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Washington DC

November 9, 2008

I have lived in Washington DC for nearly three months.

I find it difficult to even begin to sum up how I feel about my new life and this new city. In some respects I am extremely happy, slightly uneasy in some others, indifferent in others still.

If someone I know asks me how I like my new school and Washington DC, I tell them I love it. This is the truth, no distortion. I do love it here.

Somewhere along the line things started to go extremely right for me. I don’t think I could mention a specific point in time when things started to go very well for me, but it was around the time of Thanksgiving 2007. I was no longer depressed, and I started to find beauty in little things. Insignificant things. Life became poetry. Details fascinated me. I was learning things about myself and the world around me rapidly and appreciatively. I still feel this way now.

Things began to go really well with my friends. I started going out with my lovely girlfriend. My family started to seem less fucked up. I got into three colleges. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, American University, and the George Washington University. I always counted out GWU because it cost so much, but then I got the scholarships, and the financial aid, and my future didn’t seem like so much of a stretch anymore. UofI gave me $500, while American and GWU gave me thousands. It seemed as if something wanted me to go to Washington DC. So I did. I saw the fireworks on the Fourth of July, and then I just continued to do what I was doing, and here I am, walking on solid ground and doing what I do.

Of course, it is not like I am simply walking on sunshine every day. I definitely am not. I have good days and I have bad days. What is still particularly disconcerting about this is that the good and bad days seem to have no specific cause. Some days, everything goes right and everything feels wrong, and on other days I feel unstoppable despite the fact that I am followed around by my own rain cloud. I don’t understand it and I hope to ask someone about it sometime soon, possibly my psychology teacher. I have obviously been able to manage very well but it bothers me not having control over my mind.

Which is why I don’t drink or do drugs. We talked about drug abuse in abnormal psychology. Barbiturates, hallucinogens, narcotics. Occasionally I have headaches so bad I wish I was high, or take enough allergy medicine to feel delusional, and I’ll be the first one to admit that I am well on my way to becoming a caffeine addict, but my mind is already fucked up enough as it is, and I see little good in causing it any more stress by adding any serious substances to the equation. It means I don’t have as much fun at parties, and I don’t go to them much, but I don’t really care.

When I want to lose my head, I climb the stairs to the top of the parking garage and look off at the city. Sometimes I climb the little ladder to the very top, before I am silently scrutinized by twenty somethings in their Mitsubishis, and I get a view of the Virginia skyline, which is quite beautiful. The buildings are much taller than the buildings in Washington DC.

But they don’t have to try too hard. I noticed several things within the first week of living in DC, one of the first of which being that the buildings here are very short. At least compared to the buildings in Chicago. The buildings in Chicago literally scrape the sky, but the ones here are very stout in comparison. To some extent I miss the cold of Chicago, the cold that comes up from the buildings and whirls and cuts right through you. Washington DC is a southern town, so it stays warm for a long time, and that cold is yet to come. I miss the weather back in Illinois. It doesn’t feel like home here, in that respect. I think it has the potential to be able to, but when it is still seventy degrees in November, it feels like someone has given the city painkillers and it has numbed to this unnatural warmth.

Another thing I noticed is that the animals aren’t afraid of people. In the suburbs of Chicago and even Chicago itself, the birds and squirrels do not let you get close to them. Well, the pigeons do, but it’s really only because they are dumb. But here the swallows line up on the fences as people walk by, and sometimes only barely hop out of the way of your feet on the pavement as your feet swing in time. The squirrels are insane. Rather, nuts. They will run out in front of you, jump on and off of tree stumps continuously, and just generally be very weird.

I also experienced the first time I ever really felt like an adult. I didn’t feel like an adult when I got my drivers license, or got my first job, or graduated High School, or turned eighteen, although all of these experiences still hold significance to me. But putting my absentee ballot in the mailbox made me truly feel like I was participating in the world that I live in. I think these milestones come at different times and in different places for different people, and they seem to be unexpected.

