 5K and I’d like to run the whole thing without stopping- something I’ve never done before in an actual race- so that’s on my to-do list. But that’s about it. I don’t have a single other plan in place. I know God and I have a lot to sort out and talk about, so maybe that’s why my bucket list is so very short. But I also think some of the joy of vacation for me is not planning ahead- the rest of my life is very calendared and planned- and I will enjoy having a few weeks where I send a text and say, “want to go on a walk RIGHT NOW?” or “want to grab coffee in ONE HOUR?” I can’t wait to be unscheduled for a few weeks.

And I cannot wait to hang out with my friends. The friends I already had when I moved here, and the few I’ve gotten to make. I can’t wait to tell you about them… that’s the next AFD in NYC episode. Coming in August!

I sat last night at a table for one, outside a restaurant not far from my front door. I ordered a caesar salad with steak on top, and they piled it with parm- the shredded kind that’s really soft- and the steak was cooked perfectly. I read a book on my kindle while I ate alone. I eavesdropped on my neighbors, stared into the apartments across the street- the ones with open curtains and the lights on, and wondered about the lives in there. I people watched as friends and lovers moved up and down the sidewalk. And I was just quiet. 

There aren’t a lot of places where I am the quietest thing there. It’s one of my all-time favorite things about New York City- it is louder than me. So I will rest here this summer, quietly getting healed and hopefully quietly giving my brain a break. 

Speaking of You’ve Got Mail… there’s a 1969 Harry Nilsson song on the soundtrack. I want to read you sonme of the lyrics- makes me think of why God may have me here…

I’ll say goodbye to all my sorrow

And by tomorrow I’ll be on my way

I guess the Lord must be in New York City

I’m so tired of gettin’ nowhere

Seein’ my prayers goin’ unanswered

I guess the Lord must be in New York City

Well, here I am, Lord, knockin’ at your back door

Ain’t it wonderful to be

Where I’ve always wanted to be?

For the first time I’ll breathe free, here in New York City

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If you have thoughts to share, there’s a great place for that on instagram… @thatsoundsfunpodcast. I’d love to hear anything that came up for you in this episode and any suggestions of topics you’d like to hear future episodes about… And to think… we thought this was seven episodes and done…. Apparently not. And I’m already itching to write and record episode 9. Soon enough!

Thanks for following along on this journey with me. I’m deeply grateful.

Hope y’all have a great weekend, and don’t worry, even though I’m off for the next few weeks, we still have a month of incredible brand new That Sounds Fun episodes for you- so make sure you’re subscribed for some of my favorite conversations so far this year.

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NYTimes bestselling Christian author, speaker, and host of the That Sounds Fun Podcast, Annie F. Downs shares with you some of her favorite things: new books, faith conversations, entertainers not to miss, and interviews with friends.

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