I stared out the window during my first ever train ride, officially a college graduate for all of two weeks and officially on my own. (See my last post.)
The scenery wasn’t nearly as impressive as it was during my first plane ride–but there was WiFi, plenty of leg room, and a food cart with cheese pizza, so I was happy. I tried not to be sad about saying goodbye to my parents and three younger siblings or to think about the argument I had with my mom before departing. It had been like getting dropped off for college all over again–too much change and tension for one day, let alone one moment…
Instead, I tried to focus on the excitement. I’m on a train! I can’t believe I’m going to D.C. I wonder what it will be like to live with Matt and his family–I hope they like me. Is this even real? I’m going to make the most of this. There is going to be so much to do here! I can’t believe I’m interning with National Geographic.* I wonder what it will be like to work for them–I hope they like me. Is this even real?
I’m going to make the most of this.
Four hours of non-stop thoughts and two hours of sleep later, I had finally arrived at Union Station.
First things first: selfie with the Union Station pole so that I could text my friends and family LOOK I’M HERE!!!
I found my suitcases and awkwardly lugged them around the station looking for the metro–specifically, the “red line.” I really had no idea what that meant and wasn’t even sure if the “metro” was an underground thing, a fancy name for a regular train, or a spaceship, but somehow I found it, got the staff person/metro helper/possibly even someone pretending to be a police officer to help me purchase a SmarTrip card, and yanked my excessive luggage into a metro car.
I was obviously a tourist. Let me give you a mental picture of that metro car on a Saturday afternoon:
There were probably 15 people on board–half of them were asleep, half of them were staring at their phones, and none of them were smiling, talking, or conveying signs that they were living and breathing.
Then there was me:
I was sitting in what turned out to be a handicapped seat with six different bags. I was surveying the train every few seconds and smiling ear-to-ear. Every once in a while, I’d ask the person next to me, “Do you know how to get to Shady Grove?” “It’s the very last stop, just take this to the end,” they’d respond. I’d make small talk that consisted of “I’m new here, and I’m so excited!” Then, because I didn’t trust their directions, I’d wait for them to get off the metro so that I could ask someone else the same question.
Luckily, greeting the near-stranger I would be living with for the next couple of months wasn’t as awkward as I thought it’d be–in fact, not awkward at all.
It was like being in my small Midwestern town again, and I realized how funny it was that we should both be in D.C. now and that we should cross paths. Meshing what I knew of him in high school and what he was telling me now, his life story consisted of a teen pregnancy, relocating to the capital for the military and pushing full-steam ahead before breaking his back during training. Since moving, he and his now-wife Mariah had had a second kid, and he was getting ready to graduate from college. They were a successful, loving family despite the crap they had had to go through in a small-town high school. It was a story I found both inspiring and compelling.
He also seemed to be impressed by my boiled down life story: constantly moving schools and homes throughout high school, an abrupt end to a 7-year relationship, graduating from the Honors College at East Carolina with a degree in biology and then somehow connecting with someone who would connect me to marketing at my dream company.
Completely different journeys had brought us to the same place and point in time–which was both cool and weird.
I gave Mariah a hug when I walked through the front door and said hello to their two kids, Eve (6) and John (2). They had given me my own room in their apartment with a few shelves to put my things. They were down-to-earth people, and I was so glad that they had offered to let me stay with them.
I had two days to unpack and collect myself before my internship on Monday. I dropped my bags on my bedroom floor and turned around at the sound of a high-pitched voice.
“Hey you’re going to be living with us now, aren’t you? Wanna play with me?!”
*Please note that I will not answer questions about my employment at National Geographic. I will provide superficial, non-confidential details as my work experience is not the focus of this blog–it’s just part of the story. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for your understanding.