Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wondering Out Loud

My fourteen year old cousin left today for a school trip to Washington DC. She called tonight to tell me about it -- walking past the Vietnam Memorial where people were crying, seeing the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial, all the different kinds of people, the sounds and busyness of it all, how beautiful the monuments are at night. She is worried because she doesn't think three days is going to be enough to take it all in. As she spoke I could hear the absolute excitement in her voice. I could tell she was falling in love with the city.

I first fell in love with Washington, DC on that same school trip, when I was a 7th grader. There was just something about it that felt so right. As a thirteen year old I could envision myself there, living among the throngs of people, being sophisticated and urban. I had the opportunity to go back to DC a few other times for school functions before graduating from high school. Each time I went back I left a little piece of myself there. I spent three months between my junior and senior year of college doing an internship in the District and it was one of the highlights of my collegiate career. For three months I immersed myself in the experience of big city living. I navigated public transportation (something I've never had to use here in my small town and wouldnt even begin to know how to use here). I took boat rides up the Potomac with friends taking in the beauty of the monuments at dusk. I did research in the Library of Congress and traversed to the very top of the Capitol building where so few get to go. I saw poverty like I had never seen it. I saw wealth like I had never seen before. I used to sit on the rooftop of my apartment building and watch the sky turn magificent shades of yellow, purple and pink behind the Washington Monumnet. When I was there, I really did feel at home but I also missed my small town home.

About a month ago I had a conversation with one of my mom's friends. She told me that she always pictured me living in a big city, that she thinks of me as way too progressive for my small town. She wondered if I ever felt stifled. The truth is I do feel that way sometimes but after spending some time in Columbus or Pittsburgh, I'm always happy to get back home.

While I do like small town life, the knowing everyone and the slower pace; I realize I miss being in DC and completely surrounded by culture and having direct access to so many wonderful things. It makes me wonder if I honestly truly believe I am a small town girl or if I've just decided to be ok with it, if I've settled for it because there is something about big cities that scare the crap out of me. I've been wondering it would be like to live in a big city again away from everything and everyone I've ever known.

The truth is when my mom left me in DC for my internship I cried because I was afraid I would be homesick. When it was time to return home, I cried because I had to leave my beloved city and things were never quite the same here in my small town. I wasn't the same. I don't believe I ever fully returned home again, if that makes any sense.

12 comments:

Andy said...

I've always been a city girl. My city is over 1.5 million inhabitants, not that small. Yet, I do find fascinating the relaxed way of living in smaller cities.

AntonucciFamily said...

Well I lived 5 years in Columbus, one in San Antonio and have now lived outside of Pittsburgh for just about 6 years. There are days when I REALLY miss being in the small town where I grew up. But, the nice thing about where I live now is that it is a small town of sorts and it is close to the big city. It gives the best of both worlds. The only thing missing is all the "roots" of my hometown.

Auburn Kat said...

I for one know I am not a small town girl! However, I absolutely love spending time in the country, it's just so relaxing...plus it's where my family lives.

What I struggle with is knowing that I am not a small town girl and the thought of living away from my family again. When I moved away to KS I thought it would be extremely difficult to be away from my family, but in the end it wasn't that bad. At times it sucked and I definitely missed out on some family things I talked to my family on the phone so often that it seemed like I saw them every week.

If you do move away, the only advice I can give you is to stay as close as you can to your family, talk to them all the time and travel home as often as you can. It's what I did and it made a world of a difference!

Kim said...

I grew up in a small town (3500 people) and now live in a very small town (about 1,000 people and 3,000 horses!) but I'm very close to Louisville (can get downtown in about 40 minutes). I think this is the best of both worlds.

I also thought I'd end up in DC. (with Jay's job in politics and my library career). But, we are settled here now, and I don't think we will ever make that move. But, I do wonder if that's going to be one of those semi-regrets I have later in life.

By the way - Jay proposed to me on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. {sigh} Such memories. :)

Amandaaa said...

I loveeee the big city!

And I think that you could definitely live there for a little while. I mean, you ALWAYS know your small town is right where you left it if you need to go back. (even if there are changes when you return)

Follow where your heart leads you. Don't hold yourself back.

xxx

LBluca77 said...

I love city life. I could never move back to a life in the burbs. Although city life does include homeless people, thats still culture.

Cortney said...

Wow. What a great post. I almost cried. I love DC so much! I've been once for a week when my friend was interning and a few day trips when I was in Virginia. It's an amazing place. I also loved the big city living but don't know if it I would like it in the long term. But those experiences help us to appreciate where we are and give us memories to live on.

nory said...

I live in StL (as you know) and it's a big city but not quite as big as others like Chicago, Boston, NYC, DC. We have quasi-decent public transportation that only gets us so far, pockets of town that are amazing and others that are so-so. We don't have a lot of cool monuments though we do have some great culture.

Anytime I go to NYC I feel the way you did about DC. I used to want to move there for a few years (I still do) but at this point I feel like my life is pretty much settled, not in a bad way, but I have to move forward, you know? Not to say someday I won't leave...

Little Fish said...

This makes total sense to me. I've never been quite the same since I returned from Copenhagen. I definitely left a big piece of my heart there and I often wax peotic about it and think "what if I got a job there." Then I come back to earth and realize that I'm very happy where I am. You can be happy where you are and still wistful for other places. We only get one life and one body, we can't be everywhere as much as we'd like to be.

Lauren said...

Makes sense to me! I'm a small town girl too! I got my first taste of DC on a trip with my Dad in High School. When I got the chance to go to grad school here, I jumped at the chance and have never looked back. DC is a great city, and the only one in America where I have a desire to live. You should come back for a visit! DC misses you too!

Bayjb said...

I really love DC too. I'm a total history buff so DC is like my little heaven. It's amazing how fast you can acclimate yourself to a new area and town, only to wonder what life was like without it.

looking4#3 said...

As you know, I grew up in NY. I do love to go back there, but I know I could never live there again. The parking, the noise, the congestion, the potholes, the traffic, the traffic, the traffic. I will always be a born and raised New Yorker, it will always be part of my soul---but, my heart is now here, in the suburbs!!!
Beautiful post. You have such an amazing gift--thanks for sharing it with us!!