My Parting Letter to Washington D.C.

Dear Washington D.C.,

You pulled me in with your siren song three years ago. I will never forget stepping out of the National Archives metro station and basking in the grandeur of the Archives staring right back at me. It was spring 2014, and I had no idea that my journey to live in one of the most bustling cities in the world would begin right then.

I would be back, more often than I thought. Marine Corps Marathon, pet sitting, Marine Corps Marathon again, more pet sitting, Rock ‘n’ Roll DC 5K. I was lucky to only have been five or six hours away in Pennsylvania, because I could easily make your trip in one shot.

I finally made the move in 2016. I got a job (surprisingly, since apparently Higher Education didn’t—and still doesn’t—want me in their ranks), packed up my stuff, and traded the sleepy little hometown I grew up in for the lights and noise of the nation’s capital.

At first, I was like a kid in a candy store. So many places to explore (and revisit), so many things to see, so many things to EAT! With the distractions of the pretty things, there was also the issue of moving to a new residence, navigating the Metro, and figuring out my new job.

Soon the luster was gone, and reality kicked in. My presence from your city streets diminished as weekends were spent number crunching, as my current wage wasn’t cutting it. I spent those days in blissful silence, away from the district, only to be hit with a blow on Sunday evening that screamed, “Work week starts tomorrow! Welcome back to Hell!” and accompanied by crowds, screeching train brakes, car horns, and sirens. And, of course, the occasional rainstorm that greeted me the moment I emerged from the underground chasm of death known as the Metro. (Safetrack? Don’t even get me started.)

I do have to thank you for not killing me on your semi-unreliable transit system whose temperament reflected that of a hangry, tired toddler on an almost daily basis. I was only offloaded once in my fifteen-month tenure, and living on the Green/Yellow lines felt like a luxury. Also, thanks for the twice daily rush hour entertainment via Twitter. #wmata for the win.

As the seasons turned, my attitude toward you also did. Going into battle twice a day, five days a week against the city elements wore me out faster than I thought. I was trapped in this vortex of constant noise, noise that I wasn’t used to. I though that I could adapt and conquer, but I became more introverted and miserable. My annoyances aggrandized: Why were there so many people? Why were the trains never reliable? Why does it take an hour to drive nine miles? Where the hell did these tourists come from? Why are things so goddamn expensive?!

Oh, let’s talk about your pricing for a moment. I’m not sure who you’re kidding, D.C., but the average person cannot afford you. I don’t care how shiny the labels are advertising for locally-sourced, organic, gluten free, carb-free, blah blah food…you’re still charging $15 for a slice of “artisinal” bread. Who the hell are you? There’s a reason why Whole Foods is called Whole Paycheck around here. Honestly, your pricing me out is the number two reason why I’m leaving you. I feel like I didn’t get the full city experience because I couldn’t afford to do most things in your presence. Any time I did try to indulge in something like a “normal” resident would, my wallet was not happy and I would hold my breath ’til next payday, hoping to make it. Granted, I had many friends who offered to pay my way because they understood my financial woes, and I definitely appreciated the help. But financial anxiety is not worth nights of endless worrying, stomachaches, and tears, trust me.

A note for those who are considering moving here: if you’re not banking a $50K starting salary, don’t bother coming here. Seriously. DC is one of the most overpriced cities ever. It’s not quite as bad as Silicon Valley, but it’s up there. Apartments in relatively safe areas start around $1900/month, for maybe 600 sq/ft. The closer you get to the center, the more expensive it’s gonna be. I was fortunate to be just beyond city lines in Maryland, but when rent and the Metro were added together, that was half my paycheck. Going out after work? Ehhhhh. Hand-crafted cocktails start around $12 each (on average, about $15), same with appetizers. And brunch is still a phenomenon that I haven’t wrapped my head around. I mean, I did brunch a couple times with my cousins, but that was it. No big group outings or brunch parties or anything. Bottomless mimosas seem to be the cocaine of Saturday and Sunday morning brunch-goers, and I found by working in hospitality that if your establishment doesn’t offer them, you get ripped a new one. (Trust me on this…when I got questions about whether we were “bottomless” or not, and I said no, whoever was on the other end of the line would get so pissy. Newsflash: It’s not the end of the freakin’ world. If you’re so concerned about your precious mimosas, then buy the damn champagne and orange juice yourself. It’ll probably be cheaper.)

