It might seem obvious how living in Washington, DC for 4 months changed my life. I packed up everything I owned and put it into two piles. One pile I sent to Missouri where my parents were retiring to and the other pile? Well the other pile I packed into those airtight, space saver ziplock bags and shoved them into the trunk and back seat of my best friend’s two door car… along with with her bags of belongings. Then we drove over 900 miles away from home and took on the adult world. For me, this was the next step. I had graduated from college and just landed my dream internship. Obvious, right?
I mean, yes, my life changed in the obvious ways. What wasn’t so obvious, is the fact that I was overcoming the thing I feared most. I was leaving my safety net for the first time in my life. To say I was my mom’s side kick and that she is my best friend is an understatement. All through grade school, junior high, high school, and yes… even college, I stayed close to home. Even my senior year of college I lived at home and commuted. In part it was because of financial reasons. The other part was because my roommate from the last year and a half had graduated and everyone else I was friends with either commuted or already had roommates, so I didn’t want to have to face a new roommate. The solution was to move home and commute. In grade school, junior high, and high school, I turned down trips with friends or trips offered through school programs because there was no way I could leave home. In my mind, if I left home, everything that could go wrong would go wrong.
Flash forward to the week before finals. My best friend needed to take an internship for credits and said internship program was in a Washington, DC. She didn’t want to make the trip alone and she asked me. Before I could stop myself, “Yes, I will go with you” was tumbling out of my mouth and there was no taking it back. So began the search for a way to actually be able to go. Through my connections I managed to land an my dream internship for an organization that is close and personal to my life. The following 3 months were spent finding an apartment, getting a loan for said apartment, figuring out how I was going to pack everything I owned, figuring out who was going to keep my two dogs for the 4 months I would be gone, and finally, August came and I was shoving my bags into whatever space they would fit and my best friend and I hit the road.
4 months in Washington, DC changed my life.
I was on own for the first time ever and to top it off, I was over 900 miles away from home and everything I had ever known. I had never traveled outside of the Midwest and even that consisted of family vacations in Missouri.
For the first time in my life, I faced my biggest fear head on. I said yes and there was no taking it back. So here I was in a place I had never been, a place I would call home for the next 4 months, and a place I would fall in love with. While in Washington, DC, I learned just how truly important it was to budget because rent was due on this day, groceries needed to be bought on another day, and metro passes and parking needed to be paid for on a completely different day. I had always been careful with money, but at home, I always had the safety net of my parents. I learned how public transportation works, how to purchase a metro card, what passes I needed and which ones I didn’t need, how to read metro maps and which stops were the closest to my destination and how to transfer at certain metro stops, and yes, I even took the bus for 1 dreaded week. That was an adventure in itself, and if you’re in Washington, DC, avoid taking the R1 or R2 bus. Save yourself the trouble and just take Uber. You’ll thank me later. I learned how to adapt to a new culture, to try new foods, to explore art museums and view monuments and sculptures, to attend meetings and events, what it feels like to me a minority, that sidewalks aren’t meant for stopping, that on escalators you stand on the right and walk on the left, and that the homeless people begging for money may not necessarily be homeless. I learned how to ask for help when I needed it, but that I usually had the ability to figure out said problem on my own first. I learned the importance of introducing myself to the people around me, of asking for their stories and for their advice, of asking questions in general. I learned the importance of silence and being alone, in finding a hobby to ground yourself and to keep from being overwhelmed, of observing the world around you. I learned to stand up for myself, to not let others take advantage of you, and to say what you mean. Above all, I learned to say yes. I learned that when you say yes, you open up an entire world that you have never seen before and opportunities arise that may not have been available before. I said yes once and now I’m not sure I can ever say no again, at least not to new adventures, new cultures, new people, new food, new meetings, new events. Saying yes once changed my life.
‘Living life one yes at a time’