Friday, March 12, 2010

A Place to Call Home

Two weeks after my big move to D.C., and I can't believe the smooth, charmed transition I have had. I've been so showered with blessings that I find myself semi-suspicious of my fortune. Life has taught me that the good is only that way because it is spattered with bads. The good that has come my way in the last three years has quickly been followed with storm clouds. So, at this high point, I can't totally smother the voice that advises caution in my exuberance. "Humility, humility." After all, when it's good it's only down from there. But seeing as this blog has recorded its fair share of sorrowful entries, I think it's high time for a mention of the bundle of goods that has befallen me.

Immediately upon arriving to D.C., something felt like home. Unlike all of my other trips to new places, I felt an absolute calm in my new surroundings. A sureness. Yes, this is exactly where I need to settle for awhile. All of the acronyms that move in my head were suddenly buildings before my eyes: WB (World Bank), IMF (International Monetary Fund), NSA, NGO, IRC, IDB, etc. People were out and about, walking the busy sidewalks, eating lunch in the plazas and parks, running the National Mall, kite-flying around the monuments, walking home with totes of groceries. The vehicle is not god here. Plastic bags cost money, encouraging people to use more environmentally sustainable methods to carry home groceries. Organic food, when bought strategically, is as reasonably priced as the other stuff; I finally get to eat organic!!! Despite all the stereotypes I have heard over the years, I have yet to find this East Coast big city any more unfriendly than a big city in the Midwest. Rather, I have been pleasantly surprised by the friendliness in residential areas.

Much credit of this easy transition goes to my hosts. They have been incredibly generous, to the point where I have started to feel like a member of the family. I am staying with the parents of a friend I made while in Nicaragua. They have listened to my stories for two weeks now and discouraged any of my rushing through this process. They have given me my own room to stay in, bathroom to use, food to eat and all of the information I needed to familiarize myself with D.C. They've been my cheerleaders as I landed a coveted internship and, recently, a job.

The internship. I am smiling so big right now. The International Rescue Committee is an international humanitarian relief non-profit that I have watched for years. Beginning in my college days, I would frequently look at its career opportunities and conjure up what it would take to land a position with them. It was a far off dream (still smiling). They are in Haiti, the DRC, Somalia, Sudan, Myanmar and 37 other war-torn, post-disaster and/or severly poverty stricken countries. My internship is part of their domestic work - resettling refugees. It's a foot in the door and it's work that I am passionate about. After years of being a newcomer in a country and the recipient of open arms and homes in a foreign land, I cannot wait to do the same for others.

As of yesterday, I also have a job that pays the bills - waitress at a fine dining restaurant in downtown D.C. called Café Atlántico. Not only is it Urban Latin American cuisine, it's a place to keep up on my Spanish.

Finally, I have been accepted into an association called the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, present in DC, New York, London and Brussels. It is full of young people like me, trying to get into the international career world while enjoying speakers, political events, happy hours, job fairs and mentoring from professionals who have been in the field for 20+ years. So when I'm not working (and, yes, I'll be working a lot) or taking salsa dancing classes, I'll have the opportunity to meet people like me.

In a matter of two weeks, I have set up a life that I am really, really excited about. If that isn't a sign that I am meant to be here, I don't know what would be.

Now, about where to live . . .

Sunday, March 7, 2010

As I went for a casual Sunday run on the National Mall in my new city, I thought about how different my life would be today had I not chosen, and sometimes been handed, this vague path of mine. I took the “what ifs?” that I normally spin around in my head and spun them the other way.

What if that boy had loved me back instead of throwing me away like a greasy McDonald’s bag after he had consumed all of its contents? I likely wouldn’t be jogging on the National Mall, nor be in D.C. I would have followed him; done whatever necessary to make our relationship work. I would have spent my Sunday consumed by grocery lists, breakfast/lunch/dinner, housework and kid’s homework. I’d fall into bed after a day full of busyness and constant motion, too physically tired and emotionally worn for romance with the man I once couldn’t get enough of while he dreamed of that cute brunette at work. I’d do that for so many years that it would start to blur. And, sadly but realistically speaking, I would have sacrificed it all for a relationship with a fair chance of ending in the deep, nasty pain of divorce. So, while singlehood can be lonely, I’d much rather be lonely because I am alone than lonely as my spouse sits next to me on the couch. Thank you, then, Mr. Wishy-Washy (and so many other not nice names) for sparing me of the pain you would have brought into my life. Thank you for letting me go . . . forward.

What if I had hooked a steady income and eight hour work day straight out of college? What if I had jumped into the daily grind at 21 years old? Yeah, I’d have a 401K and maybe a new car. Shoot, maybe even a pretty house with all-steel appliances, automatic ice-maker, and big screen television. But I wouldn’t have felt like a little girl as I admired a swarm of seagulls swirling over my head in front of the Capitol. I would have forgotten to look up. I wouldn’t have lived in four countries and visited ten others by the age of 24. Most importantly, I may have forgotten the people around me. I wouldn’t have noticed the quiet tear fall from the eye of the store clerk when she thought no one was watching. I wouldn’t have exchanged wisdom with my father over bottomless cups of coffee countless times. I definitely wouldn’t have had time to sit in Borders on a Monday and read a book while the rest of the world buzzes past me in the window.

What if I hadn’t been raised by two parents who, after 38 years, still love each other profoundly and still kiss and laugh together? Well, I might have a boyfriend, seeing as I would have lower standards. Maybe I could be content with the guy who is sort of there but sort of not, and definitely never when you need him. I’ve dated him before. But, no, I’m waiting on Mr. Damn Near Wonderful because that is exactly who my father is to my mother.

What if I knew more of the answers to my life?

I wouldn't be having this much fun.