While walking around D.C., I remembered the last time I was there. I was at a very different point in my life. A point where things didn’t really make sense, I couldn’t figure out what the heck I was doing and it all came crumbling down.
I drove to D.C. for a newsroom management seminar when I was in charge of our campus newspaper. I was there with a boy who turn out not to be “the one.” It wasn’t the best trip for us as a couple. He was older than me, knew what he wanted from life and I was sort of this drifter girlfriend who made zero money and was still going to school full-time. I’m sure his family loved that.
This was in July 2003. September 11, 2001 and the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center were still freaking me out (yes, two years later). I was in this huge busy city and these plane just kept flying overhead and making me nervous. Cue more relationship drama, a long walk to dinner, lack of sleep and a restaurant that had nothing I wanted and BAM, instant tears.
I remember the turmoil in my life. I remember the uncertainty. I remember the parts I loved and I remember the parts I loathed. Most of all, I remember how alone I felt.
This time, I was incredibly alone in D.C. Not a family member, not a coworker, not a friend from another city meeting me at the conference. I took a shuttle into D.C. where the guy riding behind me was telling me about how his brother’s got into medical marijuana when their construction businesses failed. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got to D.C., except try to Foursquare check-in at a bunch of monuments. I hadn’t eaten.
But this time, I embraced it. I enjoyed not having to worry about who had to eat, use a bathroom, pooped in their diaper, was tired, needed a nap or was just cranky. I relished not hearing “mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy,” as I took pictures around the city (which I will share later this week). I USED MY IPOD! People this is huge! The only time I use my iPod is at work!
And the planes flew.
This time I could logically tell myself they were taking off from Reagan Airport and heading out. They weren’t crashing into monuments or trying to rattle my world. I looked up at them with confidence because now, rather than feeling so uncertain, I know who I am. I know what I’m doing. I’m content. I’m settled. I’m in a good, cool place.
I can’t believe how jarring it was when all the memories of that trip came rushing back to me. How could I have let my life get to that point? Why couldn’t I see what a disaster things were and that I had to make it better? Why couldn’t I see that the planes weren’t trying to fly into the Washington Monument?
I can’t believe how two trips to one city in the span of eight years can yield such different results.