A year ago this coming Friday, I stepped off a Bolt Bus into a balmy 70+ degree day in my new home in Washington DC. My stuff had been moved down days before. Riding down in a U-haul, in a makeshift “middle-seat” with my cousins, the weather had been cold. There was still snow on the ground. Three days later, it was too warm for a coat.
A friend of mine from New York accompanied me for the journey and wanted to run errands, so that day we rode the metro from Union Station to Dupont and then walked to Lululemon and then Whole Foods on P Street. Even though it was Whole Foods, the prices were cheaper than they would be in New York. I loved it.
Eventually the weather grew colder (but not for very long). It snowed once in February and then by the end of March I was already sporting a sunburn, from having worn a strapless sundress while wandering the Mall.
I write this because I feel fortunate to have moved down here when and how I did: funemployed during freakishly amazing weather that did not make me long for New York City. Rather than getting to know the city through the lens of a job and an idealistic mission, we became acquainted through jogs around the Capitol or Lincoln Park, through strolls back and forth along the Mall, through happy hours and parties and having the time to sit and watch. And write.
And over the past 12 months, it’s changed me.
I was recently at a party at which someone asked me upon finding out that I was “funemployed,” “well, if you could do anything, what would you do?” To which I replied, “find a day job and write.” He didn’t seem to understand what I’d said, because he said “no, but what do you really want to do.” Amused at his confusion, I replied “I want to find a meaningful 9-5 job that will allow me to continue writing.” Still not getting it, he exclaimed “I know, everyone wants to write. But what do you want to do?” as though I was the one who was confused. It was a glorious moment.
You see, I had come to DC a broken shell of a person at the convergence of a “third-decade crisis,” my very first lay-off (too cynical? Maybe), and years of workaholism that were wreaking havoc on my body. I know, moving from one workaholic city to another wasn’t maybe the best laid plan, but I was addled from my hard idealism-binging ways. I had always wanted to live in DC for a while and, when I turned 30 and realized that I was facing a huge career and life shift, it made sense to revisit that old dream.
The philosopher and theologian, Soren Kierkegaard once wrote, “fear…is a dry nurse for the child–it has no milk. It is an anemic disciplinarian for the youth–it has no lasting beckoning power. Only one thing can help us to will the Good in truth: the Good itself.” I don’t know how I managed to overcome the fears (of failure, of making unwise decisions, of not making a name for myself) that had been my tutors for years, but I somehow got myself down here and set about finding a job.
I didn’t. As of this writing, I still haven’t. At least, not a paid job.
Instead, I found myself. Which is maybe not the story you hear about DC all the time, but bear with me.
Like so many people armed with political science/public policy/public administration/international affairs degrees, I moved down here with a dream. Or at least, the dream that I’d entertained for years in the private sector, sure that I was wasting away focusing on the bottom line. After grad school, I continued working in New York City. I truly enjoyed my job, but I know that I stayed out of fear as much as love. I didn’t want to be jobless in “this economy.”
Yet here I was. To stave off the crippling fear of purposelessness and the boredom that comes from job searching, and the frustration that comes from following roads to nowhere and then waiting, I began to write. For this blog, actually. And it pushed me to enjoy and experience as much of DC as I could because I needed to write about something (haven’t you all enjoyed my takes on eyebrow threading and Brazilian waxes?) And it pushed me to start my own
blog media empire, which has changed everything for me, including my aforementioned career goals of “day job and writing.” So thank you, DC. You helped me find myself sooooooo much better than New York City ever did.
In that spirit, here are the highlights of my past year in DC:
1) Living on Capitol Hill in a huge house, paying less than $100 more than my old rent in New York for a bajillion times the space, a huge yard, and a view of the Capitol dome. America, fuck yeah.
2) Finding an even better deal in Mount Pleasant, paying significantly less than my Capitol Hill house–for less space and less yard and no view–but not having to worry about being legitimately raped or just kind of mugged while walking home from the metro after midnight (because there aren’t people on the street on the Hill). Oh and for the chance to live near Bestway.
3) Being funemployed during freakishly warm and beautiful weather. Thanks for the life-vacation, DC!
4) Seeing the cherry blossoms bloom before the actual festival, due to the freakishly warm weather. Walking around the Mall in a strapless dress so I wouldn’t get tan lines. In March.
5) Discovering the joy of happy hour. See, in New York City, getting drinks after work could mean anything from a traditional happy hour special to meeting up at 8 or 9 and calling that “happy hour.” Here in DC, happy hour is a thing and it’s glorious. My favorite? Ping Pong in Dupont Circle. Lychee and rose martinis for $6 with some kind of dumpling? Yes please.
6) Julia’s Empanadas. Actually, I had been turned onto Julia’s on a visit before I moved down here, but since I now live within a very short walk from the Columbia Heights outpost, I find myself craving them almost nightly (thank God for self-control). My favorite is the Jamaican Style mainly because it reminds of my elementary school lunches growing up in Queens.
7) Peregrine Espresso and Sidamo. I’ve been to a lot of coffee places here, but those are my favorites. Oh and speaking of Eastern Market, Capitol Hill Books. I’m actually glad I don’t live as close as I used to, because I’d probably buy a new book a week if I did.
8) Finding my shoe guy. George Corner Shoe Repair on U Street has fixed so many pairs of heels that fell apart while I was walking. Thank you, George.
9) Yoga District. I started taking Pilates classes about three years ago. I preferred that practice to yoga, because it seemed less hippie-ish. But then I started interning at Yoga District and taking classes and now I’m pretty hooked. The teachers are great and their classes are extremely affordable. I love the Yogalates classes and Bernie’s Yoga 1 Alignment Focus class.
10) Renew DC Churches. A good friend pointed me toward Church of the Advent in Columbia Heights and Church of the Resurrection, its sister church by Eastern Market. The services are Anglican and for an outsider (I was not raised Anglican, Episcopalian, or Catholic) totally accessible. The people are friendly and warm, but not in a creepy way. They care about the city and want it to flourish–all parts, not just the pretty ones.
So, there you have it folks. One year in DC. Thanks for making room for me!
Written by Juliet Vedral. Check out her media empire and, if you see her, buy her a drink!