Starting Over, Yet Again

Miles upon miles upon miles.

Miles upon miles upon miles.

Well, I officially made it a year in D.C. Saturday was the one-year anniversary of the day two friends and I left Chicago at our backs and drove down to Washington. I thought I’d only be here three months.

Four sublets and three jobs later, it was another March 22, different year. So of course it would happen that on Friday I was offered a job out of town. Out of the state, even. Out of the time zone — in North Dakota. Because the universe and perhaps my own subconscious have decided that I can’t stay too long in one place, I accepted a city reporter position with The Dickinson Press, the premiere (ok, only) newspaper in fair Dickinson, North Dakota.

Giving my two weeks’ notice at work also meant giving my two weeks’ notice to D.C. I got comfortable, I guess, riding the same bus to work each day, or getting off at the same metro stop. Shopping at the same grocery store, visiting the same few bars each weekend. Seeing the same people. It’s funny how quickly we get used to things, especially since I came here kicking and screaming and vowing to leave as soon as I could.

But I did get used to it. More than that, I ended up loving it. Not all of it; I’d prefer not to live in a group house for more than I paid for a studio in Denver, or spend $40 a week on groceries. I still think the majority of people here are entitled assholes who go out of their way to walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk and force their way onto crowded metros when people are trying to get off. But there is always something to do in the city: a new art exhibit, live music, pub trivia, an impromptu BYOB happy hour in the NPR cafeteria.

I wish I could stay. It seemed possible. I’m lucky to have gotten to intern at NPR an extra semester, but it made the illusion of permanence that much stronger. I could imagine myself coming to the building every morning, eating my banana with peanut butter and drinking Peet’s coffee, checking the celeb blogs before starting work, making small talk with coworkers across cubicle walls and going home at six every night to eat eggs for dinner and watch Netflix. It would have been a good life. It would have been a simple life.

But as my gruff editor pointed out, that’s not what I went to school for. I studied journalism because I want to be a journalist. This opportunity in a town so small and foreign and far away is exactly what I’ve wanted to do for years: write, report, explore. I’ve never gotten to work for a real newspaper before; it seems like such a rite of passage for young journalists that I should have done years ago. At such a small production, I’ll have more responsibility, and more impact.

It would be limiting to take a marketing or PR or web producer position just so I can stay in D.C. I could try to freelance, but I know myself; I’m not cut out for that life that so many of my friends and old colleagues have, hustling from assignment to assignment. Pitching stories every day? Buying my own insurance? Filing quarterly taxes? It’s a miracle I filed taxes once this year. I’ll just barely recover in time for next April 15.

Professionally, Dickinson is a good move. Personally, it’s a terrifying one. I have friends here, and favorite haunts, and cute boys a few desks away. I’m scared to give all of that up. My boss pointed out, optimistically, I think, that I can go anywhere right now: I’m young and single, without the burden of kids or a relationship to worry about in a job search. He’s right (but how did he know I was single?), but part of me wishes I did have something, or someone, holding me down. Would it be such a burden to have a reason to stay, to say, without compromise, that I have no choice but to find a job here because this is where my life is?

Right now, I have to put career first. I can’t putz around as a failing freelancer or reluctant administrative assistant somewhere just so I can stay in D.C. because my friends are here, and I never did get to try the bread at Le Diplomat, and maybe things will work out with that one guy if we give ourselves enough time. D.C. will be here if I need to come back, but for now, I think the best thing I can do is go to Dickinson and play Cracker Jane Reporter for a while. Anyway, it’s not like I’ll be there long — the universe gives it a year at most.


New Year, New Group House

I moved again today. It was the fourth (fourth-and-a-half?) time in the past year. Since moving from Chicago to D.C. in March, I’ve slowly made my way along the red line–Van Ness, Dupont Circle, Takoma, and now Brookland (my first place in the NE quadrant–so hip, this gal!).

The move itself went smoothly. Almost alarmingly so. But after a particularly distressing moving-related incident in September, when I locked my new house key in the rental car AFTER depositing the car keys in the check-out box, after-hours on the day before Labor Day, and had to waste $200 I really couldn’t (and still can’t) afford in order to retrieve my house keys, I wasn’t taking any chances. So the day proceeded without any major snafus–the snow even waited to start falling until I had settled into my new room–and I’m here in the beautiful, century-old home of a very kind artist, with an assortment of other 20-somethings. I have a queen-size bed (an upgrade from the previous twin), my own sink, and an antique grandfather clock chiming downstairs every half-hour. I like the place so far.

Unlike my last moving day, which left me feeling so defeated and unaccomplished and directionless (Why don’t I have a real job yet? Why can’t I afford my own place? Wouldn’t this be so much easier if I had a boyfriend to help me?), I took this day as an opportunity to appreciate that I am kinda-sorta independent. I’m not totally helpless; I found the place on my own, rented the car on my own, drove all of my stuff around without killing anyone. Single ladies doing it for themselves! And while these may seem like basic, foundational things that any 25-year-old should be capable of doing, I’m forcing myself to see them as signs that I’m not doomed to a life of dependency.

My sister is lightyears ahead of me in so many ways. At my age, she was married and had an enviable job; now she’s added a house and two dogs into the mix. She’s a real capital-A Adult. And one night over the holidays, as I marveled at how different our respective 25-year-old selves are, she said, “Yeah, I grew up fast.”

By that logic, I am growing up very slowly.

I know, I know: We all follow different paths in life. I picked a very convoluted, windy one that sometimes doubles back on itself and takes off into dead ends. And I know by saying all of this, I’m just repeating what I’ve been saying for the past three years, during which all it seems I’ve done is frantically look for a job, or an apartment, or a date. (Exhausting, fruitless searches, all of them.) I hope this year is different. I hope this is the year things take a step forward. I understand I may never really get out of this situation–my generation isn’t guaranteed a spot in the upper (or even middle) class, no matter how hard we work for it. The Horatio Alger allegory doesn’t carry as much weight as it used to. And depending on what your definition of an Adult is, I may never be that, either.

So, when a simple move to a new sublet brings up so much anxiety about where I’m at in life, it helps to remind myself of this fact, however silly the accomplishment seems to others: Today I drove a car for the first time in months, and no one died.