How To Live In Washington DC
Get accepted into a “competitive” fellowship or internship or entry level lobbying position – whatever. Think this is it: it’s only a matter of time before you are saving the world (or securing a “real” job). Look on Craigslist for an apartment… see that the price of a one bedroom condo by the Capitol is $2700.00. Silently squeal to yourself. Look farther way. Google Shaw-Howard. Look closer. Spend 2 weeks scouring Craigslist, emailing friends and distant cousins. Find a bedroom in a house in Maryland, or a couch with a friend in Columbia Heights. It doesn’t matter, you’re moving to DC.
Spend the first few nights getting to know your fellow fellows, classmates, or co-workers. Ride the metro for the first time in your life. Go the wrong direction. Have people from NYC scoff at you for being confused. Go to Adams Morgan and be surrounded by the exact same crowd as college. Take too many shots, eat at the McDonalds with a security guard and cab it back to safety. Look at your bank account and realize you’ve spent $200 that week on tennis shoes, a plastic drawer set, pad thai, metro fares, cabs, alcohol, brunch, an umbrella, Tylenol, toothpaste and a new suit. Silently kick yourself.
Learn to take the bus. Put yourself on a budget. Visit Safeway and realize that you can’t stuff your trunk with a month’s worth of Ramen noodles and Capri Suns. Buy a goofy cart, fill it with groceries, try to include something healthy. Realize you’ve lost 10 lbs from walking so much. It’s the end of summer and your shirt is sticking to your back and your feet are swollen. Think about how you would do terrible things to get access to a rooftop pool.
Visit the Holocaust Museum. Cry.
Make friends fast. Everyone is friendly. Everyone is from somewhere else. They are away from home for the first time like you, or coming from a 6 year grad/law school program where they helped with AIDS research. Whoa, people are smart in DC. Clutch your B.A. in Political Science, or Government, or History, or Women’s Studies for dear life. Drink with Republicans. Make out with Liberals. See more diversity than you ever have in your entire life living back home.
Have your first day on the “Hill.” Realize that people come here for very different reasons. There is someone on the other side, from the other “party” who exists solely to combat everything you believe in. Spend half your time answering phones, meeting people for coffee, getting recommendations from others about how you just have to talk to so and so. Email them for coffee. Realize you probably have an addiction. File paperwork, run errands, respond to letters, work late. Think how recess is the best thing ever. Give a tour. Bullshit your way through. Realize that your 8th grade history needs to be refreshed. Who put people like you in charge? Realize that the people “in charge” are in the committee room next to you. Walk past John Boehner. Realize you have absolutely nothing to say to John Boehner.
Go to a “networking” event. Drink too much wine and eat too many hors d’oeuvres. Listen to the person speaking incessantly about themselves and what they do. Want to punch them. Want to jump out the window. Leave feeling defeated. After meeting 100 new contacts and handing out dozens of cards, realize you have not had a substantial conversation in what feels like days. (Later, after your 37th reception, you have perfected it to a science. Drink 1 and half glasses of wine, skip the food, collect 5 cards, leave early and go to a bar.)
Have nights where you have absolutely nothing to do. Feel lonely. Call home. Skype with a friend. Wonder what the hell you ever came to DC for.
Pass by a homeless person on the way to the metro. Realize that for being the capitol of the country, there is a lot of disparity. Read about the poor education system. Notice that most of the Senate staffers are white. All of the service workers are not. Feel disconnected to the reason you came here. Get frustrated with D.C. traffic, slow metros, bad neighborhoods, expensive cost of living, and overall insanity. Wonder if going through a metal detector everyday is healthy for you. Feel guilty and powerless. You are not saving the world. You have not found a job.
Realize that you are among your peers. Even though you are surrounded by people of privilege, you still feel like you’re in the right place. Have your party lose the house and have you’re world flipped upside down. Life here is cyclical. Parties switch. Power shifts. Become jaded with politics. Wonder if you even matter, if anyone’s work even makes a difference. Read a bill that you helped draft. Think you just helped save a tiny piece of the world.
Work with different types of people. Feel pressured to get more education. Realize that people here are just the same as the ones back home, just better at hiding it. They creep slowly into debt, live in places like Rossyln or Silver Spring and try to live off $30 K a year whilst paying for $30 brunches. Meet lots of douchey law students or worse: pre-law students. Go to a rooftop party. Visit an apartment that costs more than your parents house. Go to the W and sneak onto the rooftop. Drink $20 jack and cokes. Hate yourself. Party with people from Chicago, LA, and Texas. Meet people who intern at the White House. Become annoyed with people who intern at the White House. Your 8 months here have made you more judgmental. Become less trusting.
Gain back the 10 lbs you lost and then some over winter. See snow for the first time or the 25th time. Get a winter boo. Lose the winter boo. Go on dates, meet people, hook-up. End your pseudo relationship back home. See couples on the street and stare at them like zoo animals. Everyone is too young for that here. Not really, just more self involved. Question your life path. Consider letting pseudo girlfriend/boyfriend visit. Discuss relationships and sex with your new girlfriends/guyfriends over Ben’s Chili Bowl at 3:00 am after a night of debauchery. Stop questioning your life path.
Get invited to a gala or staff your boss at an event. See people you only see on Huffington Post, New York times or CNN up close. Realize you are in the center of it all. Hear the President speak. See the crowd move. Shake his hand. Stare at hand. Call your parents.
Pause on a beautiful spring day. Smell the cherry blossoms. Think: Damn, I live in D.C.
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