Other than posting to Facebook, I didn’t have time to celebrate landing my new internship. (See my last post.) Having just a week to relocate and begin a new job in Washington, D.C. was beyond stressful—it was terrifying. Let’s call my main stressors “The Big 3”:
1. Moving to The Big City alone. After my breakup, one of my worst fears was that I would get a job in a Big City and have to live By Myself and lead a Lonely Life. In this imaginary scenario, I saw myself in the backseat of a car with my parents as they drove me to the airport. My face would be sadly pressed against the back window as we pulled away from campus and all of my friends, who would be laughing and planning out their post-grad lives together: getting an apartment, finding fun “adult” things to do, adopting a cat, etc. Mom and Dad would tearily kiss me goodbye forever. I would have to hee and haw to move all of my junk by myself into my new place, and every evening afterward would be spent in the dark save the blue glow from the television. I would have to see Facebook posts and Instagram pictures of my friends living out Post-College Life together while I spent the majority of my days sitting on the hardwood floor of a tiny living room, lounging in 3-day old pajamas, eating cereal for dinner, and probably getting fat from loneliness.
By graduation time, the fear of living alone had diminished significantly–but I couldn’t imagine living in a city.
People who didn’t grow up in the country often don’t understand why it is so hard to leave it–after all, it is just the middle of nowhere, and cities have malls and better schools and thriving arts communities and organic avocados and blah blah blah. In many ways, it’s an obvious upgrade, even to country bumpkins.
But there is simplicity to a country life that brings its residents a lot of peace–even if it also invites a lot of boredom. There’s no expectation to constantly be on e-mail or to buy big nice cars or to climb the professional ladder. Living expenses are low, and family is everything because there is literally nothing else out there in the cornfields.
I learned these differences the hard way when I moved from my small Midwestern town of 4,000 to graduate high school in a town of 50,000 and then attend college in a place large enough to be deemed a city. Each move was culture shock–I didn’t like the same things or talk in the same way as other people, and it was embarrassing to not have done things like drink at Starbucks or ride a plane or step inside an Ikea (among many other things). And I knew that moving to the capital of the United States was going to change my life forever.
2. Finding a place to live. The most pressing matter was obviously to get a roof over my head. I anxiously and immediately began searching for cheap motels where I could live out my 8 internship weeks. At part-time internship pay, I would have to rely on my post-college savings account.
3. FINDING A PLACE TO LIVE!!! Why is everything so expensive?!?!? I thought. Extended stay hotels were over $100/day, sleezy apartments were $1,000/month, and even lodging in a hostel or at a campground would total $800/month or more.
Out of desperation, I posted to Facebook asking if anyone I knew would be spending their summer in D.C. I got exactly 1 comment on the post–someone had tagged an acquaintance from my small Midwestern hometown.
Later that day, the acquaintance (who we’ll name Matt) messaged me asking what I needed. I explained that I needed a place to live, I needed it fast, and I needed it cheap.
He knew a guy with an open room, but “it was probably much higher than what I was looking for.” And if I was comfortable with it, I was welcome to stay with him, his wife and their kids at their apartment for as long as I needed.
I couldn’t believe my luck. I pulled up my bank account, subtracted the cost of food for 8 weeks, and offered the remainder for rent: $100/week.
I was going to return from my internship flat broke.
But it was going to be the greatest adventure.
Next week’s blog post throws me into the heart of D.C. and the lives of near-strangers.