Get excited: My one year anniversary is coming up. No, I’m not referring to relationships with any of my numerous pretend-boyfriends (I can’t keep track of them). It’s been almost a year since I moved from California to the D.C. area.
As my friends know, the relocation wasn’t actually that simple. I graduated from the University of Arizona in mid-May, flew to France at the end of the month, enjoyed my time abroad in spite of the critics who called my trip irresponsible, and returned to Tucson in the middle of June. I spent another three weeks in southern Arizona heat, which I adored regardless of the fact that I have unrequited love for the sun.
Redheads who pine for sunshine will almost always get burned and perhaps destroyed. I pined for the desert anyway, perhaps too much. I stuck around my university town for nearly two months after graduating and ended up projecting my feelings onto strangers. Every time I ran into a classmate, I assumed he or she was wondering why the Hell I hadn’t taken off for bigger and better things yet. In reality, I was projecting my own self-conscious views onto others. No one judged me for attempting to maintain my college life for a short while longer.
This, of course, excludes family members. In mid-July, my mom flew out to Tucson to accompany me on my drive to her northern California home. Though I said I’d be safe to make the journey myself, she thought the road trip would give us a chance to talk about my future, which was as uncertain to me as my eventual death date.
When we hit Salinas, my mom confessed that she’d recently had a disturbing dream about me. In her dream, the two of us were running late for a flight to Europe. We got to the airport a half hour before our plane was supposed to take off, so my mom told me to check our bags in to the airline kiosk. Somehow, I failed to do that. Instead of checking our luggage, I slipped into a pair of roller blades, put my hair in pigtails, jumped into a ballerina tutu, and began skating and laughing in the terminal area. Furious, my mom screamed that we were about to miss our flight, but I continued playing around carelessly in the airport.
That, my mom said, was the first time she had ever been angry with me in a dream. During the drive, she explained her interpretation of the dream, stating that she’d been concerned about my progression and lack of motivation to start my adult life. In truth, I desperately longed to begin my journalism career. I’d been depressed, lost, and terrified since turning in my final May column for the Arizona Daily Wildcat, the college newspaper for which I’d spent three years editing, writing, and reporting. I felt purposeless without a publication and was too afraid to seek out another.
Even so, I’d had a vague idea in my head to return to the nation’s capital, where I’d interned in 2008. Though I felt D.C. lacked personality, soul, and warmth, I loved the work pace of its residents. My true dream was to head to New York City, but with zero connections or close friends in the concrete jungle, I decided to start off in a place where I knew people.
The night I got to my mom’s California house, I heard her whispering to her live-in boyfriend.
“This is only a temporary situation,” she said downstairs. “Laura’s moving to D.C. by August 12. Don’t worry, I’ve given her a deadline.”
I’m not sure if they were worried I was planning on living with them forever, but the thought of that actually made me dizzy. Though I love my mother and her special someone, I had no intention of staying at that house for more than a few weeks. The only incentives to stick around were California burritos, the beach, Peets Coffee, and my Jack Russell Terrier Roxy, the nicest dog I’ve ever known:
So, I dedicated the entire month of July to locking down a D.C. apartment with my buddy Anna, who was also committed to the idea of relocating to the district.
In between calling Anna, stalking Craigslist openings, walking my dog, attending yoga classes, and running errands for my mom, I babysat my toddler nephews Sawyer and Lukey.
I watched the boys a ton last summer, and while I’ve had the chance to do a lot of exciting things since then, I still consider my time with the kids some of the greatest moments of my life. Lukey and Sawyer constantly slayed me with their bluntness, questions, and observations. Here are some funny clips from my July 2010 blog posts about babysitting the nephews:
Sawyer was really nice. He said he liked me better than grandma because I make silly faces. We went to the park, ran around the playground, did gymnastics in the backyard, played catch with the dog, and went out to see Toy Story 3. To our luck, we had the entire theater to ourselves…I get to see them tomorrow morning as well, and I can’t wait.
I took the boys to the park at 9:00 a.m., when it was still pretty cloudy outside. The sun wasn’t up yet, so the kids weren’t too hot for playground activity.
Sawyer, who is three years old, wants so badly to be a “big kid.” He interacted with older children on the playground. They were all playing tag, and he’d join in on their games. Luckily, they were all sweet and inclusive.
At one point, we found a 6-year-old boy playing with a toy on the asphalt. I walked over and noticed a crowd of kids around him.
“What are you showing them?” I asked.
“My shoe,” he said. “I can put rubber bands and money inside it.”
Being the nervous adult that I’ve become, I said, “As long as you don’t flick the rubber bands at anyone…”
“So what do you need money for, anyway?” I asked.
