The District Sleeps Alone Tonight

I came to Washington, D.C. eight years ago. I had finished grad school in New York, and D.C. was not on the map until I met my boyfriend, who had found a job here. I was less than thrilled: My hope had been to settle in New York, and work for the United Nations. I called myself a Manhattanite: I adored The City, and I couldn’t imagine leaving it. “One month, tops.” I said to my boyfriend when he pitched moving in together in D.C. As Manhattan’s skyline disappeared in the side-view mirror of the U-Haul, I cried: Goodbye, fabulous New York.

Right away, D.C. and I got off on the wrong foot. I loathed being here: There were no skyscrapers blocking the sky, few good restaurants, no stores open past 8 p.m., the streets were too wide, no cabs… It was too hot and it had neither the gritty feel nor vibe of a big city. I wasn’t interested in the monuments, the history, the sights. I hated the tourists. To sum it up, D.C.’s worst offense simply was: it wasn’t New York. My personal situation wasn’t the greatest either: despite being in a lovely relationship, I was also job-hunting and working as an unpaid intern – the plight (rite of passage?) of a freshly-graduated development worker.

DSC_0094Looking back on the past eight years, I can’t help but acknowledge that D.C. has been a town of milestones for me. I got my first job here. I married, had my children. I learned how to drive. I re-discovered writing as my passion. I stood on the Mall with millions of others when Obama was elected. I survived the Snowmageddon (actually any snowstorm in D.C., come to think of it…) and the earthquake. I jogged along the Potomac and the C&O Canal, hiked the Billy Goat Trail and Old Rag, biked to Mount Vernon and through Rock Creek Park. I walked around the Tidal Basin during the cherry blossoms. Life moved on and little by little, things got better. Well, I still don’t care much about the monuments, but… I did come to like it here.

D.C. and I both changed. We found a balance we could live with and get along. I mellowed out and grew to appreciate the green spaces, the art museums, the walking around. D.C. got more hip, with new cuisines, markets, haunts and shops. A bunch of neighborhoods got makeovers and became fun to explore. Beau Willimon created “House of Cards.” I will always have a tough time with the humidity, the heat, the ho-hum downtown, and the city doesn’t quite feel like my town, but… it’s not so bad anymore.

Moving is a funny thing. Kind of like expecting a baby; you don’t know how you will feel once it happens. You can only anticipate and hope it will all be okay. I’m leaving in a couple of weeks, and as the song says, “I don’t know when I’ll be back again.” Years ago, I would have thrown my hands up in glee. But yesterday night, I stood on my doorstep breathing in the rainy air and I thought – well, this feels good. Really good.

Thanks, D.C. It’s been real.

**Title credit to The Postal Service

This post was originally featured on The Wheelhouse Review

Written by Nara Meli

Nara’s daily aim is to see how much writing she can cram in 24 hours. Her wheelhouse includes coffee, her family, reading, London and Sherlock Holmes. Nara’s a big fan of “stuff”, the color yellow, gritty cities and walking. You can read more of her work on her website or follow her on twitter.


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