When I left Tennessee, I thought I'd live in Washington just a year or so. That's what we all say.
Then one year turns to three, and three turns to seven, and the next thing you know a decade has passed and you're taking a picture of your Tennessee drivers license with your camera phone before you surrender it to the D.C. DMV, or the State of Virginia, or in my case, Maryland...cause they won't let you keep it, and what good is it anyway, but...at least you have photo proof of who you used to be.
Ten years ago today, I arrived in Washington with just the things I could fit into a car. I was 24, a young, certainly immature, 24. My friends back home where getting married and starting families, and I would spend the next few years kissing marines in Adams Morgan, singing karaoke in Alexandria, eating grilled cheeses in the a.m. at Tune Inn, and living life like the co-ed I never was at UT. Lots of people sewed their oats, wild or otherwise, in college. I had Washington.
I am among the fortunate few who got/get to really stretch youth, play freely, even a little recklessly, through the 20s and bounce into the 30-something years having spent a good chunk of young adulthood living in the true spirit of have-cake-will-eat-it-too.
To me, turning 30 or moving out to the 'burbs wasn't the decline of, well, anything...just the start of a new life stage.
What I didn't know, ten years ago, was what a gift being a 20-something in Washington would be.
I didn't know that I would find a bridesmaid on the ladies room floor of Old Ebbitt Grill, and a husband on the internet.
I never dreamed I'd be invited to the White House to watch a president sign a bill, or wave to the Queen of England from the Front Lawn, or see the Pope drive by in his Mobile from my office window.
I didn't expect the go-to song for metro travel on my iPod to become Merle Haggard's Big City because I couldn't imagine I'd ever tire of the pace and the pomp that comes with working in Washington.
I never thought I'd miss living in a small, country town when I moved to D.C., but I did.
I never thought I'd miss living in D.C. when I moved to the 'burbs, but I do.
I wouldn't learn for years that the handful of loyal, like-minded friends I'd keep would serve me far, far better than the thousands of glossy business cards I'd collected.
I didn't know that I would realize it wasn't the fault of a big city for my being single or lonely or a renter or out-of-shape...that eventually I would count myself lucky to have spent those years camaflauged with others, like me, who were still just trying to find contentment.
"I'll be here for a a year or so" has turned into a decade, a time in my life that I suspect I will always recall as one part frivolous and one part formative, but always, in the spirit of Washington.....