I moved to Washington, DC from California in August of 2005 to attend college. Georgetown had laid out a meticulous schedule for new students and parents. It went something like this:
11:00PM – New Student Convocation
12:00PM – Lunch at Leo O’Donovan Hall
1:00PM – Parent/Student Goodbye
1:10PM – Cry Alone Behind Historic Building*
1:12PM – Pull Your Shit Together*
1:15PM – SOME FUN ICEBREAKER ACTIVITY!
*Not actually on the schedule
Most parents might read that farewell time slot as a mere suggestion. My parents are not most parents. Our goodbye was public. I cried, they cried and I told them to “just go” so that I could pull it together before the next activity.
This photo is from a few weeks later. I’m 18. I’m HAPPY! I love life and college!
(Lies). I am traumatized and in a near constant state of anxiety. But this is college. It costs thousands and thousands of dollars. Even before Instagram, it was my impression that I was supposed to at least pretend like I was having a blast.
Fast forward again.
I’m 26. I’ve spent eight mostly wonderful years in DC. After filling out paperwork to transfer to school in New York City, I fall in love with Georgetown. A few years later, I fall in love with a Hoya. It’s that Hoya whom I follow here to St. Louis, Missouri.
Thanks to all the friends who spent some extra time with me during my final weeks in DC. This time, the “goodbye’s” were easier.
One of my favorite farewells went something like this:
K: “Ok, well, I love you… you don’t have to say it back.”
Me: (laughs) “Ok. I mean, yes, I do love you, too.”
Though I may have stumbled in my individual admissions, I love a whole lot of you.
After The Night Shift
I’ve been sleeping at night for a full three weeks now. At the time I left my job, I had worked 10 consecutive months of night shifts. I routinely stayed up for 24 hours or more. I largely excused myself from weekday social engagements and, if I woke up for an event, I was often half asleep and disengaged.
To every cloud, though, there is a silver lining: my fellow overnite coworkers, my surrogate family, with whom I spent the last three Thanksgivings, Christmases and New Years. They made the schedule… fun, actually. We were on our own deserted, time-shifted island.
Because at 3AM, there is no one. No one to call or gchat. Friends on both coasts have gone to bed or haven’t woken up yet. Even the internet is sleeping.
There are only your coworkers, and they, too, are alone. They, too, have no one else to talk to. And thus, they become much more.
When arriving to work around midnight, they not only asked “How was your day?”; they asked, “How was your sleep?” Not your average water cooler questions. Exhaustion made way for stripped down versions of ourselves. More casual, literally and figuratively. Few of us bothered with makeup. No bullshit. Just good work and good people.
Leaving those hours behind was easy; leaving those people was not.
In The Heartland (I Think)
Now, here I am in St. Louis. A city, yes, with a suburban feel and many suburban perks. Our apartment is bigger than we could ever dream of affording in DC and easy parking is a given. Hop on the highway and in 10 (mostly) traffic-free minutes, we’ll be at REI, Macy’s, Trader Joe’s, Target, The Container Store and more. Life is, in many ways, easier than it was in DC.
Nevertheless, I found myself having a mini-meltdown after my first full day here. WHERE IS THE STUFF? WHERE ARE THE PEOPLE? WHERE ARE THE SHOPS? We had driven around all day running errands at those big box stores, and I had yet to see a semblance of a real neighborhood. Worse: I was to blame. I’d chosen our apartment online, sight unseen.
Luckily, my freakout was nothing a bike ride couldn’t cure. We pedaled 10 minutes to nearby Forest Park, a public green space in St. Louis one and a half times the size of New York City’s Central Park. It houses the zoo, a science center, an art museum and much more. I didn’t see a ton from the bike path, but what a relief. Closer to home, we saw a small area with restaurants and shops and, in our immediate neighborhood, a local coffee shop and a pub-style restaurant.
By car, things go by too fast. I’m intolerant of mistakes and feel frustrated by wrong turns. By bike, everything is exploration. My horrible sense of direction is slightly less horrible, and it’s easier to process the sights passing me by.
When people — primarily strangers on Twitter — ask me what I’m doing in St. Louis, I often answer “stay-at-home dog mom.” Mostly a joke, but there’s truth there.
I’m currently searching for a new job. Having taken two weeks of vacation in the past three years, I’m allowing myself to move at a leisurely pace. This time is mine. Make no mistake, there’s still some anxiety. It’s incredibly difficult to separate self-worth from employment, and it’s tough to have no immediate community. But it’s also incredibly liberating.
My days here are mostly unstructured. I wake up when I feel rested and I go to sleep (AT NIGHT!) when I feel tired. I bike to the local grocery store — just two blocks away — a few times a week, and I’m cooking every night. I’m watching Six Feet Under for the first time. I listen to music all day, and I play guitar in the evening. A week and a half after arriving, The big errands are mostly over. Our apartment looks and feels like home, though we’re awaiting one final addition, Spencer, who comes home in three days.
I am beyond excited for our 25-pound bundle of joy. I’ve caught myself staring lovingly at his future crate and his future bed and his future toys. Some might argue — and have argued — that I’m rushing into the dog thing, but people who know me know this is something I’ve wanted for a long time. In some ways, we’ll rescue each other: me, from Spencer’s stressful life at a shelter, and he, from the emotional highs and lows of this job hunt.
If you’ve reached the end of this post, thanks for reading. I hope to blog more frequently now that I have more time (and more feelings, ha). I hope to answer some hard-hitting questions, like “Are people in the Midwest really friendlier?” “Is the St. Louis native vs. transplant culture really a thing?” (Spoiler: Despite little firsthand evidence, I think it is because this group exists… and I might join.)
Most of all, I hope to be honest and candid about the good and the bad of starting over in a new place. Thanks to the people who have already made this transition easier by reaching out to me with emails and invitations to meet. And thanks to Alex for doing the dishes, for letting a dog join our family and for suffering through my penny pinching.
Onward and woof.