Homesickness: Or how I learned to stop worrying and looked forward to going home

I still have time left in DC.  Two more weeks at my internship (okay, two more 4-day work weeks), as well as three more TWC Friday events, with three more weekends.  And a Monday.

If you can’t tell – I’m getting a little anxious to leave.  If you’d talked to me a month ago, I would have been gung-ho about staying in DC for the summer, convinced I wasn’t going back to Montana until the day or two before fall classes started.

Yeah – I’ve definitely changed.

Don’t get me wrong – I did look into staying in DC for the summer (and it’s still an option – just one that shrinks by the day).  I did the Craigslist hunt for an affordable apartment, quickly learning that my dollar goes a lot farther in Montana than it does in DC.  Seriously guys – Montana rent is so much cheaper than DC.  Just to compare:  $375 gets me an apartment with all utilities, internet, and cable in Montana.  In DC – $450 would get me a bed and room for nothing else, utilities partially included, in a bad part of town.  I also applied for a buttload of summer internships.  But again: a couple of snags.  I needed a paid position (to pay for my overpriced and undersized apartment) and those are few and far between.  Another issue – most of the internship deadlines were back in February, during my first month in DC and long before I considered staying in DC.  For the positions that had later deadlines in April or May, those positions wouldn’t start until late May or early June – too late for me to just hang around in DC without a job.  The biggest issue though – my lack of experience.  DC is a place where you need at least a Bachelor’s degree.  Most positions wanted me to either have or be working towards a Master’s degree.  So . . . that’s an issue.

I don’t want to blame my lack of a summer internship on the hiring places – I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’m not a qualified candidate.  But it is a bit of a shock, realizing how much weight DC puts on a degree.  Especially for interns.  That’s what I’m starting to love about applying back in Montana – they let their students be students, and they let their interns be inexperienced.

But speaking in broader, non-job/non-house related terms:  I just miss Montana.

But I miss home.  Not just the mountains, not just the ability to get out doors.  Not just my car and my bed and my stuff (I came to DC with two suitcases, okay?  90% of my clothes are back home) – but all of it.  I miss living in my own room, without a roommate to battle for the shower lights out time.  I miss my friends, and I miss being able to call up someone to just go hang out.  That’s not to say I haven’t made friends in DC – I have.  My roommates are great people, I’ve clicked with some of my classmates, and there are a few people who I know I’ll definitely keep in contact with after this whole program is over.

But I went from Helena to Missoula and took a good chunk of friends with me.  Most of my good friends in college were people I knew in high school, or people I quickly clicked with during freshman year.  It’s weird, leaving behind friendships that I’ve been building for 2+ years and come to DC, where no one knows anyone (okay, that’s a lie – some schools here bring in 10+ students.  I’m the only student from my state, so my situation is a little different).

I miss home.  I miss the comforts I was used to, comforts I can’t reproduce here for various reasons: I can’t put down some roots (for example – I’m wary of buying anything I can’t eat simply because I’ll be flying out in a couple weeks and my suitcase was already stuffed when I came here), and friendships are tricky when you know you’ll both be leaving soon.  It took a couple months, but I’ve finally developed that homesickness that hit people I know a lot sooner.

I’ve loved DC – I’ve met great people, I’ve done awesome things (both in terms of job and personal), and I’ve got to experience things here that can never be recreated elsewhere.

But I’ve also realized that DC – it’s a city I like to visit.  Not a city I permanently want to settle in.

So Montana:  I’ll see you in a few weeks.  And I can’t wait.

6:30 Wake-up Call: How DC forced me to grow up

As a note: this post, so recent after my first one, is more because my supervisor at my internship encouraged me to blog about my experience in DC.  So, I’ll probably be writing more for my own benefit than because of the requirements.

ANYWAYS: Growing up.

I’ve always been that kid who doesn’t do mornings.  I don’t schedule classes before 10 am (or 9:40, if we’re getting real ambitious), I try to avoid working early, and I get dressed in record time.  I’d say I averaged 10 minutes prep time during Fall Semester 2014.  That prep usually went as follows: alarm goes off, typically an hour or so before I have to be somewhere.  Hit the snooze.  Alarm goes off ten minutes later.  Hit the snooze.  Repeat until it’s 9:20, I have class at 9:40, and it’s a ten minute bike ride to school.

Cue chaotic music.

There’s a lot of mumbled swearing as I rub the sleep from my eyes while yanking on yesterday’s pants, a lot of confused running around while I searched for that shirt I wanted (which, 99% of the time, I’d worn yesterday and is now in the laundry), and me bolting out the door around 9:30 after grabbing my waterbottle and my backpack.  Eating breakfast was a rare event – if I was lucky and moving fast, I’d cram a muffin or a piece of toast into my mouth during the bike ride.  Sometimes, if I was really on top of things, I could even stop at the coffee shop in the building to grab a latte and a bagel.  But usually, I’d just suffer through my slew of classes hungry and grumpy until I could go home for lunch and a nap.

DC doesn’t allow for that kind of morning.

