A year ago today, my roommate and I signed our D.C. area lease. We only had four days to find a place, so our apartment location was far from ideal. While we could afford the rent, felt safe in the neighborhood, and liked the .7 mile walk to the metro (we were forced to exercise!), it was clear from the beginning that we were too young to reside in such a quiet area. For six months, I took a defeatist approach and stayed home all the time, justifying that nightlife and bars were simply too far away. By March, I was tired of hiding out and began exploring a little more. I had no problem continuing this during the summer, although I often found myself rushing to the metro at 2:30 a.m. to catch the final train home (note to self: Move to New York City, which has a 24-hour metro system!).
July 31 is my roommate’s birthday. Last year, she celebrated by securing our new place. This year, she curled up with a book while I monitored debt ceiling coverage for The Daily Caller. I asked if she wanted to go out for dinner or drinks tonight, but she thought it would be best to keep things simple for the second year in a row. At the moment, she’s making some potato soup, so I’m relieved she’s doing what she loves most: cooking.
Some people were put on this earth to serve good food and tasty dishes. This applies to my roommate, but not me. The only thing I can make are chicken burritos, which Crystal and I will be eating during her upcoming visit (three days!). After that, I’m going to be on my own meal-wise, as my roomie and I are relocating to different residences next month.
She’s going to Maryland and I’ve found another northern Virginia apartment. This time around, I’m only two blocks away from a metro, grocery store, movie theater, restaurants, and bars. Nothing is 100 percent finalized yet, but I’ll have more answers in a few days. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll have to stalk Craigslist. Again. That whole ordeal has gotten so old.
After signing my lease on July 31, 2010, I went back to California for two weeks. I said goodbye to close friends and family, shipped my belongings to the nation’s capital, and spent my days babysitting my nephews, Sawyer and Lukey. At that point, my childhood companions had either moved elsewhere or become consumed by hectic jobs, so the only people I could see were my brother’s toddlers. They kept me entertained and laughing all the time.
One morning, my brother suggested I take the boys to “Toy Story 3.” My first thought was, “You want me to bring children to the movies? Am I equipped for that? What do I do if they refuse to shut up and audience members kick us out of the theater?”
When I expressed some uncertainty about my readiness for this, my brother smiled and said, “They’re good kids, Laura. You’re going to be fine.”
For a minute, I believed him. When he handed me his car keys, I actually began to panic. I wasn’t sure I trusted myself behind the wheel with two babies in the backseat. I explained this to my brother, who laughed and asked me to quit freaking out. It was then that I wondered when he’d developed so much faith in me. All my life, I’ve been the “runt of the pack” and underestimated as such, so it was funny that Kevin knew I could handle this task.
I got a little lost on the way to the cinema, prompting 3-year-old Sawyer to yell from his car seat, “Want me to come sit up front with you?”
When we arrived at the multiplex, I briefed Sawyer and Lukey on theater etiquette. They knew they needed to keep quiet during “Toy Story,” but thankfully we were the only people watching the noon showing that day, so the boys could chit chat if they pleased. Regardless of this freedom, they kept their mouths shut and only asked a few questions. Towards the end of the movie, the main character’s mom begins to weep because her son is getting ready to start college. Sawyer was highly perplexed by this.
“Why is she crying, Aunt Lala?”
“Because her son is growing up,” I explained.
“But that’s good!”
Though I didn’t say it aloud, I thought to myself, “Not always.” After all, I had daunting relocation duties ahead. I wouldn’t have a car in D.C., so I knew the move would be a challenge. My roommate was bringing hers, yet I didn’t want to rely on her too much too soon. For the first time ever, I was also moving by myself, as my mother said she wouldn’t be helping with the move-in process.
This move wouldn’t be as fun as the college dorm moves, when my mother, college buddies, and Crystal would haul stuff to my new place in 105 degree Arizona heat. Sure we suffered heat exhaustion, but we always went out in the evenings, ate good food, and enjoyed the trips to Target. As much as moving blows, it’s fun when others are involved.
When I told my mom I was sad she wouldn’t be accompanying me to D.C., she said, “I’m just trying to get you to move forward, Laura.” I laughed because this wasn’t her talking at all. She was following the voice of an outside influence, and she didn’t understand that I just wanted some emotional support through the most uncertain time of my life.
While babysitting my nephews one morning, something inside me snapped. I showed none of this to the kids, but Sawyer inquired about my situation.
“What are you thinking about so much?” he asked.
“Well, I’m nervous about moving across the country alone,” I said, adding that I’d be doing it with no help.
“I’ll help you move,” he offered. At that, I busted out laughing. It was both sweet and humorous that a 3-year-old wanted to give me a hand. He totally would have helped if he’d been capable, but he was far too young to think about these sort of things. With that, I ordered him to stop worrying about everybody around him.
“You’re too little to burden yourself with other people’s issues, Sawyer,” I said. “I’m an adult, I can take care of myself. Let Sawyer worry about Sawyer.”
But he didn’t listen. Long after I took off for D.C., he called frequently and left goofy messages on my voicemail. That’s just how Sawyer is. He’s the oldest sibling, always looking out for others.
Two days before I moved, little Lukey repeatedly asked, “But how you come back???” Unemployed and on a budget, I had no answer to that loaded question.
Things worked out faster than I’d anticipated, so I made several trips home in late 2010. Every time I’d traveled back to California, Sawyer would sprint in my direction, tackle and hug me, and jump back and stare, as if he couldn’t believe I was actually in front of him again.
Returning home wasn’t difficult, nor was moving to D.C. Dropping me off at the airport before my big relocation, my mom burst into tears and apologized for not thinking to help me with the cross-country move. By then, I’d ditched the pathetic “poor-me” attitude. It seemed silly that I’d made such a big deal out of it, even though I was too lonely to take on major tasks by myself. Nevertheless, I assured her that I needed to face this alone.
A year later, I’m only slightly better about big kid responsibilities. I support myself, work more hours than most of my family members, and have happily thrown myself into my job, yet grocery shopping is torture for me. Same goes for apartment hunting. And boy, do I loathe everything associated with home decor shopping. I’m probably going to purchase my mattress online because I might break out into hives by stepping into IKEA. If I ever strike it rich, I’m hiring a personal assistant to take care of this time-wasting crap for me. Or I’ll just follow my mom’s path and date men who can cook, fix things, and bargain shop. I think the former would be much easier to find!
Now that we’ve been here a year, I’m happy to report that the most significant parts of this experience are unrelated to where I live. This is simply a quiet spot to sleep, not the center of my life. I love my work, would do anything for my new friends, and adore the yoga studio two metro stops away. The year was not shaped by my homely apartment, but by my outings with friends and exciting assignments at the office. I’m lucky.