Thursday, June 30, 2005

Last Month's Rent

I remember wanting to have my own apartment ever since I watched "Anything But Love" with my parents as a young teenager. I will always remember the two thoughts the show brought to mind: 1) I can't wait to have my own apartment someday! and 2) I hope my boobs get as big as Jamie Lee's!

And nearly two years ago, I got wish #1. (Wish #2 came my senior year of high school, and I've been wishing for B-cups ever since.) I had once heard that you should live alone before you're 25. Which may be an unnecessarily young cutoff age for the adventure that is "living alone", but I was determined. To live in the city. To have my own place. And so I moved. Everything, all by myself, except for my mattress and dresser, which a girl I barely even knew helped me move out of Arlington and into the Budget van, and then up a narrow elevator and dark hall into my new Adams Morgan apartment building. I assembled all of my furniture. And I stocked the refrigerator/icebox (yes! an icebox! from 1954!) with all of my own food.

And over the past two years I have left my own dishes in the sink and my own clothes on the floor. I have eaten entire meals standing in front of the refrigerator and drank nearly all servings of milk from the carton. I have eaten alone at The Diner and sat by myself at the movies. I have laughed too loud while watching TV without company and cried too hard without someone to hug me. I have tried to scratch that one part of your back that you never can reach without someone else's help. I have laughed at the commercials that suggest finding 20 minutes a day to spend by yourself and the cultural taboo of drinking alone. I have smoked cigarettes out my window and drank bottles of red wine while listening to The Shins. I have killed really effing big bugs. I have held extensive conversations with myself out loud and sang at the top of my lungs. I have gone entire days without talking to anyone, while also racking up $300 cell phone bills talking to all the friends and family I miss being around. I have figured out what they mean when they say you have to be comfortable with yourself.

And so I just put my last month's rent check in the mail. A month from today I will no longer call my apartment home. And although I can't wait to leave DC, I can't imagine not living here. In my adorable shoebox apartment, that doesn't even have a couch/dishwasher/garbage disposal, at the end of the crumby hallway, at the top of the shitty stairwell, to the left of the late '70s metallic lobby, in Adams Morgan. I will never forget all that I found in 300 square feet of rented space in
the best neighborhood in DC.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rush Hour

One thing that I will likely not be getting away from in San Francisco that I deal with every day in DC is a ridiculous commute to work. I have accepted the fact that as a software consultant, I will probably never find a job right in the city. The tech companies always go for the low rent somewhere in the suburbs. And I have also accepted that there is no such thing as a reverse commute. Really. It doesn't exist.

So I have learned to deal with the fact that it often takes 60 minutes to drive 15 miles. I spend my time in the car talking on the phone or to myself. I listen and yell at NPR. I have even lost my voice once or twice from screaming at other drivers inbetween singing too loudly. I have developed my favorite stretches of road so that I can look forward to parts of the drive: curves on the Toll Road, the Lincoln Memorial while I cross the Roosevelt Bridge, a view of the Georgetown Waterfront while I drive under the Kennedy Center and by the Watergate Building.

Normally, the thought of visiting the Georgetown Waterfront for drinks makes me wince. It was a favorite when we were 22 - awful that I talk as if 22 were decades ago - but we've grown up and learned $7 Miller Lites are nothing to get excited about. But on tonight's drive home I saw me at 22 at the Waterfront drinking at Tony and Joe's. And I saw me there with all the friends I hadn't yet really be-friended. My new roommate, who I so badly wanted to become a new best friend. The guy from college I didn't really know, but knew I couldn't stand. And everyone else - who seemed so nice but who just weren't like the people I hung out with in college.

She did become one of my best friends. He became a pretty good one too. And the others became my crowd of friends from DC. It doesn't matter how we first met. They will always define this city for me. Happy Hours at Ballroom and nights at Angry Inch. Brunches and Birthday Parties. Trips to Mario's and Pizza Mart. Half Price Burgers at Whitlows and Chadwicks. French Toast and Omellettes at The Diner. Cramming into the TV room to watch the O.C. in High Def or lying on the couch watching Father of the Bride to cure each and every hangover.

And today, the first time since I decided to move, I cried, while staring at The Waterfront, driving on the Rock Creek Parkway. I got wrapped up in all the fun they are going to have without me once I'm gone. And I got jealous and really sad. And then I nearly died while navigating the curve near the P Street exit, so pulled myself together and got a grip.

I am NOT going to miss this commute.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Road Trip

So yesterday I took a last minute road trip with a few of my girlfriends down to Richmond, VA to visit some of our best friends from college. I couldn't have planned a more perfect evening: wine, hummus, crab dip, goat cheese, ice cream, and a few episodes of Sex and the City.

