(For those who haven’t heard, Erin and I are in the middle of moving to Denver so that she can attend gSchool)
In the past few years, I felt most at “home” in DC while riding in a cab from some transit hub back to my apartment. Before 2009 or so, taking a cab seemed like such an extravagance—since I had no money to spare, really—so my returns to DC would be underground on the Metro. But in recent years, those trips home from DCA after a trip to Michigan or Buffalo, Portland or overseas, or just coming from Union Station after a weekend in Philly or concert in Baltimore—it was like seeing the city anew again. Without a car, I never drove across town like that except when coming home, so I never became jaded to the sights along the way. That felt like coming home, to me.
But even then, DC never quite felt like home. I lived in the area for seven years: the first 18 months in Arlington, and in the District for the remainder. I lived in two different apartments in Arlington, and five in DC (all but one of those with Erin), so I feel like I got a pretty good sample of the area in that regard, but none of them ever really, truly felt like home.
I moved to DC expecting to stay maybe three years, four or five at the absolute most. That seemed to be how things worked, based on what I’d heard from college friends living in the area: people worked there for a bit, then moved on with their lives somewhere else. Those college friends were the only reason that I even moved there. DC was never on my agenda, after all, but there was work and there were friends, so that’s where I wound up after college. In the time since, those people have all moved away, to Seattle and Austin, New York and Raleigh, and some just to the western fringe of the metro area, an hour’s drive away in good traffic. Even more college friends have moved to the area in the time since I did; again, some of them have moved away. A few are still in the area—for how long, I can’t say—and another has returned to put down roots, after growing up nearby and then moving out west. Other friends that we made while in DC have moved back to Boston and Australia.
That migration and shifting of college friends played a larger part in my relationship with the area than I thought it would, or even realized that it had, until I sat down to think about it. The first couple years were all fun and games: like a small extension of college, with out-of-town friends coming to visit now and then. Then, we all grew up a bit, started getting married and having kids and moving out of town, and the social circle that I had considered to be my DC tribe quickly dissolved and dissipated in all directions. I am still friends with the people I was friends with then, and have made friends since, but I’m not nearly as close to anyone as I was to lots of people five years ago.
All of this adds up to my feeling that DC was never home for me, not really. I have friends there and I have Erin, but looking back, I never really felt like I belonged there. Ultimately, this served only to do me a disservice: for seven years, it felt like a place I was staying only while waiting for the next part of my life to begin. I never fully took advantage of the opportunities that are on offer when you live in the nation’s capital. I visited most of the Smithsonian museums, but only once, and none in the past year or two. I saw the major monuments and memorials, but again: only once, when someone was visiting from out of town, and not in some time. I never really got to know Georgetown or H Street or even Dupont Circle, let alone the neighborhoods that host less nightlife. I never did make it to Great Falls or Rehoboth Beach.
In short, I failed to take advantage of where I lived.
And so, I leave DC with regrets, but I also leave DC happily. I did not seize every day that I lived there, but I also never really felt like I should have been there in the first place. I am excited to try a new city. I know that Erin is a lot more apprehensive about this change than I am, and while I will certainly miss our friends in DC, I have no qualms at all about leaving the city behind to spend some time in Denver. I have been ready for a change and ready for something new, and the little bit that I have seen of Denver and the surrounding area has shown me that this will be some kind of change and some kind of new. I know that it is up to me—up to both of us—to take full advantage of the area while we can, especially since we don’t even yet know if we will be here for more than six months. I have started a list of bars and restaurants and attractions and day trips that have been recommended since we announced that we’d be moving: for the next six months, I intend to scratch one off every time we say “what do you want to do for dinner?” or “what should we do this weekend?”
Frankly, I’m also using this as an opportunity to take back some of my weekends and evenings. I don’t really feel like I’ve accomplished much in my personal time in a good long while. I spend my weeknights and Saturday afternoons poking at Omnifocus, feeling guilty about the things I should be doing on some project or community initiative, but feeling uninspired to do them. This move was the kick in the pants to start changing that: if nothing else, I had to give up helping to organize the DC Drupal meetup group. It’s not like I was spending that much time on it anyway, but I’m one of those insufferable people who feels like they should be doing something, and then wiles away the time agonizing about it instead of just doing something else instead. I intend to start withdrawing from other aspects of the Drupal community in the coming months as well: for example, I recently marked all my modules on drupal.org as seeking co-maintainers, because I do not want to commit any time to maintaining them for the time being. Instead, I want to use my nights and weekends to explore Denver and the surrounding areas, and to work on projects that I actually want to work on, not those that I feel I must work on.
My mother has always told me to live without regrets, and I try. I regret that I’ve left DC with regrets—if that makes sense—but I am thankful for this push that has caused me to make some changes, because it’s what I needed more than anything else.