On Tuesday of last week I was asked to accept a short-term assignment in DC. It was a fantastic opportunity — doing work that I’ve always wanted to do, that I can’t do from Chicago — and with only 24 hours to decide we said yes. It was kind of surreal, one of those outside-your-own-body moments. I don’t know that I actually ever wanted to say “yes! I’d love to leave my home and my little family and my beach-access apartment and spend 45 days in the hot humid DC summer,” but I knew somehow that I was supposed to say “yes!” and so I did. I don’t like to make uninformed decisions and I don’t like surprises and yet, somehow, I did it anyway.
Even now that I’m here and in the hotel and enjoying my lovely desk (with a window!) and doing the work, I’m still not sure how it all happened. And I’m not sure it wouldn’t be better if I was in Chicago following my normal routine and making sure Leo gets enough cuddles and H gets sufficient calories from baked goods.
I spent the weekend soaking up the early Chicago summer. We biked to the beach and went out for burgers and drank my favorite beer. I purchased a new suit (it’s navy blue and from Ann Taylor!) and packed a TON of clothes and more shoes than I’ve ever traveled with at one time. In one large checked bag and one Vera Bradley duffel, I packed work clothes, hanging out clothes, gym clothes, work supplies and my bike helmet. (You know, just in case I need to ride one of those rental bikes around the national mall while I’m here. Safety first.)
I spent 8.5 hours traveling on Sunday, due to repeated delays and airplane events and bad luck. When I finally checked into my hotel in DC everything around was closed. I was tired and hungry and had just paid $98 for a cab ride that was worth every single penny. I went grocery shopping at the 24-hour CVS.
I’m lucky to have the greatest of friends and family here in DC, which is my first love of cities and was my first “real” adult home. I’m so happy to be back here, for a little while, making memories and learning a lot and building on my work over the past year. But while you absolutely can go back (you just purchase a ticket and pack a bag and leave), it’s never quite the same.
It’s hard to really embrace a new home, like my new home in Chicago, unless you let go of your former residence. If you spend every spare minute talking to old friends and every holiday visiting old places, you don’t give the new things in your life a chance to change you. These past ten months in Chicago have been hard (and remarkably cold), but they’ve made an impression. I’m still a DC girl at heart, but I’m not a DC resident anymore. I miss my skyscrapers and my lakefront views and my ever-present breeze. I miss my short commute too. (Seriously, even shorter than my train ride from the hotel!)
It’s a lot easier to be a game changer when you’re just talking about pipe dreams. Being a fierce independent woman is harder when it means traveling 700 miles from home and seeing your husband every-other-weekend. But also worth it. These 45 days could open a world of possibilities. And even if they don’t, a dream fulfilled is a life well lived.