I could write this as a “how I learned to stop hating and love DC” post, but that would be too easy. It’s too easy to simply say you love or hate this city. Some of you may know me from my time over at Why I Hate DC. I never hated DC the way the previous writers had, so it was often a difficult gig. I tried to look at things a different way, focus on how to make those things we hate a little bit better. Eventually, though, the moniker and attitude that came with the site wore me down. I didn’t so much wake up one day and realize I loved DC–rather, I decided to come home to the city I love.
I came to DC eight years ago for school. I went home for the first two summers, but after that I stayed. Compared to some this is a short time, compared to others it’s an eternity. For me, it’s been long enough to realize why I love this city. I don’t love the city for it’s monuments or museums. I don’t love it for the trendy bars and restaurants, or the numerous festivals and events. All of those things are wonderful and add to the city’s charm, but I love DC because it’s where I grew up. I don’t mean in the sense of my childhood, but where I literally grew up.
DC is the city where I learned how to be a grown-up. I’m certainly not done growing up yet, but this is the place where I’ve learned how to be me. DC is a wonderful city when you learn to escape from the career-driven “networking” nonsense we all love to hate. I didn’t follow the typical career path out of college. I’ve temped. I’ve worked retail. I’ve worked the door at a rock club. I’ve worked in IT. I’ve met so many people I would never have imagined meeting when I was still in school. DC is where I’ve experienced tragedy and loss. It’s where I’ve tried things and failed. It’s also where I learned to pick myself up and go at it again. It’s where I’ve celebrated in the streets. It’s where I learned that hard work matters, and doing something well counts.
Many people say DC is too cliquish, that it’s difficult to get ahead if you don’t know someone or have connections. Many arrive with high hopes, and leave when they don’t see immediate results. While DC may be “the” political town, one thing that’s always been present in politics is the ability to transform yourself. DC has taught me patience. DC has taught me that people will eventually notice what you do if you do it well. I’ve learned it’s never too late to do what you want to be doing. Don’t worry about who you don’t know, and remember what Chris Matthews said, “it’s not about who you know, it’s about who you get to know.”
Following the news in DC can often be depressing and frustrating. It can be very hard to see past all of the things that make living here a chore at times. But look around. Look past everything that upsets you. Open your eyes and your heart and give the city a chance. You’ll find a whole new place if you do. You’ll find somewhere you can call home.
Believe me, I know, it’s not easy to say “I love DC” and mean it. Real love, though, is never easy.