This weekend, I went home to Northern Virginia because I had an interview scheduled in Washington, D.C. I never went to D.C. much as as kid, even though I live about an hour outside the city, but recently I’ve made more of an effort to explore it with friends. The day of my interview, though, would be my first venture into the city and on the Metro entirely by myself.
I felt an odd sense of thrill as I touched my Metro card to a turnstile in the Vienna station and sailed down the escalator to join the ranks of other busy-looking citygoers. While sitting on my dully-colored Metro seat, I thought of how I always imagined it must feel so exciting, so grown-up and professional, to take the train to work in a big city every morning. My mom did that for a few years, both during her time in New York and in D.C., and I used to find this simple fact of her life fascinating. I also remembered, though, in the midst of my daydreaming and pre-interview nerves, that most of my friends who live or work in the Capitol have told me, “You get tired of it.”
I hope I never do.
I got really into the show The West Wing last year. Every time I go to D.C., it strikes me that the city is the home of the real-life West Wing, and the Capitol Building and Supreme Court and hundreds upon hundreds of men and women who shape our government each time they go to work. I mean, even just walking down the sidewalk near the National Mall, who knows? You could be passing a hugely important Congressperson on their lunch break-- at least, if their lives are anything like the ones on T.V. I think that’s so exciting.
And the history. Oh, the history. I love the museums; I love thinking that someone designed them and then they were built from the ground up, every intricately carved column or sculpture to boot. I love looking at the treasures they hold inside their walls, all the photographs and art pieces and world-changing documents. I love roaming the hills of Arlington National Cemetery, thinking about the thousands of memories etched in every tombstone, including those of my grandparents. I love looking up in awe at the towering monuments built to some of our society’s most influential figures. The whole city seems to pulse with the hundreds of years’ worth of history it stands upon.
And yet, it seems so modern and alive at the same time. It literally lights up at night, a glow radiating from restaurants and shops and cars and streetlamps. It’s full of sounds, too, an urban symphony composed of musicians and car horns and millions of footsteps. It’s funny, though; in some ways I think of D.C. as tame, despite all the bustle and noise-- while other cities feature towering skyscrapers and billboards galore, it seems all of D.C.’s action takes place closer to the ground. I think that, more than anything else, is precisely why I love it so. It’s always moving and changing, and it all starts with the people there. Protests turn into movements; movements turn into court cases and laws. High-end, fancy restaurants mingle with tiny food carts. College students, businesspeople, and security guards share the same sidewalks. And they’re always, always moving.
If I ever end up living or working there, I’m sure I’ll get tired. I just hope I never tire of the city itself.