“This is the first time I’ve ever lived downtown in a large city before.” I said insecurely, fidgeting with my diet coke. Its glass was perspiring and cool to the touch, a welcome distraction from the conversations going on around me.
By this point I had lived in D.C. for about a month; my romantic notions of this political town were already waning.
(Did I ever mention that I don’t like politics?)
“Seriously?” the man across from me scoffed in disbelief, as if I was alien to him. “Oh that’s right, you came from the south… near Atlanta, right? There’s nothing really there.” He went on to describe lack of intelligence and high obesity rates that plagued the southeastern United States. And racism. And ignorance.
I looked out the window, eyeing the individual raindrops that wiggled their way to the street, combining, growing, going with the flow of things. It was all I could do to keep myself from stomping away.
What a way to introduce yourself.
“They do have stars there though.” His friend responded, laughing.
“I’m scared of stars.”
“You’ve lived in D.C. too long.”
“Why would I ever need to leave?”
“Touché.” His friend finished. Content with this rhetorical remark he took a massive bite of pizza. Cheese and grease drizzled down his face.
I sighed, taking a nibble of pizza as I contemplated how to respond.
But… I was far too outnumbered to jab any sort of clever responses. And far too new at my job.
I wanted to say that ignorance, racism, and obesity are not isolated to a single area. That their very own view point was an prime example of that, at least on the “virtue” of ignorance. That Atlanta is larger than D.C. in both city size and population.
I wanted to say that by this point Atlanta had successfully treated two Ebola patients… now almost three. You’re welcome for that. You’re also welcome for the Diet Coke that you’re drinking right now. And for general southern hospitality.
But I kept my mouth shut, and as the lunch conversation strayed into business, I burrowed into my coat and thought of home. D.C. had been a rocky experience thus far, filled with the thrill of a city with history but with the bitter aftertaste of politics and business.
I missed home. A place I take pride in. I love being a Sothern woman. The me who was prepping to move to San Francisco a few months earlier would be shocked at this fact. When I graduated I was ready to be anywhere but Georgia.
So what changed?
I suppose the ability to finally juxtapose living in a brand new space with what I had. By no longer existing in that space I began to learn how it affected me. How it was a part of me. What I took from it emotionally.
Where I’m from opened up the entire world for me. I was able to sit in the rafters of barns and look up to the stars in sheer wonder. To witness and respect the workings of the natural world and how we are a part of that… And to eventually apply these views to life, technology, and humanity in general.
You don’t have perspective if you can’t see stars, the things that we are at least, molecularly, made of. The same things that also make us feel so small. You don’t have perspective without experience. It took moving to a new place, into a career I never thought I would be in, to realize that.
Being further away from my family, I am also learning just how precious time is and how lovely mundane moments can truly be. How rare and beautiful is simplicity? God, it’s so great.
One of my highlights from Thanksgiving this year was playing in a leaf pile with dad, my two brothers, and my niece/nephews. My highlight, of all things, was essentially sitting in a pile of dead decaying foliage with my family.
But it was such an amazing moment because we all laughed and smiled while the sun beamed through the trees. After all these years, this was still happening. It was a raw moment of self. My brother may be indeed 33 and I may be 24, but that doesn’t keep us from being the children we were and, at times, still are. The whole event may have started with a child vomiting, but perfection is silly. We project onto us these notions of the perfect holiday or event… and what a boring life it would be if they always were that way.
And because time is such a precious resource, I want to enjoy my life in D.C. while I can, despite our rocky relationship. But I am also embracing what I’m learning about myself in the process… about what I want and where I see my life going. And if that going is back south, and living in a city or a town, I will no longer view it as a sort-of failure, but as a discovery.
What sort of experiences have you had that led to a form of self-discovery?
Speaking of home… this song: