Over the past seven years, Washington, DC has become the place where I thought I could spend the rest of my life. It’s where I went to college, had my first full-time job, and where I finally felt like an independent adult. I may have spent the first 18 years of my life living in Massachusetts, but DC is where I truly grew up. I had heard stories of people falling in love with cities and I never knew what they meant until it happened to me. I love DC. DC is my home.
So when I decided that it was time to leave, most of my family and friends were confused. I had a great job, lived in a great apartment, had great friends, and constantly ranted about the great city where I had spent a great seven years.
Everything was great. Everything seemed great.
My social life was great. I had a group of friends to nerd out with and watch League of Legends games at different bars around the city. I had a group of friends who cooked meals together and watched stupid TV shows. I had a group of friends who ran steps and hills at 6:30am and shouted “Fuck Yeah!” at the feet of President Lincoln.
My professional life was great. I had recently closed the biggest project of my project management career, and I loved every second of it. I loved the people I was working with and the company we were working for. I loved the feeling that I could be friends with my coworkers and that we could share ideas without feeling judged or embarrassed. I’d heard this kind of culture wasn’t that common in most workplaces, and I knew I was a part of something special.
My five-year plan (or whatever you call it) was great. I was saving enough money to pay for my apartment, eat out at nice restaurants every so often, and take annual international tourist trips. I had a 401k and health insurance and I owned stocks that I may have purchased by accident but I had stocks nevertheless. I was thinking about buying a condo and my life was set to be comfy and financially stable.
So why did I leave?
I grew up with the impression that happiness was defined by the stability of my job, the depth of my compensation, and the title on my business cards. If that were the case, I’d be spending the rest of my time living out the life I’d built in DC, but I’ve come to realize that there’s more.
I once feared change. I feared that I was always moving forward, working towards this life achievement of being happy through a narrowly defined version of success, and that unexpected change derailed me from that path. I had everything planned out, and if I followed the right steps, the plan would make me happy.
But the beauty of life is that there is no plan, and unexpected change can be amazing. Smiling at someone in the street might lead to meeting your new best friend. Spending time with the family you distanced yourself from in the past can help you finally understand them. Helping a random stranger in the street can turn their entire life around. Leaving a well-paying, comfortable job can challenge you to become a better version of yourself. And leaving a city you love can help you grow into someone more capable of making a difference.
I thought I was immune to the DC revolving door syndrome that had claimed so many past acquaintances, but I guess I was wrong. Since I’ve left, the plan I’ve crafted is to volunteer in the Philippines and then hopefully eventually teach English in Korea. But this time, the plan is open to unexpected change. The plan is open to building new relationships and repairing old ones, starting with the family who knows me best. The plan is to become a better version of myself, and to inspire better versions in everyone around me. The plan is to travel the world and learn new perspectives on life, whether it be in different countries or at home on US soil. The plan is to stop planning and start living, and it’s ever-growing, ever-changing, and ever so exciting.