After living here more than four years, I have come to feel that Washington is truly my home. I am comfortable here. Things here make sense, especially to this Type A political science grad.
Besides simply embracing me as one of its own, the city has changed me in many ways -- some dramatic, some barely noticeable. For instance, I now truly feel that to not run up or down the stairs of a Metro escalator indicates a serious physiological condition, one that requires immediate treatment. My commute is timed to the nanosecond, with the Yellow Line departing at 5:34 to get me to the Blue Line by 6:00 to get me to my condo community shuttle by its departure time of 6:15. Miss the 6:15, and I'm out of luck until 6:45, a long, long time at an outdoor station when it's hot. Or raining. Or snowing.
My mind is now so warped as to find it quite normal for complete strangers to discuss the value of their homes while waiting in the sandwich line at Cosi. The fresh mozzarella-tomato-and-basil-with-vinaigrette behind me this afternoon has his condo listed at $534,000, but the market must be cooling because it hasn't moved since the sign went up yesterday.
In May, my husband and I went on vacation to Florida. For one glorious week we were lost in a land of parades, fireworks, happy music and fruity drinks by the pool. We had been on the return flight for approximately 1 minute 45 seconds when the gentleman in the row behind us commented to his neighbor (a stranger) on property values in the District. Ah, we were heading home.
This real estate fixation and pure candidness is most problematic when I speak to friends and family back in Pennsylvania. I nearly had to staple my tongue in place when a friend in Pittsburgh railed against new construction listed at $184,000. She passed. I almost passed out.
I love that living here means I am surrounded by a mass of other liberal arts majors who want to change the world by leading it. Or persuading those who lead it. Or sweating away for peanuts in Rosslyn (a true sacrifice for your cause) at the grass-roots level. No matter where I may find myself on a given day, someone next to me has read The Post and has an opinion. Not a regurgitated sound bite, but an opinion born of this mix: momentary careful consideration and a generous dose of passion. Are people anywhere else so intimately tied to the ebb and flow of political waters?
The impetus for my reflection is something that I have not yet had the heart to articulate out loud: I am leaving Washington. The ironic thing is that this act of leaving makes me even more of a true Washingtonian, at least the transplanted kind. We tend to come, and then we tend to go. The pastor of my church said that he used to get very sad when his parishioners would leave the area to continue with their "permanent" lives in other parts of the country. After years of such disappointment, he came to realize that maybe his role was to provide temporary shelter while planting the seeds for these individuals to have significant impact on their future congregations elsewhere.
I like to think that my time here has prepared me for even better things yet to come in my new home state. That being said, there are certainly some things about D.C. that I will miss.
I will miss helicopters buzzing overhead, particularly Marine One and its escorts landing on the White House lawn. I will miss the wild determination of protesters from Iowa. I will miss schoolchildren, all wearing the same colored T-shirts and FBI hats, except for when they block the sidewalk or, God forbid, stand on the left on Metro escalators. I will miss the moms with fanny packs who, when standing in front of the Spy Museum, will ask for directions to the Spy Museum.
I will miss our own kind of celebrity spotting at Nationals games: James Carville, John McCain and that representative whom I should recognize but don't. Next spring, I will wonder how the pandas are getting along, as I will probably not be receiving real-time updates on them from the Hartford Courant. I will miss all of the TVs blaring CNN in the gym, with people on the exercise bikes reading the Chronicle of Philanthropy. These things are irreplaceable.
Perhaps living in an affordable single-family home in a top-notch school district will help blunt the trauma of moving. And when I do find a job there, maybe my commute will not be more than an hour each way. Maybe, but one never knows. I just hope that in Connecticut they use turn signals, and should I need to come back, that D.C. will once again welcome me home.