One of the biggest changes upon moving here was getting used to actually commuting to work.  Unlike the ten minute bike ride to class, work is now either a 40 minute walk, or a 20 minute Metro ride (with all the unforeseen hiccups that can come with public transit).  Rolling out of bed twenty minutes before I have to be at work is basically a death sentence to be late – fortunately, I haven’t had to make that “I’m so sorry I slept through my alarm” call yet.  Also, going the entire day without eating (like I was so used to) would probably result in the death of myself or one of my coworkers.

DC isn’t a cheap city, so if I want to live here, take the Metro, eat out for breakfast and lunch, and have money for activities, I’ve either got to marry rich real soon or steal an ATM.  Either way: it’s why I walk a lot and why I have to budget my time both at night and in the morning, to make lunch for the next day and to eat something for breakfast.

It’s also why I’ve actually started listening to my alarm in the morning.

6:30 AM used to be my enemy, the time I’d get up at if I needed to finish a paper.  Now, it’s when I roll out of bed, and I don’t even touch the snooze button anymore.  My roommate, bless her heart, also has to get up at 6:30, so we’ve got a great morning routine.  She changes in the bathroom while I change in the room, we swap for the morning pee, and then it’s 6:40 and we’re getting ready for the day.  Typically to the tune of her Michael Jackson Pandora radio, but sometimes we’ll just grunt about how tired we are (this has typically followed an up-too-late night when we either watched the Bachelor or stayed up giggling about stupid stories from work).

But we get ready and then I have breakfast.  Which is such a strange phenomenon to me.  The coffee is brewing while I put on my makeup, and by 7:15, we’re watching CNN and eating food.

Guys, I watch CNN now.  At 7:15 am.  Voluntarily. 

It’s not a life I imagined myself having in Montana – in fact, my tendency to sleep in was one of my biggest worries about moving to DC.  Coupled with my tendency to be up until 2 (or 3) am, browsing the millions of cat videos on the web, I kind of thought I wasn’t going to be adult enough to move to DC.  Not gonna lie – the first week was rough.  I didn’t know what to do when I actually had time to sit down and drink a cup of coffee and make myself some eggs.  But now – now, I’m starting to wake up earlier on the weekends (my stupid internal clock has me up by 8 on Saturdays now.  I hate it).  And I’m also looking forward to that 6:30 alarm clock, because it means CNN and my cup of coffee and Michael Jackson.  It also means I’m about to head to the office to my adult job (okay, adult internship).

Some kids grow up when they come to college – that’s when they adapt to early mornings and eating breakfast and going to bed at a decent hour.  For me, it’s taken a move across the country and an actual commute to work.  But hey – we can’t all grow up at age 18.  And not all of us wanted to.

Although I do miss my 1:30 am cat videos.

Culture Shock from Coast to Coast

Okay, technically Montana isn’t on the coast (and really, neither is DC), but “coast to coast” sounded better than “Culture Shock from just west of the Rockies to the center of the Beltway”.  Still, both Missoula and Washington DC are definitely located on the same continent, and are part of the same country.  Somehow, though, I got more of a culture shock coming here than I did when I went up to Canada over New Year’s (although, Western Canada and Montana are . . . virtually the same).

I was expecting a change when I moved from a Montana town of 65,000 to the nation’s capital (holding a staggering 643,000 people (THAT’S A POPULATION DENSITY OF OVER 10,000 PEOPLE PER SQUARE MILE)), but oh man.  Culture shock indeed.

During my first few weeks here, I’d been keeping a list of all the things about Washington DC that surprised me:

  • Escalators.  Escalators everywhere.
  • People use their car horns to be rude!  Also, there’s a lot of honking at night, which interrupts my Monday viewing of the Bachelor (we can’t have that).
  • The sidewalks are big enough for you to drive a car on (and sometimes people do).
  • Business professional does not consist of a nice pair of jeans and a button down shirt.
  • Really, I think there are more escalators in one Metro station than there are in the entirety of Montana.

I’d been to DC before, back in 2013 for Obama’s second inauguration.  But I’d only visited that time, and visiting in conjunction with hundreds of thousands of other people gave me a bit of a false view of this city.  Second time around, now that I’m living here, I’m starting to realize that, yes, the Metro is always crowded (unless you’re riding it at 1 pm – then it’s eerily empty), and yes, everything is overpriced (also – sales tax is the worst invention ever), and yes, there is far greater ethnic and racial diversity here than I’ve ever experienced before.  Somehow, though, it all works.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still adjusting to the city.  I’m still walking everywhere, because that seems preferable to cramming myself into a moving metal tube, and I still walk up the escalators even though I really don’t have to, and I still have to double check with the roommate every morning to see if my outfit is professional enough for the workplace (guys, I really miss wearing jeans to work), but I’m starting to expect the crowded streets and the 11 pm honk war outside my apartment and the fact that nothing here really costs a dollar.  DC is definitely different than Missoula, Montana, but just like the college town I came to love, it’s got its own, particular brand of weird.  A weird I can definitely get used to.

Except for escalators.  I don’t think I’ll ever understand the number of escalators.