Some trips have been more anticipatory or nerve-wracking than others. Like jumping on a plane in January to see if anything would happen with a certain young man I had been corresponding with. Spoiler alert: It did. But you don't know that when you jump on that plane with your tickets and heart in your hand.
Recently, I've driven to D.C. instead of flying there. Because I can drive there! Which is awesome. But also scary for me, because driving is not my favorite thing to do, and driving on the East Coast terrifies me. I spent the good portion of my first month in New Jersey getting lost, staying in the far right lane, driving too slowly, and clenching my hands on the steering wheel.
So driving to D.C., which is a three-hour drive complete with tolls, bridges, traffic jams, and the Beltway, was quite a feat for me. (And, hahaaaa, I screamed when I got onto the Beltway. In a way to release tension and stress. I screamed. I felt it was an appropriate response.)
It's always lovely, eventful, and fun being there. It's fun seeing friends. It's nice to study in the National Portrait Gallery and the Library of Congress. It's wonderful to go to museums and see works of art and historical artifacts. And there's certainly a romance to the city. There's so much energy in that city and it's so young. I'm always blown away by how, oh, our country is being run by 25-year-old staffers. It's a young city. It's an ambitious city.
D.C. is a place that matters to me in different ways than I thought it would. I always thought I would end up there. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my mom a month after getting home from my mission, and I said, rather unprompted, "I think I'm going to end up in D.C. after graduation. Or Boston. But probably D.C."
And she said, "I think the same thing."
Neither D.C. or Boston has been in the cards for me. England has. And the East Coast has. But not D.C. in the way I was thinking (and in the way that so many young professional Mormons think--of a place where you'll be for a few years, have your first job or go to grad school, interact with scores of other young Mormons doing the same thing, and maybe date--or not date--other aspiring young Mormons). It's been a place that has featured prominently for me in my life (and in my dating life) but it has not been a home like I thought it would. It might be someday, but it won't be in the way I thought it would as a young 20-something. And with the way my life has played out in the past five years, it's better that way. Much better that way. Still, it is a city that means something to me. It means a lot of somethings to me.
D.C. has been a place to conquer fear. Whether jumping on a plane to take a chance on a guy, driving on the Beltway, or facing people I'd rather not run into. Jump in and let go. It's been a place to jump into that fear and let go. Relationships and dealing with people sometimes takes more courage than you'd expect. But it is rewarding (and sometimes a comedy of errors, which is rewarding in its own way).
D.C. has been a revelatory place for me, especially in the first half of this year, with deciding to date Sam and also making decisions about where I would go to grad school. Things have calmed down--the past few times have not felt as weighted when I go to D.C. It's become more familiar. But D.C. is a place of decision-making for myself, and a place to reflect. Perhaps because it isn't home, it performs the same function travel does for me--where thoughts and plans and dreams crystallize a bit more and I am able to come home more determined, brave, and clear-eyed.
I have a complicated relationship with D.C. It's not what I thought it would be for me, but it is a place that I am growing to love. And as I head down to Maryland and the D.C. area for Thanksgiving, I'm both nostalgic for this city that will never completely be mine but also looking forward to the memories I will make--and grateful for the memories associated with it, too.
[Also, just as an aside--fall is the perfect time to visit D.C. Not busy, crowded, or hot at all.]