Ever since I moved to D.C. exactly five years ago, straight out of college, I’ve been expecting to leave. I told myself this city was just temporary, and that I was only coming here because I had other friends coming here and really didn’t know where else to go or what else to do.
Everyone loves to hate on this city– especially the people who grew up around here. 90% of my friends who live here are “planning” to move somewhere else at some point– usually either San Francisco or New York, with the occasional Philly or Chicago thrown in there. For the first four years I lived here, I was one of those people. You’re always hearing how much better every other city on the planet is than D.C.: The people are nicer in Chicago, cooler in San Francisco. There are much more outdoor activities to do in Colorado, and nobody is stressed out all the time like they are here. New York is just much more fun– there’s more to do, more to see, bigger energy. New Orleans has more flavor, Philly and Baltimore are grittier and more “blue-collar,” Phoenix is less humid, L.A. has more attractive people, San Diego is great for surfing, Montana is far more beautiful, Nashville has a better hippie music scene. All D.C. has are a bunch of ugly, uptight political-types and a lame night-life.
With all of this buzzing in my ear for the past five years, it’s really a wonder that I’ve stuck it out. But each year when my lease was up, there was something keeping here– either a job, or a boyfriend, or a grad program– so that over the course of my five years here, I was really forced to put down some roots. I have a D.C. license, D.C. plates, I know all the Starbucks baristas and the people who work at my dry-cleaner by name. Almost all of my closest friends are either here or an easy drive away, either to New York or Charlottesville. I spent a whole summer doing an internship in Chicago, and while I totally fell in love with that city, I missed D.C. so much by the end of the internship that I purposely missed a connecting flight from D.C. to Charlottesville one time so that I could have an extra 12 hours in D.C. and catch a ride down with a friend instead.
Now, when I think about moving somewhere “cool” like San Francisco or Chicago or London, like I once dreamed of doing, I think about all the people that would no longer be in walking or driving distance, and it’s just not worth it to me. Obviously, I would eventually make new friends in all of those places, but it took me five years to make the friends in D.C. that I’ve made, and not only are they irreplaceable, but I really don’t feel like starting over from scratch.
It occurred to me recently that there are two kinds of people in the world:
1) The kind who love to move around every couple years and constantly travel, spending a year here, six months there, who really derive the majority of their energy from being in a new place and meeting new people and learning a new language and feeling disoriented for a while. I have a lot of friends who are like this, and I respect them immensely for their ability to do that. Sure, they miss their friends and family, but they are willing to only see their friends and family a couple times a year if it means that they get to keep moving.
2) The people like me, who derive the majority of their happiness less from the newness or coolness or beauty of their physical surroundings than from the feeling of being physically surrounded by a relatively large, supportive, high-quality network of family and friends. I am not ok with seeing these people once or twice a year; I want to see them once or twice a month. My wanderlust is satisfied by traveling abroad, or visiting people for a week here or a week there–I don’t need to actually move to these places. I need to be able to have barbeques at my house and invite my favorite people over for trivial pursuit whenever I want, or take a bus up to NYC for the weekend when I haven’t seen one of them in a while, and it’s worth it to me to miss out on snow-shoeing and rafting in Colorado to be able to do that. Once I am forced to move somewhere, my immediate instinct is to dig my feet in and wiggle my butt into the sand until it makes a clear impression and then stay there as long as humanly possible.
I’m not saying that I agree with anyone that D.C. is as lame as people make it out to be– it’s really not, especially in the last year or so. And I’m not saying that my surroundings are totally irrelevant to my relative happiness, because they’re not. Ever since I moved from Adams Morgan to Mount Pleasant, I have been a markedly happier person. But again, that could be as much because of my awesome roommates as it is the neighborhood itself.
I can acknowledge that there are thousands of other amazing places in the world that I’m probably missing out on by continuing to live in D.C., but my main point is that I don’t care. I love my people in this city and the surrounding areas, and that is enough to keep me here for a long, long time.
What do you guys think? Are you more of a type 1 or a type 2?