I guess I have to thank you for exposing me to a whole new variety of people, culturally and otherwise. The cultural aspect was definitely a shock sometimes, but it just goes along with your melting pot atmosphere. But upon observation, I noticed your typical city dwellers (“Washingtonians”) would fall into one of four categories: sincerely sweet (the rarest), utterly stupid, total snobs, or smart (arrogant or legitimately smart, mind you). The middle two (most common) were the reason why I didn’t go out of my way to make friends. All conversations seem to revolve around careers and politics. Snoozefest. If you don’t work the “right” job, or do anything “right”, you were promptly judged and smushed into the pavement. I knew was an outsider. I tried to fit in, but knew I failed that miserably. Thanks for increasing my awkwardness and reassuring that I was no city slicker.

Even though there was a lot of negativity surrounding my experience, there was some positivity that shone through, and not just through your brilliant sunsets. You are full of hidden treasures, whether it’s a cafe tucked away or a new eatery that’s not a chain; little-known historic sites or a back way to walk to the waterfront. Duck watching at the Lincoln Memorial became a weekly engagement, and people watching even more often. I could enter the Library of Congress and be surrounded by the most brilliant minds in history; it was the one place where I could go and feel intelligent, and be enveloped with that same energy. Walking in silence among the tombstones and untold stories at Arlington National Cemetery gave me a new sense of respect and appreciation for our young nation. Taking part of your race traditions during Rock n Roll DC, Marine Corps Marathon, and Cherry Blossom 10 Miler weekends showed me what DC truly has to offer by way of community and support. Sometimes all you need are a few good races to bring out the good in almost everyone you encounter. You are full of stories and history, and that’s one of your best attributes.

My love/hate relationship with you will continue to linger far beyond the city limits. When I travel to Florida tomorrow to begin the next chapter, your lessons, both good and bad, will follow me there, as they have shaped me into the person I have become today. I may still be awkward and introverted and hate excess noise and unreliable transportation, but you also taught me how to fight for my career, to never settle or stand for mediocrity, to dig a little deeper for excellence, to keep your friends close and your enemies far, far away…and that there is better coffee out there than Starbucks.

So to you, Washington D.C., I thank you. I will return in due time.

Two Weeks Later…

It has been approximately 14 days since I clocked out for the last time.

14 days since ringing telephones and cacophonous nonsense filled my eardrums as the soundtrack of my days.

14 days since I last had to fight the rolling dumpster fire that is the D.C. Metro to make it to the city.

14 days since this journey to self-discovery and happiness began.

 

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source: lessonsfromcountry.tumblr.com

 

Personally, I’m doing okay. Not completely depressed, not completely overjoyed, just okay. Neutral for the time being. Trust me, it’s hard as hell to be overly excited about self-discovery journeys when you have no income coming in, your money stash is slowly dwindling, you haven’t heard back from the places you’ve applied to; you’re sure your application got lost in resume purgatory, and you want to move so badly yet are paralyzed with fear that you won’t get a job in your field and will have to settle, yet again, for a “survival job” that pays pennies when you have $163,000 of student loan debt whose looming presence suffocates you during the day and keeps you up at night .

That’s my professional life in a nutshell at the moment. So much fun.

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However, I do have my birthday weekend coming up (which I have saved for and am getting many things comped for, thanks to Florida buddies!). The only thing I’ve had to pay for so far was my flight, which was incredibly reasonable (thanks, Jet Blue!). Now, I’ve only bought my flight down. Have yet to buy my flight back. Who knows…maybe the stars will align and something good will happen when I’m down there.


There are some happy things that are happening, such as…

I started Chicago/Marine Corps Marathon training yesterday. That’ll keep me occupied, and back into a fitness regime! Having a desk job caused me to gain between 10-13 lbs in the past year; when I was seating on the restaurant floor as a hostess, I clocked in around 10 miles per shift, and that went out the door two months later. I don’t fit into the cute summer clothes that I have, so all the more motivation to get back in the weight room!

 

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3 mile run to start!

 

I’ve also been asked what time I’m aiming for, and since Chicago is my focus race (as I am pacing three of my friends for their first full during MCM and just want to finish and gain redemption from 2015), I’m shooting for a sub 4:30. My previous three marathons (MCM 2014, WDW 2016, and WDW 2017) were all between 6:50-7:30. I was on track for a 5:24 during WDW this year, and I ended up wussing out after mile 6 when I hit cone alley. A 4:30 would be fabulous. Anything faster, well, even better!