The experience of watching the election returns and watching history be made was unforgettable. It was by far the most distinct memory I have had here so far. The College Democrats’ watch party was fun, but what was really the highlight of the night was when what felt like every college student in DC (all the liberal ones, anyway, which would be a vast majority of them) ran down to the White House and partied outside the front gate. It was an experience to remember, with lots of celebrating, cheering, rejoicing, chanting, and all around good energy. A couple camera’s got up in my face and me and my friends ended up on the Associated Press as well as BBC news.

Whose house?

Barack’s house.

I’m here for college. I love GWU a lot. Maybe I just got lucky this semester. It seems like I keep on getting lucky. All five of my classes are excellent, and I would consider all five of my professors excellent too. I don’t always get great marks on tests, and I don’t always study enough. But it seems like I get it right more often than not, despite the fact that I always underestimate myself. I told people about this problem. This complete certainty that I don’t have things under control despite the fact that I seem to. They told me to roll with it. If it’s working, don’t fix it. I guess that’s what I’ll do.

I sign up for next semester’s classes tomorrow. I’ve got a flexible game plan together, but I really want to sign up for a University Writing class called Write of the Living Dead, which focuses on horror film. I also would like to get Statistics out of the way. I want to also take Social Psychology, which pretty much epitomizes the focus of my college studies, and do the second half of Introduction to Western Art. The fifth class is up for grabs. Possibly Anthropology, or Astronomy, or whatever else fits. But those first four I really, really want to take, and I’m going to wake up very early so that I can register as soon as the website opens to ensure I get them.

My interest in writing has waned, although my interest in music has not. My time and energy has simply been directed towards other things. I have been porting all of my music reviews to amazon.com, and that takes a while. Also, I am going to train to be able to be an intern at WRGW, the University’s radio station. With any luck I will have my own radio show by next semester.

DC has some pretty great record stores, apparently. The area around DuPont Circle and Adams Morgan reminds me a lot of Wicker Park in Chicago. Young, hip, fun, and totally hopping on any given night. My favorite record store is called The Red Onion. It sells lots of old records, CDs, and books at good prices. The employees are nice and very helpful, and the environment is comfortable. Since I got here I have amassed a fairly large stack of CDs that are now on my bookshelf. I’m still an avid music listener and my hobby won’t likely slow down.

I have gone to some pretty great concerts. I saw Broken Social Scene live in Falls Church Virginia, and they kicked all kinds of ass. The Magnetic Fields also played at GW, so I saw them again as well as Shugo Tokumaru, who opened for them and who I have been extremely into for the past month. I had a taste of classical music that I have missed at the Kennedy Center watching the Friday Morning Music Club Symphony Orchestra play lots of good Beethoven. They aren’t quite as good as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but really, who is? They were good, and pianist Wayne Weng was impressive.

The biggest problems I face here are social. I have not had a hard time making friends here, and the ones I have made I like a lot, but it is hard to start on a blank slate and try to give all these new people an accurate representation of who I am. I miss my family and friends from back home. I haven’t seen anyone from my old life in three months besides my mother and my grandmother on parent weekend. I go home for four days for Thanksgiving break and three weeks for Winter Break. Although I love it here, I am looking forward to going back home and seeing everyone again.

The best thing I have to say so far is that I know I am in the right place, going in the right direction. My problems are mostly easily fixed, and I am managing just fine. I have seen and done many things here that I could have never done back home. It was right for me to come here, and I can see myself living here happily and productively for the next four years of my life.

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4 comments

  1. Alex you are making it far to easy to stalk you! *hugs*


  2. Alex, I love this post. I don’t want to sound cliche or anything, but I feel the same way on a lot of your points. Even though everyone goes to different colleges in different places, I think we all experience some of the same things. I’m glad you are in the right place: I think I’m in the right place, too. At first I really hated it here, but then something just clicked and now there’s part of me that doesn’t even want to go home for Thanksgiving break, you know?
    And I also agree with, who is that? maybe Tara? (the other comment) that this is going to make it a lot easier for someone to stalk you! :-/


  3. Oh yeah… and I like the pictures, too!


  4. Lol. It was me. I am ashamed. 😀



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