Today is a fairly big deal for me. Let’s celebrate! It’s been 10 years since I arrived in Washington, DC. Obviously I got lost on my way to my new apartment, missing my exit on 66 and ending up on Constitution Avenue. It seemed a fitting welcome to a city that I have come to call home. DC was never on the radar screen of my life. But sometimes you’ve just got to follow the path God sets before you.
When I think about the last decade, many adjectives run through my head: decent, decadent, disastrous, delightful, discerning, diverting, and distracting. (Maybe you sense my theme here, get ready for more alliteration.) Even though some of these adjectives are negative, living in DC is downright fun! The years have flown by and I honestly feel like I just got here. But then, it feels like I’ve lived another lifetime since 2005. So, this post is mostly for me to capture what I’ve learned in the last decade; to gather my thoughts on what the last 10 years have meant to me.
Diversity: Coming from one of Iowa’s smaller and predominantly white towns, diversity was fairly foreign to me. And in more ways than just the color of our skin. For the most part, every one has the same background, the same world views, and relatively same ideologies. Don’t get me wrong, I love my hometown, the people, and all the benefits of growing up in that community. However, the last 10 years have opened my eyes to the differences in society across the nation. DC really is a melting pot of the country, if not the world. Issues I was never forced to acknowledge growing up smack you in the face every day. You can’t walk anywhere in this city without seeing them. I’ve made many friends who, through our differences, have taught me to think about people in new ways. In reflection, DC’s diversity is one of the things I appreciate most about living here.
Divinity: To be honest, when I was offered a job in DC 10 years ago, I was a little annoyed. I had visited the city exactly once before and was not impressed. I had grander plans for my life and thought (hoped) those plans would lead me to San Francisco or New York. Well, so much for the best laid plans. The past decade might have not been my plan, but it was God’s. Has it been easy? Not always. As with most of my life story, there is purpose, even in the chaos and mess. I can clearly see God’s hand on these years, directing my path, drawing me closer to Him. Just as He always has been, he’s been putting people and situations in my path that show me truth and increase my love for such a divine Savior. So no, DC was not my first choice, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
Dysfunction: Admittedly, my idea of dysfunction growing up was a bit limited. But, good grief. DC has it in spades! The past decade has seen me staying home from work for a week due to a snowstorm or two, staying home from work for three and a half weeks because Congress wouldn’t fund the government, stuck in traffic for more hours than I care to count, waiting to begin “moving momentarily” on Metro for longer than is really acceptable, freaking out over an earthquake, freaking out about hurricanes – let’s be honest, we freak out about all kinds of weather. Craziness is a fact of life around here. And to be honest, the city does dysfunction very well. I guess if you’re going to do something, you should at least be good at it.
Dulles: Yes, the airport. And no, It didn’t take me 10 years to find it. Rather, through Dulles, I’ve seen the world. I’m fairly sure that no matter where I might have ended up after college, I would have traveled around the globe somehow. But, Dulles has made that relatively easy for me. My first trip out of the country was in 2006 to Hungary and Romania, and now I’m up to 21 countries* (and counting). For as many miles across the globe I’ve traveled, I’ve seen that people around the world are really similar. We may lack in cultural and language understanding, but I am always able to connect on a basic level. Yes, cultures are different and every nation has its own problems, but really, we’re all human. With the same capacity to show kindness, grace, and love. I’ve had people who have few earthly goods, give me comfort, shelter, and food. It definitely gives you perspective on life; showing you just how small and inconsequential your own world is in relation to the billions of people out there. Also, this planet is a work of art. God’s creation is breathtaking and awe-inspiring, and you have to realize that on some basic level that something was behind that. Burma (Myanmar) is by far my favorite place in the world, and I’ve left pieces of my heart there on the shore of Inle Lake. If you’re ever looking for an amazing sunset, I can hook you up.
Distance: You know that saying, distance makes the heart grow fonder? It’s true. The distance, 1,200 miles to be exact, has given me an appreciation for what I left behind. I was the kid in school who always talked about leaving, who thought that somewhere (anywhere) else would be better. While it was really hard to move to a place where I literally knew no one, I’m so glad I did. But for all the opportunities DC has given me, I’ve come to realize just how great home really is. You cannot beat a lovely summer day surrounded by fields of green. My parent’s living room at Christmas, sitting near the fireplace, cuddling with my sister is a comfort to my soul. Catching up with old friends who have known you forever warms my heart. And I’ve come to really appreciate the people I’ve met in DC who are from Iowa because they just “get” where you’re coming from. When I talk about showing pigs in 4-H, they don’t look at me strangely. We apparently all share a fondness for walking tacos. And we come with our own brand of “Iowa Nice.” So, no Grammy, I am not moving back anytime soon, but I do appreciate home all the more for having a day’s drive in between us.
And at the end of the day, I really am just Jenny from the Farm.
*For those curious as to what those 21 countries are: Japan (lived there as a kid), Hungary, Romania, Burma, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, England, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Singapore, Turkey, Ireland, Portugal, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland