Some people have affairs when they want something new and exciting. I moved to DC instead.
I’d lived most of my life in Richmond, the land of generations-old traditions and flowery dresses. But eventually I felt smothered there, and I wanted out. So I fled north, 100 miles yet worlds away, to live among what a friend’s mother called “those Virginia Yankees.”
In DC, I found room to breathe.
Eleven years in, my relationship with the city is still fresh–full of opportunities, unmet friends, unexplored places. It’s easy to find a quaint street I’ve not roamed, a café I’ve never tried, a fun meetup, an unusual festival, another shop selling specialty cupcakes. I believe that if you’re bored in DC, it’s your own fault. New adventures are there for the taking. And it’s the depth of those possibilities that I love.
DC’s residents have varied backgrounds, too, which brings openness. People here were born in other countries, they’ve traveled around the world, they speak multiple languages. They have interesting jobs and different perspectives on life. This city isn’t made up of a majority, of one type of person; it’s a collection of many people, sharing many viewpoints.
The ethnic diversity is the best. I love the exotic accents, the traditional dress, the savory food, and most of all the stories of faraway places that are a regular part of life in the city. Abundant museum exhibits add even more access to other cultures. Spending a day in DC can be like taking a trip to another country, without ever leaving home.
Being an outdoorsy type, I love DC’s closeness to the mountains and the shore, and the green spaces within the Beltway. The running and biking trails stretch for miles, and some feel like they’re far outside city limits. I love seeing the wild turkey on Roosevelt Island.
The Potomac has its own allure. At sunset on summer nights, I love to walk across the Key Bridge and look west, to the subtle curve of the river, where the soft warm air lays a pink mist over the water, trees, and sky. On sunny days in winter, I love how the sycamore trees on the river’s banks stand out, their delicate white branches reaching out to clear blue skies.
And I love to see the Capitol and the monuments lit up at night.
Many years ago, I read an article by a woman who had just moved away from DC. In it, she described the sadness of seeing in her car’s rearview mirror the red blinking of the Washington monument, bidding her farewell.
I think of her story often. I stood near the base of that monument during President Obama’s inauguration, and I’ve run near it during the Cherry Blossom 10-miler. Those red lights have flashed at me as I’ve headed home on winter nights from a client site in Southwest and as I’ve ridden to black tie parties at the Smithsonian. I saw them in the first few moments of the year 2000. They blinked somberly behind me the night after September 11, when I joined a close friend and hundreds of strangers at a candlelight vigil at the Capitol’s reflecting pool
They’ve oriented me when I’ve glimpsed them from a once-unfamiliar stretch of highway, on the way back from a family holiday trip to the Eastern Shore. They’ve towered above me as I’ve gone downtown to meet friends for dinner, to go ice skating, or to hear jazz at the Sculpture Garden.
Some day, I imagine I will leave for points west, where the tall, pointy things that scratch the sky are mountains. And I doubtless will carry in my mind an image of the Washington monument, watching over a city full of life, and life experiences waiting to be had. It’s for them—those memories and endless possibilities—that I love DC.