I’ve also started a Disney Countdown on my social media accounts. I love doing this starting from ten days out, but I’m so excited that I started it from 15 days out! I pair one of my own pictures with a Disney quote and add the countdown to it. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram for the latest!

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14 days: “You’re never too old to be young.” -Snow White
13 days
13 days: “To all who come to this happy place: welcome!” -Walt Disney

The sun and sand are still vivid in my mind, the echo of crashing waves and scent of salt air enticing me. I know it won’t happen tomorrow, but I know where I need to go…

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Hello, June

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Happy June, everyone! I keep reiterating this on my posts from time to time:

Where has 2017 gone? What is life? Why is time moving so fast?

It’s true, too! Seems like just yesterday that it was New Year’s, and now we’re almost to the summer solstice.

This June is a tad more special to me this year, as I will be celebrating my 30th birthday on the 19th. (I’ve seen a bunch of you post on the socials that it is also your birthday month, too! Hooray, June babies!) I know that reaching this milestone will evoke new emotions, new thoughts, new goals, a new age bracket for running. I’m scared, yet excited, as my twenties have truly given me the tools to navigate my thirties and beyond with confidence and dignity.

 

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I have a plethora of “You’re Turning 30, Read This!” articles bookmarked on Pinterest and on the web. I’ve been slightly obsessed with reading about others’ journeys into their thirties so far this year, and I’ll have my own deep thoughts on the matter coming up soon. Many of the things I’ve read I can relate to instantly, others I haven’t even reached yet. (Money matters and 401Ks? Yeah, right. I need a big girl job with benefits first…)

I know I’m still a solid 2.5 weeks away from this milestone, but I still can’t shake the feeling that I haven’t got my shit together yet. I just left my previous position and am keeping one eye on my bank account and the other on job boards/email. I have five applications out there for jobs in the Orlando-ish area, and am hoping for quick replies and good vibes.

June plans consist of my Chicago Marathon training plan beginning Monday, and I have another FL trip lined up for mid-June (provided I don’t already have a lob landed before then). In between? More job apps, more blog posts (let me know if you want me to write about anything specific! I’m always taking requests!), and trying to be in the moment and assuring myself that everything is going to work out and will be okay.


What are your plans and goals for June? How are you kicking the summer off?

Quit Talking. Begin Doing.

Our buddy Walt Disney sums it up best: you can only talk about dreams and goals until you actually have to set forth and accomplish them. Talk is meaningless unless you have the results to back it up.

I’ve been talking about Florida for five years. Ever since my spring break trip to Daytona Beach in 2012, I have had this burning desire to return for the long run. I get my fix every year with runDisney, but in 2016 I visited FOUR times (twice for non runDisney events!), and have already been three times so far this year.

D.C. has provided me with a city experience, but it has reached the end of its impact. The Eagles’ “In The City” sums it up best:

Somewhere out there on that horizon
Out beyond the neon lights
I know there must be somethin’ better
But there’s nowhere else in sight

It’s survival in the city
When you live from day to day
City streets don’t have much pity
When you’re down, that’s where you’ll stay
In the city…

No reason to stay is a good reason to go.

So as of today, I have started the job hunt. I’m targeting the central Florida area, and hoping that something comes along relatively quickly and that I’ll be down there before my 30th birthday… which is in 3.5 weeks.

It’s a fast turnaround, I know. The more I think about it, the faster I want to get there.

So here is to a relatively painless process and those palm trees and theme parks on the horizon!

vintage FL map

It Is Done. Life is Good.

Yesterday was The Day.

I clocked in, did my job, and clocked out.

The day went by fast. Every time I turned around, another hour had passed.

I gave a lot of hugs. Oh, so many hugs. And a few high fives.

I spent some quality time with my fellow hosts, the bartenders, the front waiters, the managers. Gave them my thanks and wished them the best.

I didn’t cry. I didn’t change my mind. I walked out the door with my dignity intact and a new vision.


I woke up this morning. The sun rose, the birds sang, the rain sprinkled the leaves.

No feelings of dread, no feelings of regret, no negativity.

Just peace. Acceptance. Gratefulness. Things I haven’t felt in forever.

I made my coffee and took a shower. Opened my computer and started writing. Started dreaming. Mentally making lists of what I want to do and where I want to go.

One variable across all those thoughts remains constant:

Half Full Everyday:

Keeping that mug half full at all times. Or completely full.

Just not overflowing. Spilled coffee does no favors for anyone. 😉

Good vibes bring great things.

Here’s to you, and here is to the future.

