Sometime during my senior year of college, I came to the conclusion that my next destination had to be Washington, DC. If I ever wanted to make something of myself with the degrees I’d chosen, I was going to have to migrate to where there was food.
But one thing led to another, and I stayed in Kansas City. At first, it was supposed to be for just a few months. Then my “summer internship” turned into a job, I moved into a cute house with cute friends, and I stuck around.
Quickly, sticking around turned into stuck.
By the end of this summer, I had a plan in place to quit my job by mid-October, move back to Colorado to catch my breath, and then get to DC by November, hell or high water, job or no job.
A friend had told me that out-of-state job searches take months, so I started applying mid-August. One Saturday morning, the parade of canines began their time-honored stampede above my head at 8:00. Rather than lay in bed seething, I decided to channel that energy into the job hunt. I was at Panera with my computer in under ten minutes.
A few days earlier, someone on Facebook had posted a guide for how to muddle through the application process on USAjobs.gov. I took a crack at it, and worked for over an hour on an application for a vaguely-described position called as an aide at a federal court. I filled out page after page of the questionnaire and carefully tailored my resume to match their posting. This is such a waste of time, I thought. I am never getting a call.
Ten days later, I got that call. They wanted me to fly out and interview in five days.
The day of my interview was my first time in DC. As my Uber driver rounded a curve on the way to the interview, the Washington Monument materialized, and I gasped. The driver laughed, and said, “You’ve never been here before, have you?” I divulged my reasons for being in the car, and my indecision to throw up or burst into tears out of nerves. He waved his hand dismissively. “You’re going to be fine,” he said. “It’s going to be great.”
He was right—the interview was the smoothest of my life. Two days later, while I was still in DC, the personnel office called and told me they were very interested in me, and asked if they could start my background check.
Twenty-four hours later, the job was mine.
I’ve been in DC for ten days now. I flew in on a Wednesday night and started my job bright and early Thursday morning. The court is a magical place. I’ve been told my curiosity and fascination will disappear fairly soon, but I really hope it’s not the case. I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on—petitions, briefs, previews of upcoming cases, articles on those cases, hate mail, fan mail, bios of the judges.
Fortunately, the court has a lot of employees who are my age, so my initial worries of being without a built-in friend base have dissipated significantly. Between that and looking for a permanent place to live, these past ten days have had more social activity than a whole month in Kansas City. And as a new friend pointed out to me, few people in DC are from DC, so everyone remembers what it’s like to be the new kid, and pretty much everyone I’ve met has given me a phone number and encouraged me to call if I need anything—including a friend to hang out with.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am entirely overwhelmed. In some moments I am so excited I want to start running laps, as my dog used to do at the sight of a hot air balloon. In other moments I am so homesick I can’t breathe. With this being my tenth home, everyone I meet reminds me of someone else I love, which simultaneously comforts me and breaks my heart.
And now, some notable events from the last week and a half:
- Paying almost $600 to check all my suitcases.
- Getting told I was going to have to check my giant tote bag, which was carrying my laptop and my fancy camera, freaking out, and then getting told that the person who told me that was a giant idiot.
- Learning to drive a tractor on the farm where I’m currently living.
- Looking at an adorable apartment on Capitol Hill, only to meet the live-in mother, who insists she’s a roommate and not a house mom.
- Hearing someone say, “I work at Atlantic Media Company.”
- Signing up for federal benefits! Getting insured! Saving for retirement!
- Driving myself to the metro for the first time, missing the turn, getting stuck like a clot in an artery of traffic, voyaging on to the next metro only to find there isn’t a parking lot, trying to go back the way I came, sitting at a light for fifteen minutes in an attempt to turn left, trying to determine (once again) if I was going to vomit or cry, taking advantage of some old men puttering through the intersection and careening through the turn in front of them, getting to the original metro station, parking, arriving at work a mere five minutes late, and then returning to the metro to discover that the van won’t start.
- Overcompensating the next day by getting to work an hour and a half early.
- Reading a whole book (the only book I was able to pack) in 1.5 commutes
- Falling in love with the Eastern Market neighborhood and a cramped used book store whose precariously stacked books threatened my life and whose avuncular owner told me to “have a good two” when I thanked him for my books and told him to “have a good one.”
- Discovering the meaning of “sex positive” in Craigslist housing ads. I’ll give you a hint—I am not that.
Here goes nothin’.