I probably say this every year, but wow – it’s hard to believe I’ve been living in Washington, DC for a full five years now! When I think about how I’ve lived here far longer than the length of college, it blows my mind. It sure has been five wonderful years of change, growth, new friends, and a smattering of amazing memories. When I graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2009 (pretty much the worst year to ever graduate, job-wise), I knew I wanted to find a job and live in either Washington, DC (first choice), Atlanta, or Charleston. Luckily for me, a plethora of non-profit headquarters are based in DC, so I found an amazing first job. After joyfully accepting the job offer, I packed my bags and moved 1.5 weeks later, which was five years ago, the day before Halloween. The way it all happened was all-around a God thing, and I am deeply grateful for where I am and the places I’ve been. I must admit, I didn’t think I would live in Washington, DC quite this long, so it’s a little surprising, even to me, that five full years have come and gone. You grow up so much in your mid-twenties, and I love that I’ve done a good bit of ‘growing up’ in this beloved city of mine.
Today, I thought I’d share with you five things I’ve learned from living in DC:
5. Your job doesn’t define you. I think it’s pretty obvious that DC is a career-oriented, competitive, ambitious place to live and work. Almost anytime you meet someone, the first question you’re asked is “what do you do?” I don’t think too many other cities are so defined by the job that a person has or the amount of connections or name-dropping. But it’s a funny quirk of DC’s that you learn to get past (or just start name-dropping yourself!). Though having a job that you’re happy with is clearly an important facet of life, I’ve learned that it’s definitely not everything. So many people are stuck in a job where they work endless hours or get paid nothing (or sometimes, both) – and they end up miserable. I think finding happiness outside of your job is crucial to living a balanced life, especially in such an ambitious, career-oriented city. Yes, a job is pretty necessary… but so are meaningful relationships, giving back/giving to others, enjoying living in such a multifaceted city, and finding joy in your life.
4. DC is all about the happy hour (or brunch)! Maybe this stems from #5, but happy hours are key. I’ve visited a lot of cities, and have friends all across the country, and I don’t think too many other cities do happy hour quite like DC. I don’t think a single week has gone by where I don’t meet my friends for happy hour, and so many social events and work events are happy hours, too. Maybe it’s the need for a drink at the end of the day, or the lure of inexpensive drinks/bites to eat (I still wouldn’t call it inexpensive, though), or it’s just a good time of day to unwind with friends… but DC knows how to do happy hour, and do it well. Oh, and if you’re ever in town, you know I can recommend the best places to go! I have long loathed eating alone, as meals are a great time to be social and get together with friends. Therefore, I am definitely a fan of happy hours – the most important part being that I get to catch up with friends, meet bridal clients, or network with others!
3. It will always take you at least fifteen minutes longer to get anywhere than you think it will. Oh, traffic. If you know me at all, you know traffic is the bane of my existence. And DC traffic is the worst (really, it is. Top two in the country, always!). For a punctual, and leaning on the early side of punctual, girl like me, there’s little I dislike more than being late to anything. I learned pretty quickly that you can never actually estimate the amount of time it will take to get anywhere, no matter if you’re walking, driving, or taking the metro. But throughout the years, I’ve had to learn to relax a little and just come to accept this fact, hard as it is. Depending on traffic, I can drive from my home to my office in sixteen minutes… or in an 1 hour and 45 minutes. Depending on delays on the metro, I can get from one place to the next in twenty minutes… or forty five minutes. You just never know, no matter how hard you try to plan it in advance and prepare. Whenever I drive South for a trip, I know I’ll likely go 40 miles in 3+ hours, and this tends to happen at least once a month! Traffic is one of the two things I sincerely dislike about DC (the other being the cost of living). But I’m trying to be more flexible and extend more grace about this!
2. Though DC is such a transient city, community is everywhere. Combining a transient city with twenty-somethings who are already transient means there is a lot of coming and going! Though I’ve lived here a solid five years, I have very few friends who have done the same. Only a handful of friends who moved to DC around when I did are still here, and I’m thankful that they are. This stage in our lives is a very mobile, temporal time, as new jobs, new careers, grad school, marriages, and even babies enter the picture, causing plenty of moves. Some people become overwhelmed or burnt out from fast-paced city life, or some want to live closer to home, or some want to move abroad. Though it’s so hard to see dear friends move, it’s also something that I’ve come to accept and even embrace by this point. It’s not too hard to stay in touch, especially if it’s one of those lifelong-type-of-friends, and I assume that one day I’ll move away, too. Not too many 22 year olds, that I know of, move to DC and believe that they’ll also settle down here, too. Despite the incredibly transient nature of Washington, DC, there is also a deep sense of community here – which I adore. I have made so, so many treasured friends throughout my five years here, and I am profoundly grateful for their friendship. I moved to DC knowing two people, and I’ve since come to call many my friends. From church to small group to book club to happy hours to work to volunteering to meet friends of friends (and friends of friends of friends, even!), I’ve come to know and love so many people. Everyone wants to feel like they belong, and if you look for it, community – a deep and meaningful community – is likely just around the corner. I have been so blessed by the friendships I’ve built over the years, and I have loved living here because of that.
1. Washington, DC is a magical city. It truly is! I have had so many ‘pinch me’ moments, especially the first year I lived here – knowing that this city is my home. Seeing all of the monuments lit up at night, or glimpsing a stunning sunset while kayaking over the Potomac River, or attending Easter service at the National Cathedral, or seeing the Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center, or attending the White House Christmas tree lighting (x3), or going to an Inaugural Ball, or running around the National Mall… all of these are actually happening – to me! I try to never take it for granted that I live in such an amazing city, that it’s our nation’s capital, and that this city makes countless “bucket list” travel lists. I feel so fortunate to live here – and to love living here. Though there are some negative sides to DC, as with any place in the world!, there are a plethora of incredible things, places, and people that I marvel at daily. Whether it’s DC at Christmastime, or DC during Cherry Blossom season, or right now, autumn in the city, I simply love this place that I call home.
Cheers to year six!
Thoughts on four years in DC!