I have a bit of a love affair with DC. I don’t know why. The city has beaten me down time and again. Parking is a problem. Driving is a problem. Renting is expensive. Buying is expensive. Crowds make my skin crawl in the summer. The summer humidity makes me dream of winter. Grocery store lines make me want to spring for delivery service. Stuffy government jobs make me want to escape to a hippie commune. Yet, DC still feels like my home, even after a year in Virginia. Indeed, it’s the city where I’ve spent the majority of my adult years.
I was drawn to Washington, DC when I first heard an older classmate from my high school heading off to American University. It sounded cosmopolitan and I wanted to be a part of it. After forgoing a work opportunity in Zambia, I landed here as a summer intern at 25, bright eyed and dreaming of saving the world. That dream faded over the years, but my desire to stay in DC never did. I often wondered if I had landed in New York City, would I have developed the same love? What about Mineappolis? Or Denver?
DC is the place where my life happened; the place where I fell in love, had my heart broken, lost my home, lost my livelihood, lost a dear friend, and then somehow found strength to rebuild again. There was a time when I wanted to escape this place and start over. But I wasn’t sure of where I would start over. So I hunkered down and found my way in DC.
When James and I were ready to move in together, I sidestepped the obvious path of moving into his house in Virginia. It felt too suburban and it seemed like everyone had a baby and a dog. I wasn’t ready for that. Or I didn’t think so. However, it soon became clear in Southwest DC, we didn’t love our neighborhood and parking 3 blocks away from our apartment with a baby didn’t make sense.
Del Ray did.
So, after a year together in DC, James and I moved back into his house in early 2014. However, a year later, I’ve still been longing for the movement of the city. I can’t really say if the longing is really for the excitement that came with my younger life, zipping around on bike, time for yoga class, or simply more freedom, but I couldn’t shake the feeling. James and I talked about moving back to DC, but our work is here in Virginia, and Isla is thriving at her third day care, after a year of looking for the right place for her to learn and grow.
Despite knowing it didn’t make sense to move, I couldn’t stop looking at real estate.
While other people were browsing Black Friday deals, I was browsing real estate deals. I found a little house at a great price that I was sure we needed to buy, right in the middle of the city, just blocks from the Magic Mike house where I lived a few years prior. Maybe I needed to claim my corner of DC, even if I wasn’t going to live there right away. We ended up putting an offer on the house, and were surprised to be chosen over 6 other offers. It was kind of a disaster making that decision right before holiday travel to two different states. We closed around New Year’s Eve and our renters will moved in last month.
We are business owners!
Maybe one day I’ll get to live in our DC house. Maybe we’ll end up in Coeur d’Alene or Cleveland or Portland or Seattle and I’ll never actually live there. But having the house, my little dream investment that I’ve scrimped and saved for under the worst of circumstances, makes me feel a little more connected to the city while I find my roots here in Virginia and try to settle in.
There is no issue with our quiet Virginia neighborhood. Most people love it here because, above all, it’s safe. And for some reason, I seem to avoid safety like the plague. If it’s comfortable, easy, or straightforward, I tend to run the other way. There was nothing safe about leaving home and taking on a mountain of debt for grad school. Or taking off for work in South Africa, without knowing a soul in the country. Or signing a lease on my very own apartment while piecing together employment. Or starting a family with a man I had been dating for a year. I tend to find the less traveled path, make big decisions, and figure out the rest later, as no amount of preparation or pro and con list has ever adequately prepared me for life. In fact, in most big decisions I’ve ever made, those scenarios that I’ve reached to the furthest corners of my mind to anticipate have never played out, and were replaced by situations I could not have possibly dreamed up, both to my benefit and detriment. Perhaps we can’t explain why we feel pulled in certain directions. All we can do is listen to those nudges and entertain the risk of following them.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. -attributed to Mark Twain.