“He probably keeps it in his shoe in case someone robs his house,” responded a little girl, and I laughed.
After a while, the others left, but Sawyer stuck around this boy, who had a bandaid on the back of his head, which he apparently cracked yesterday upon toppling off the slide.
“Where is your mom?” I asked him.
“She’s doing torture right now,” he said.
“Wait, what?!” I asked, laughing.
He nodded behind me, and I saw two women jogging by a field. I laughed again.
“Did your mom literally say she was off to ‘do torture?’”
What she meant was that she had to exercise. As the ladies did squats, little Lukey giggled and pointed in their direction. I guess workouts can look rather unusual, especially to a two-year-old.
Apparently, Sawyer has been cartwheeling nonstop at home ever since I taught him how to do one. I think it’s really cute, and I’m proud to have taught him something fairly useful/fun.
I’m really going to miss the kids when I move away. They’re so hilarious, and they’re the sweetest people I know.
When I wasn’t looking out for my brother’s kids (or choking up after saying bye to them), I worked out at the Scotts Valley gym, where my dad and I had gone for my early years of high school.
I preferred this particular fitness center because it was tiny, personal, and free of meatheads, but sometimes the small-town feel became unbearable.
After an hour-long treadmill run one afternoon, I walked up to the front desk to clock out. Drenched from head to toe in sweat, I approached the gym manager and said I was heading home. Before I could leave the building, he said there was something he’d like to share with me.
“I heard your father died,” he said. “That’s horrendous, he was always so friendly to everyone here.”
I shrugged, having heard the same apology thousands of times. After a while the condolences blur, but I always remember those who wish me well.
“It’s hard to believe that was almost five years ago. Everything is fine now, but I appreciate your kind words,” I said.
With that, it was time to flee Scotts Valley. Hopping into my car, I dialed Anna and said we needed to bump our D.C. move-in deadline up to August 8.
Two days later, she picked me up at Dulles Airport for our apartment search trip. Unemployed, we were uneasy about the prospect of moving somewhere without work lined up, but I assured my future roommate that amazing things would happen in time. Here’s how the car conversation went, courtesy of my July 2010 blog post:
“Our lives are about to get better than ever,” I said.
“But they’re already so good!”
“Imagine now multiplied by twelve, and that’s what we have ahead.”
Nearly a year later, it’s safe to say I was totally right with my prediction that our lives would be incredible. We both got our dream jobs, albeit a little later than we would have liked, but we did well for ourselves in this economy. I temporarily viewed myself as a failure for not having a gig right out of college, but The Daily Caller was absolutely worth the wait.
For eight months, I had an unhealthy longing for my alma mater. I fixated on college friendships, strained relationships, former flames, and even some frenemies just to hold onto my Wildcat status. In October, I flew back to Tucson for Homecoming. Though I enjoyed myself, I relied on Arizona far too much. I denied myself D.C. happiness because of the friends I’d made at school. Why strive for anything more than that? How could I possibly expect to surpass my college experiences?
I flew to Tucson for the second time in January, when D.C. was getting its ass kicked by snowstorms and miserable weather, which I loathed with every cell in my body. I still hate winter and am actually worried about how I’ll handle the next one. At the beginning of this year, I knew a vacation to warm Tucson would restore my sanity.
Unfortunately, my favorite place in the world had just been struck by tragedy. Jared Loughner attacked the otherwise cheerful city, allegedly shot Congresswoman Giffords, killed several innocent bystanders, and injured many. As soon as I heard about this nightmare, I knew another Tucson visit was crucial.
Luckily, I flew back to Tucson, absorbed the heat, drank milkshakes, went out with former classmates, and was finally in my element again. Additionally, I saw the shooting memorial, which was almost too much for me to handle:
With the help of friends, I had an amazing time regardless of January 8’s horrendous event.
The January visit was just what I needed, but when I came to Tucson for a third time in April, I gave myself Hell for booking the flight. I’d had no reason to go back again, and when others asked for the justification behind my trip, I couldn’t formulate an answer.
“Why the fuck are you going back? You were just there,” I mumbled to myself the evening before my flight. “D.C. is warm now, you can’t use Tucson sunshine as an excuse to fly across the country anymore.”
The trip was relaxing but totally unnecessary. It was time to establish a life in D.C., and I couldn’t do that by flying out west every two months.
I’m happy to say I’ve successfully acclimated to my new home. Tucson remains my favorite place on the planet, but I’ve overstayed my welcome there. I have a lot more to look forward to in D.C., and I can’t wait to see what the next year will bring.