It has largely been a badge of honor to me over the past 10 years that I haven’t stayed put anywhere. I successfully avoided putting down roots, avoiding the kind of relationships that make one stay, and investing in a place. Investing in people has always been a priority while investing in a place has not.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’ve been wonderfully shaped by the places I’ve lived and wouldn’t make the choice to live any of the places I’ve lived –Seattle included–differently in hindsight. I’ve enjoyed the freedom and flexibility of packing up and making new friends.
As a result of that lifestyle, however, I cannot imagine staying put, which is the very task before me. I was telling someone about some of my goals for the year and their response was, “These sound like the goals of someone who is making a home.” It’s true. Despite its transience, it’s high cost of living, it’s winters not nearly cold enough, and it’s unimpressive skyline, Lord willing, DC will be my home.
But it’s still impossible for me to imagine friendships that remain face-to-face relationships beyond two years. Having mastered the art of leaving, staying is a new skill for me. I feel keenly my lack of experience with it almost daily.
Relationships lack a sense of urgency; the feeling isn’t that the time is short (though the reality is otherwise). Details about the place become more germane to everyday conversations– intersections, local officials and politics, popular restaurants and bars. Before I wouldn’t bother learning that. But now, neighborhoods are important.
My looming exit had always been a bit of a catch-all receptacle for all things unsatisfactory and I used it as a crutch. Hard relationship? You can put up with it knowing that in a few months you never have to see or talk to that person again. Don’t be honest. Just disappear. Dissatisfied with work? No problem, it’s just another year. While there is wisdom in having numbered days, there is folly in hiding behind them to avoid the hard work of relationships and job satisfaction. It’s easy to run, to bide time until this or that unpleasantness comes to its natural end with my departure. Surely, much easier than trying to repair broken relationships, or take advantage of difficulties to grow professionally or personally.
So my challenge as I try to make DC home isn’t just about acquiring furniture, tableware, and ordering checks. It’s also about not checking out early, not having unrealistic expectations for the speed at which I befriend others, it’s about the delicate balance of knowing these people and are possibly in my life for the next ten years or could be taken from me tomorrow. It’s work. But it’s work I’m really looking forward to.