26 August 2016

Sandy Doesn't Live Here Anymore

It is August 26th, and I am officially a DC resident. There, I said it. On Monday of this week, I put most of my worldly possessions onto the back of a truck and said goodbye to my apartment on Medill Street in Chicago. And what ran through my head were the words, "Sandy doesn't live here anymore." A line stolen from one of the final episodes of Sex and the City, when Carrie runs into Big just before relocating to Paris. She yells at him, "I don't live here anymore!" and for some reason I found that so comforting. My heart is still shattered from my breakup this summer, but knowing I lived on a street named after one of his family members only added insult to injury. Every time I turned onto Medill, it was a reminder that he was gone. That he didn't want this as badly as I did. Giving my keys to my roommate and turning to leave, Sandy doesn't live here anymore. Now that is freedom.

My old facade.

Heartbreak aside, I write to you from an air mattress in an empty apartment in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, DC. I know there have been crickets on this site for the last few years, but I've been busy and hard at work. I now possess an MA in Museum and Exhibition Studies. I have a job lined up at a very cool museum in DC (more on that as soon as the ink dries on my contract). And I did that thing that I said I wanted to do when I entered my second year of school. I picked a city other than Chicago, I set my heart on it, I took a gamble, and I moved here. And to think, that the first time I came to DC I was half the age I am now, utterly concerned with boys (and a little bit of heartbreak), about to enter high school, bespectacled and with braces. And here I am fourteen years later with so much more experience and knowledge about who I am and who I want to be.

Just under a year ago, I came here for the second time with the MUSE Program to present at a conference at the Smithsonian. It was the first time I set foot inside the museum I will soon call home. I remember coming back from that trip thinking, "Could I live there? Could this be a place for me?" I returned on a spontaneous trip in late February with a man who wanted to show me his side of DC. When we weren't ordering room service and prepping for his grad school interview, we ran through the National Gallery of Art before closing time, we took photos of the Lincoln Memorial at midnight, and we ate fish eyes at a seafood restaurant for good luck. I remember sitting nearby the memorial to Roosevelt, on the top of some steps looking out at the Washington Monument. I sat there alone, with my head in my hands, wondering, "Could I live here? Could this really be the place?" Neither of us knew that in six months time, we would both be DC residents, separately.

That little lumpy silhouette on the stairs is me.

I write all of this because it is part of my story. The story of a girl who followed her heart and her gut to a city where she knows only a handful of people. This is the story of a person who wakes up after fitful nights of sleep, in an empty apartment, wondering when her furniture will arrive and when she will find out her start date for her dream job. I look at the calendar knowing the man who brought me here, the man who broke my heart, is arriving on Sunday, but then I counter the lump in my throat with the knowledge that the same calendar is full of goodness and unknowns.

These are the truths, the goods things, the things I know:

  • I'm going to see Chungking Express tonight in Maryland, a spontaneous trip to see my favorite movie on the silver screen. 
  • I'm going to visit museums I've never been to, and I am hoping to go to the opening weekend of the new Smithsonian Museum of African American Culture and History. 
  • I'm going to roll up my sleeves and work incredibly hard in my new museum. 
  • I'm going to meet a lot of new people. 
  • I'm going to be covered in bug bites from the mosquitos who seem to love me. 
  • I'm going to find my rhythm, my grocery stores, my commute, my routine. 
  • I'm going to get lost and find myself on streets I've never tread. 
  • I'm going to feel uncomfortable, nervous, scared, anxious, and lonely. 
  • But this is mine. I asked for this, I worked for this. 
I picked a city on the map, I chose this. I came out here alone to find an apartment for myself. I came back to sign a lease. I organized my move. I threw myself a going away party. I showed up alone, sipping my drink in solitude anxiously looking at the door. Friendly faces greeted me and will continue to greet me, I just need to be patient and brave. It is hot in my apartment, the sound of the summer bugs is pouring through my open windows. There is comfort in knowing I am alone here, but not entirely. There are people dotting the landscape, most of whom I've yet to meet. I will be okay, it will just take some time. I need to be courageous and fearless, honest and open. I need to get out of bed each and every day with a sense of purpose. So today, my raison d'etre is to visit the police station to get "No Parking" signs for my movers, I need to figure out where my trash goes, and I need to get myself to Maryland to see one of my all-time favorite movies with an old friend from Kansas City.

This is where I'm resting my head. Those markings on the wall are where I have decided pieces of furniture will go. Already
"curating" my space, with measurements of each piece written in a notebook of my choosing.
My kitchen, where I'm doing some very minimal cooking.
I ate dinner on the floor last night, with the company of
my new plant Andrea Fraser
My own bathroom, with the Unison shower curtain I coveted
and a beautiful bathrobe that is just for me.
The laundry room in my building has a free book exchange.
My local Walgreens is historic, a little gem.
My fridge is getting homier and cuter by the day.
There is a park hidden in the woods behind my house.