 

 

Final Countdown: 48 Hours

My stomach is doing backflips.

I feel like throwing up.

Yet my mind is oddly calm.


I have roughly 48 hours before I no longer consider myself a reservationist.

48 hours until I bid a sweet, “Adieu!” to the restaurant industry.

48 hours until I take those first steps away from the grinding, suffocating misery that has enveloped me for the last six months and into the first steps of a scary, crazy new adventure that will hopefully restore my energy, happiness, and intellect.

48 hours until I turn a new page and start penning the next chapter….

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…exploring options for a new course on uncharted waters and unmapped terrain…

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…whipping out that compass and quoting Jack Sparrow: “Now, bring me that horizon.”

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The next two days are going to bring about a hurricane of emotions and thoughts. Part of me is still screaming, “What were you thinking of leaving your job without something lined up? You only have limited funds, you know!” and the other part is all Mrs. Potts: “Cheer up, child. Everything will turn out all right in the end. You’ll see!”

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I must heed the call of the universe, for it has given me the signs for far too long of the next course of action to take. I am glad to have accepted these signs when I did, or I might still be the same miserable, grumpy person that I have evolved into recently. I left D.C. on Friday evening and I have been away for about 40 hours. When I woke up Saturday morning, I instantly felt more relaxed, more relaxed than I have been in a long time. I forgot for the briefest moment that it was even Saturday, and somehow surprised myself when I finally went to bed at midnight that, “Hey, tomorrow is Sunday! Woohoo!” *confetti* That meant one more day of self-care, intellectual thinking, and coffee consumption.

I know it will be a bit of a process in the days and weeks after walking away from my first real-world job to find my center again, but let me tell you: I look forward to being a snarky ball of awesomesauce again. It does take awhile to find yourself again after you lose yourself, but the end result is totally worth it. I’ve done it before, and I will do it again.

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The Weekly Review: One Year Later

“And there’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait. Just you wait…”

I have officially made the one-year mark here in Washington D.C. Here are my ramblings….


I never thought I’d be saying this, but lo and behold, here I am.

I have a track record of bouncing around from place to place and from job to job. I have a truly wanderlust heart and am constantly looking for the next adventure. I had made frequent visits spanning between 2014 and 2015 for various races and pet sitting gigs for my cousin, and thought that D.C. was the greatest city in the world. Having never lived in a big city before, and getting absorbed in the shininess of the city lights and landscapes featuring various architectural designs, I figured I would give it a shot. I applied for a hostess position at a restaurant, and passed the interview with flying colors. Having been rejected from every higher education job I had applied to in the six months prior to leaving Maine/New England and returning to Pennsylvania, I jumped on the opportunity. I started this adventure back in April 2016 with one goal in mind, and that was just to survive. Well, I’ve certainly survived, all right. One year later, I’ve survived the people, the noise, the rising costs, the Metro, an emotionally intense inauguration season…everything that is a complete 180 from my quiet rural hometown and college town that I became so accustomed to living in for nine years.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and the DC restaurant industry in this year. Working for one of the highest-volume restaurants as their reservationist, I’ve learned many lessons with it comes to dealing with people, co-workers and guests alike. Working with an ever-evolving managerial staff has presented its challenges, but they have remained relatively consistent as mentors in my quest to climb the ladder. The company I am with has multiple opportunities for continuing education within the industry, and I take advantage of those chances when I can, knowing what my end goal is. Hospitality is a multi-faceted industry where I can actually put to use some of the knowledge that I acquired in my nine years of college. On a personal note, I have realized that I am far more introverted that previously thought: I can turn on the people skills when I need to, but the second I’m out the door, I want to retreat into my bedroom and not come out.

Personally, I am incredibly fortunate to have a set schedule. After two months hostessing and working a variety of shifts, I got bumped up to full-time AM reservationist. This works perfectly with regard to my work-life balance. If I need time off for a racecation (such as runDisney), my management is willing to work around that, knowing how important running is to me (and the fact I submit my time off requests like, three months in advance). I have been able to travel a bit in the last year, making it to Florida four times (twice for running, and twice for Disney and Universal). My number crunching obsession pays off every time as I plan my budget down to the dollar. It does seem like I travel a lot, and some of you may preach that, “You complain about finances, and traveling gets expensive!”, but hear me out: I plan my dollars and I save up, finding deals at every turn. Not all of my trips are horribly expensive. If it wasn’t for the travel bug that sits on my shoulder, I would be way worse mentally and emotionally than I am currently. My co-workers always ask about my races and travels and I happily show off my bling after a race weekend and talk about my experiences. This camaraderie keeps me going, even when I’m not feeling my traditional spunky self.

More often than I want to admit, the happiness is often clouded by the tremors of frustration and stagnancy, with bolts of sheer anger crashing down, striking whatever is in its path. It is very difficult to remain positive when the rules are constantly changing and the communication is not there. I have been pushing so hard for a management position or something new within the company because of a drowning feeling of stagnancy and under utilization of many more skills that I have, but I get turned down every time I turn around (3 times and counting). Having my intelligence underminded is aggravating and frankly, disappointing; it results in me becoming more resentful of my position, and in turn, more resentful of where I’m working and who I’m working with. These lightning bolts come out of nowhere and make their mark, and I am unfortunately stuck picking up the pieces due to the at split second reaction. It is a huge, “I want to be in the room where it happens.” scenario, and it just doesn’t happen.

(I’ve taken a liking to Aaron Burr’s character from “Hamilton” in recent months, trying to, “Talk less, smile more,” “Wait for It,” with regard to moving up, getting angry when it doesn’t happen, and causing destruction along the way.)

Trying to get a handle on my financial situation has been a huge issue and one of the primary reasons why I’m becoming very acrimonious in continuing my journey in D.C. I barely make enough to survive, even with two raises. I live outside of the city, and commute in via Metro and driving to the Metro. Between rent and Metro, there goes half my monthly pay. I deliberately do not travel into the city on weekends, because that’s more Metro money. Once in awhile I will, if I get to pet sit, if there’s a race, or there’s something I truly want to do. Most of the time I stay inside, away from people, sipping my coffee and writing (like I am right now). I know things would be a lot better if I had more to work with, but living in D.C. and most of the surrounding places in Virginia are very expensive. I shake my head at most of the rental prices, thinking, “Who the hell makes that much?!” Oh wait…CEOs and politicans. Never mind.

(With regard to my traveling a lot, read the statement up a couple of paragraphs. I plan and save, and bank time off. We have a great PTO plan, and I take advantage of that.)

I have not gone out of my way to actually hang out in the city often after my work day is done. This past Tuesday was the first time in a very long time that I went and did something remotely fun, and I actually enjoyed it! It was a rare break for me, and I look back and still can’t believe that, “Hey, you stayed out super late and actually had fun doing it!” Maybe there will be more nights like that in the future.  I don’t have an aversion to the concept of hanging out after work…I don’t need to.

I am very over the crowds and noise. I feel like I’m in a constant state of stress due to claustrophobia. Tourist season makes it worse. I find my solace in late night walks around the mall, when there is hardly anyone outside. Being trapped on the Metro is the worst; I am a “first car in the train” type woman because it is typically less crowded than the rest. With the “Safe Track” that WMATA has implemented in the past ten months or so, hours have been cut and transportation not as reliable. I now have to revolve anything around that midnight closing time, and often, it’s such an inconvenience, I forget about hanging out in the city (even if I truly want to) and just go home. I finally went back to my hometown a couple months ago, and those few days of quiet were so refreshing. No horns, no chatter, no sirens…just quiet bliss. I guess I’m more of a country girl that previously thought.

My final thoughts are: I really do not see myself staying in this area for another year, and if I do, something incredible must have happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a relatively decent experience, but being priced out and not making enough to reflect my level of education and experience is a serious damper on my being able to legitimately stay here. I love my company, and I love most of the people I work with…but those financials…I cannot stop crunching numbers and stressing out over how to make it all work. My student loans are on hiatus because I don’t make enough, and I’m planning on scaling back my running for the next several months in an attempt to build a nest egg. (This means no races after my 10K tomorrow until maybe September, and of course, Chicago and MCM in October. Shocker, right?) I do have to say that I am incredibly proud of myself for being disciplined in the needs vs. wants categories due to crunching those numbers. Rent and Metro come first, then whatever is left is carefully allotted. Once I start making the numbers work, I know my stress levels will be far less than what they are now. But for now, I remain under the storm of paranoia and fear that I’m almost thirty and still don’t have my life in order.

I am beyond needing to survive. I want to live. But once again, Aaron Burr comes to the rescue…

Life doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints

It takes and it takes and it takes, and we keep living anyway

We rise and we fall and we break and we make our mistakes

And if there’s a reason I’m still alive when so many have died

Then I’m willing to wait for it…

Wait For IT