Today is my last day in Washington.
To really reflect, to give a sense of scale of what this place has meant to me, I have to go way back to the beginning.
Six years ago, almost to the day, I packed my Ford Explorer and my dog and moved to a part of the country where I knew literally nobody. I didn’t even have a place to live. When I got here, I spent 3 weeks sleeping on a massage table in a back, windowless room in the basement apartment of a house in rural, like... RURAL Virginia.
The apartment was rented by a “Natural Healer.” I had found her on Patch.com (yeah). She had crazy hair and a big shaggy dog named Melissa and a very eccentric aura about her. We agreed to exchange 3 weeks of a sublease for 3 weeks of dog-sitting while she flew to Europe to “reconcile" with her husband and, if the reconciliation went well, I could have the place. I have no idea what sort of business she ran on that massage table, but I have to admit that I slept surprisingly well. I do know that she convinced my naive self to drive her an hour and a half to the airport, and during the drive, regaled me with tales of the Clintons and their numerous murdered comrades, all of whom had been buried in Rock Creek Park. So, I've been prepared for the 2016 election for a long time.
The European reconciliation, (twist ending surprise!), did not go well, and so my dog and I somehow managed to get kicked out of Natural Healer's apartment, which I guess was my first and only eviction, and that was when the real fun began.
At this point, had I been a believer in 'signs,' I might have read them and gone home. Instead, I very quickly fell in love with the whispers of the city in the center of the world and the exciting things that happen here. There was, ominously, an earthquake and an anthrax scare in my building in the first week of my first job in downtown DC. (Again, signs?). I saw the space shuttle fly through the sky, which was sadly about 18 months before I got into space and could really appreciate it. I crashed a few White House Correspondents Dinners, met some Oscar winners, and even flirted a bit with Josh Gad - who was, at the time, only starring in the seriously terrible sitcom 1600 Penn on NBC. I ran a marathon. I saw a president get inaugurated. I met Governor Haslam (of Tennessee) right after a root canal. I have gotten more than one dream job and won an industry award. I've been asked to speak at my alma mater. I found God in a cancelled flight (though that is a story for another time).
And while the excitement has been, well, exciting, what has made my DC experience so amazing is the people.
Most of them have come to DC from all over the world in hopes of making it better. Many of them have foregone more lucrative careers to further their cause. They are, and I know how corny this sounds, truly driven by hopeandchange, which is two emotions rolled into one and like a basketball move - the philosophical version of a pickandroll. This is a feeling that was instilled in a great many of them by Barack Obama in 2008.
I loved that I could walk into any bar and strike up a smart conversation about world affairs. I loved that the people I met felt like they were really doing something. The scientists getting their PhDs in neuroscience while also navigating the complex world of adulting (this Lifetime pilot basically writes itself). The journalists establishing their voices. The tour guide building his own business. Not at all a comprehensive list, all of it inspiring. (And for real, we've got to start funding more science)
It has made the last 6 years full of conversations about what’s wrong and how we can fix it. Conversations where people can respectfully disagree about solutions, but at least can agree that there are problems. People, GOOD people, that have challenged my perspectives and opened up entirely new paradigms of thought and feeling.
There’s the massive group of people that I met through Reddit - people who have laughed with me, lurched like zombies through the streets of downtown DC on a Saturday Night with me, and walked through hell and back with me (though those two stories are not related). People who have taught me more about life and of love than should be allowed, especially not from strangers I met on the internet.
There are the people I’ve met through my career at The Chronicle, CQ Roll Call & POLITICO - people who are so mind-blowingly brilliant and talented and dedicated that they have inspired me in countless ways. People that have gone above and beyond in ways that push the borders from “colleague” to “friend,” like letting me cry in the office or late nights at galas & happy hour shots of Fireball.
There are the people I met through Willowbend, who made my happy place so reliably happy. (If anyone in DC reading this wants a place to take some riding lessons, you should head to Willowbend.)
There are the people who have shown me glimpses of humanity in their unlikely friendship - like Cliff, who runs a laundromat in Capitol Hill, who broke his “no Laura, we’re not going to establish a pedicure and wine bar in the laundromat” rule by getting me a bottle of wine one night while I was doing my laundry and listened to me cry about my grandfather’s death.
I moved here with nobody, and I leave with hundreds of people in my corner from all walks of life.
I have cherished every moment I’ve lived here, and I will miss you all terribly.
Thanks, Obama. The last six years of your presidency have made DC the most magical place to spend my 20s.