My relationship with D.C. started as an arranged marriage. Coming out of college as a Planning, Public Policy and Management major with an urge to be a part of the work that changes social structures, my union with D.C. was predestined. We did not immediately fall in love. But, a little over a year ago, I confessed that I had a crush on D.C. It was a blue-sky day in our nation’s capital, and I was totally crushing.
However, just the other day, now two years into my residency, I’ve realized the need to confess something further. This is more than a crush. It’s official. I’m in love with D.C.
I am in love with D.C. because when I look deeply into its eyes, I see so much more than a city. I see a dream in motion. An idea as a reality. It’s riddled with imperfections, but it tries so hard. It’s a place where anyone with a passion for an issue can come to give a voice to that cause. Through D.C.’s very details, it teaches me what it means both to be a citizen of the United States and to be a citizen of the world.
With its ever abounding flocks of tourists, D.C. gives its locals endless opportunity to see the city through its visitors’ eyes—with that twinkle that you only have the first time you see something new. When I walk through the National Mall some days after work, I see that twinkle in their eyes as they’re trying to capture a photo of all of them with the Capitol building in the background. It’s a twinkle that I recognize as being something that we all need to bring into our work everyday—the twinkle that drove us here in the first place, back before we got too comfortable to notice anymore. It’s a childlike enthusiasm. And when I see them with their right arm stretched all the way out hoping to get lucky and catch a good frame, the ice heart they give me during rush hour with their poor escalator etiquette melts immediately. And it is an honor to ask them if I can capture that picture—that moment of wonder—for them. Because it’s really them giving me the gift of remembering how surreal it felt to become part of what, as students, we used to just read about in books.
D.C. is a constant identity crisis. In the beginning of my time here, that bothered me. I couldn’t pinpoint what made D.C. special, what its “thing” was, what its fashion was. It was always up to something, but I could never catch it at the right moment to figure it out. But now, knees deep in love, I see that this was the point all along. D.C. is the actual identity of the United States. Its residents come from near and far. Some people have been here a long time, and others have just arrived. There’s no particular color scheme. It’s not a requirement to show up to the annual family reunion. One must only go as far as any sports game in D.C.—where at least half the crowd is always rooting for the other team—to see the extent of D.C.’s existence as a mash-up of a little bit of…anything’s possible. D.C. isn’t reliable. It’s always changing. Sometimes it lets us down, and sometimes it leads revolutionary thinking. D.C.’s identity crisis is a thin slice, a cross section of this big, wide world. We’re all lost and different, and yet united somehow in a drive to keep moving forward.
Perhaps, however, the most important aspect of my relationship with D.C. is how it has instilled within me the ability to identify other people who have experienced this type of love. For those people, I find, are the ones I deem the most impressive and the ones I most respect. They are the people I meet scattered throughout the city, or connected to the city’s work via phone and other technology, who have reached a prestigious level in their work. They have built themselves into a position of power in whatever their field may be. And yet, despite their job title, their spot on the hierarchy, they treat the people below them as equals. They see the value in the burgeoning entry level, and they don’t disregard the potential there. People who have found this love still have that twinkle in their eyes and still see it in the eyes of others—all here with a passion, a drive, a dream, an idea—moving forward.
D.C. and I may not be together forever. There is so much more work to be done, and so many more places to see. But as it hasn’t discounted me, I cannot discount my love for D.C. There’s something here, and for as long as I can, I’ll carry my love with me wherever I go.