Welcome to D.C.
Ding ding ding…
You arrive for a semester in D.C. It’s super exciting to be an intern on the Hill. You live and work with all the same folks in a dorm or a huge row house. You make no money. Literally, unpaid. But neither do all of your brand new shiny friends from all across the country. They all happen to be smart, driven, and party hard just like you. A step up from your college mates. You talk about your job, but it mostly feels like summer camp without the counselors. Happy hours blur into each other. You bond fast and date faster. In a flash it’s all over, and you’re back at your undergrad.
You promise to stay in touch. You don’t.
You finally made it back. The call of “making a difference” and big city life cradles you in your first truly adult D.C. experience. You didn’t get the job of your dreams, but you are in the biz. You work for your congressperson, an NGO, or an advocacy organization. Everyone at work is just as hopped up on making a difference as you. You make almost no money. But, no one in your office under 40 does.
Now that you mention it, there are only three people in your whole office over 40. You think nothing of it. You get a chance to make the world a little better each day, and you are grateful to get a paycheck. You live in a group house with two women and two men. For two years—besides a messy sink—your house works like clockwork. You throw parties and go out hard, and it feels just the right amount like college.
Then, two of your roommates fall in love and move out. Gosh you’re happy for them. You think they ended up in Virginia. Although you routinely walk 30 minutes to a farmer’s market and they think nothing of their 40 minute drives to IKEA, you blame the distance and time for why you quickly stop seeing them. Your new Craigslist roommates are decent, so no harm no foul right?
Then, one day you realize that you aren’t friends with any of your roommates anymore—none of them are the originals.
That’s OK, you can always make new friends in D.C.
You’ve moved jobs twice for better positions and—from the looks of it—may have started something of a career. You’re 28 and would not describe yourself as making a lot of money, but you have just enough to get a great two-bedroom with your best buddy. Life is good. You’re dating a lot, and though you might not have the crew you did when you lived in your group house, you have a solid group of friends.
Then, one day one of them tells you they are moving “home.” At first you don’t understand. Aren’t we home now you think. You later realize that what they are really telling you is that they are not (and maybe were never) home in D.C. They move back to Chicago or LA or Seattle.
You promise to stay in touch. You don’t.
Then, that same thing happens again to another friend, then another. You thought you were home, making a community. But your friends, they were just stopping in. They didn’t mean for things to go that way—they’d never admit you’re disposable and replaceable—but it still stings. Yes, the rejection hurts, but you also have realized that making new friends is not as easy as it once was.
Dating turns to more, and now you’ve moved in together. You’re in a serious relationship. Most of your friends are couples and live together too. You no longer have big group events like you used to, but you like hanging out in 4s, 6s (and other multiples of two). You still socialize a lot, but at 32, your body and social life have begun to slow down some. You need more time to recover.
Then, over wine and tapas, your best friends (a couple) tell you they are pregnant, and—wait for it—moving. Silver Spring or Alexandria, at this point for you, it might as well be Hawaii. You know the drill. You are happy for them, but you also know you can kiss your weekly wine wine night with your favorite couple goodbye.
Then, you are walking home one night and you say something you never said in your own head, let alone out loud,
“All my friends have left.”
And then, maybe because your friends have left,
or because you’re tired of making new ones,
or because you’re thinking about starting a family too,
you decide to leave as well.
Welcome to D.C. We hope you enjoy your stay.