I realized while driving down I-95 to Richmond that the next time I am on that stretch of highway I will be on my way to San Francisco. My heart pounded with excitement and I found that I couldn't stop smiling. They asked me to promise to move back to the East Coast eventually, but I couldn't make that promise. I don't know what Phase Five has in store for me, but I know that I can't go into it knowing that it's only temporary. I can't plan Phase Six now. There's still too much to figure out about Phase Five.

It is hard to explain to them that moving far away is just something I have to do. I don't know why I am so eager to leave my life and friends here in DC. But I do know that each reunion with my girlfriends from college is an exercise in time traveling back to a random Thursday night in Charlottesvillle in 2001. Our stories have changed - new characters, more difficult problems. But our resulting laughter and love for each other has remained constant despite three years of dispersion.

And that's where I find my solace. It will always be easy with them, even when everything else is hard. And they will always be just a plane ride away.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Everyone Else

I don't believe in God. Not really the point of this post, however, I'm starting to wonder if maybe there really is a master plan for each of us.

I admit that upon making my decision to move to San Francisco I coould only list a handful of people I know in the area. Most of them are friends from UVA with whom I've lost touch. There are also a few friends of friends whose names I recognize, as well as brothers and cousins of friends who I like to pretend that I already know anyway.

But the other day I found out that someone I have known since elementary school and with whom my life has somehow parallelled without much effort, moved to San Francisco last week after graduating from Business School. For the record, Business Schooler is two years older than I am, we both participated in all of the same activities in high school, had the same first job, ended up at the same college... On many levels, we're twins. And (eyeroll please), my mom can be quoted as saying Business Schooler is someone she would love to see me take on as a role model. (Sigh.)

Mom and Dad have had a lot to say about my pending relocation. But now that Business Schooler is out there to watch over me they're a little more quiet about it. It just might be the only time the, "But everyone else is going!" argument has ever not been counter argued by my parents with, "Do I look like everyone else? Are YOU everyone else? If everyone ELSE jumped off the..."

I don't know if Mom and Dad fully support my decision to move at this point. But for now, not arguing about it is good enough for me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Phase Five: It Starts

A few months ago, I received a rather random phone call from a friend of mine. It was early in the morning - on a Saturday - when he called. And I don't think he'd been to sleep yet from the night before, meaning Friend had been awake for over twenty-four hours, sustaining himself with I don't know what. However, despite his lack of sleep and likely very altered state at the time, our conversation was actually... well... GOOD.

This was surprising for me on various levels. Because the truth is, well, Friend is actually an ex-boyfriend. But we've known each other since we were 12, which is more than half of my life, and for all intensive purposes, FOREVER. So he just can't get the Ex-Boyfriend title. It’s for the guys I trick myself into thinking I didn’t really date. The ass holes, more or less. And despite Friend's best intentions at being an ass hole, well, I just know him too well to know that it’s all an act.

But back to the conversation. Our surface attempts at catching up on each other's lives were fine, without the standard awkward silences that make me wonder how on earth we ever had so much to say to one another. Those silences that make you question all the years you were "together." We talked about apartments, roommates, movies, weather, parties, hangovers, mothers, golfing, running, friends. But then the inevitable, "How's work?" was laid out there and for whatever reason, my tears just started to build. By now, I was actually in my car driving to my office - yes, on a Saturday - which made the tears that much more upsetting. And so the crying because I was crying began, and once I reach that point, there's not much I can do but just let it all out.

For working on a Saturday.
For having stayed in the night before.
For caring so much.
About everything.
But especially work.
For wondering if it even matters?
And because I'm bored.
REALLY bored.
With work.
With DC.
With myself.
And why AM I still here in DC?
And what am I doing with, well... EVERYTHING?

Friend made his best effort to calm me down. We don’t need to have the answers. We’re young and there’s plenty of time to figure it out and make mistakes. Which I've heard before, but honestly, I didn't think it applied to me. I do everything right. All the time. Mostly on the first try. I know what I'M doing with MY life.

But then he said it. That he never really worries about me. That he knows I will always be successful. Because I'm really smart. And ridiculously driven. And just a GOOD person. (With a nice rack, as Friend would surely not forget to mention.) And that he's sure everything will work out and I'll be happy. It's just that he followed all of that up with, "But you could have a really great life. I worry that you won't take risks to really be something."

And that knocked the wind out of me. Because I don't take risks. I play it all safe. I like to know what I'm getting into otherwise I don't get into it. I'm predictable and practical and I do so few things on a whim. I work hard and overachieve. Again and again and again. It looks so good on paper. And it's so damn boring. Not to mention tiring. Oh, and by the way, I don't really know what I'm doing with my life...

I hate it when he’s right.

So it's been a few months now. And I'm still bored. And I still don't know exactly why I'm in DC. And I can't shake this conversation. And it's definitely time to look for a new job. And I really hate it when he’s right. So I might as well prove him wrong and shock and entertain myself in the process. Sure, there are other reasons, too. Some of them are even sound ideas from a career perspective. But I don't want it to only be about that.

Phase Five: San Francisco.

It starts.