Posted in Life Lessons

Washington Created the Best Parts of Me

Natalie {not-so} recently wrote this moving piece, which covers so many topics, but the one that stuck out to me was her assertion that Idaho (and the challenges faced there) birthed the very best parts of her. Once I read those words, I knew that was how I would qualify Washington, DC myself.

My birth certificate may read “Birthplace: Sheldon, Iowa,” but the person I am today was most definitely born in Washington, DC.


Two days after marrying a man I loved, but wasn’t in love with, we moved together to a city I’d visited twice, once for my not-so-memorable engagement. The move was a bigger step than I’d expected to make at 23, but the adventure wasn’t guided by me – it was just a part of the circumstances in which I found myself: married, young, unemployed and a recent college graduate.

Always a somewhat unfamiliar place, as my marriage started deteriorating within 9 months of my arrival there, Washington became a scary place for me. Seriously… I allowed my husband to run the show, which was comfortable until he stopped. I’d never driven our car into the District, I did not have my own bank account, and I didn’t know anyone besides my colleagues at work and my husband’s friends. To say he was controlling is a grave distortion of fact. My fear of the unknown was paralyzing, so while he was playing cat and mouse with whether he wanted to leave me or stay, I panicked about what my life would look like if he finally decided to go for real.

And that day came. It was scary, but I stayed the course and became a better person. The terrifying day I finally had the courage to leave the abusive relationship that followed came too. And I became a better person.

Washington will always hold a chunk of my heart; that city gave me wings.

I learned and viscerally understood the meaning of faking it until I made it on the Metro {Gallery Place / Chinatown is a confusing stop the first time}, at work where I wanted to appear strong, and driving through the C Street tunnel for the first time in a borrowed car. Friends I barely knew were my sanity. Lending cars, pouring wine, a safe retreat while my husband moved his possessions out of our apartment, people will step up for you if you allow them. I bought a car all on my own, enduring the necessary conference line phone call to ex-husband-to-be that broke me in front of strangers. That event, though, gave some car dealers a chance to let their compassion show letting me drive the car home with dealer tags for the night to gather both myself and the sensitive information needed to insure it.

Friends can be family. The people who want to be in your life will be there, without question. It’s important to find a retreat from soul crushing truths, even if it’s just at your sewing machine. Be brave.

The anonymity of a major city is intoxicating, but you still are going to run into people you never want to see again. Be prepared: look good and laugh often. What is good for your soul is pretty good for recompense too. Don’t fall in love with an idea of a person. Most people don’t show you who they are immediately, but the good ones do. Flowers sent the morning after a fight have been earned, they are not a gift.

Stay in touch with those who mentor you. Life is too short to work for crazy people. Pay your dues, success will come if you work hard, and it may not look the same as in your dreams. Care for people – and go all overboard about it. Send birthday cards and cards just because and hand-written letters. Buy that thing that makes you think of them. Send the invitation. Bring the bottle of wine. Cook dinner for someone who is too afraid to cry at a restaurant. Pay the kind generosities you’ve received forward.

Talk to everyone. You will learn a lot more about yourself and the world this way than any other. When strangers think they’ve met you before and they invade your personal space, even when it’s scary for a second, be kind. Soak up the fact that you live where you do on this very day. Look around – it’s stunning that you’re here. And you’re actually happy. Pay attention. Be a tourist. You don’t have to be cooly detached all the time.

Be generous even when you’re poor. People suffer worse than you will ever imagine. Be kind. Let your heart be broken for someone else rather than yourself for a moment, it’s got healing powers.

You can handle this – just look at you – you’re doing it.


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