I grew up in a tiny town in California. I hated it. In high school, I counted the days before I could escape and go live somewhere bigger, more cosmopolitan, and have a more exciting life. I dreamed of exploring the world.
When I graduated from high school, I moved to Utah for college. I went to BYU in Provo for a few years before getting kicked out for partying. It was fine because I didn’t want to be there anyway. I transferred to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. One day I was walking through the English building a saw a flyer taped on the wall. It was for paid internships in Washington, DC. I still had another year before I graduated but I knew that’s what I was going to do next.
A few months before graduation, I applied for that paid internship and got accepted by the Committee for Education Funding, which was on Capitol Hill. I was to report for work on the Tuesday after Labor Day. I was really excited. One warm afternoon a couple months prior, my roommate, Becky, and I were basking in the sun in our back yard. “Becky, you’re a nurse and you can get a job anywhere. Why don’t you move to DC with me?”
“Ok,” she said. Just like that. “But only if you come with me to Europe.”
“Deal.” We purchased plane tickets to Paris that very afternoon and I went to the Post Office and got my passport.
In mid August, Becky and I packed up as much as we could in our two cars and we departed for Washington, DC. We had no idea where we would live or exactly how it would all work out but we were going to figure it out along the way. My parents were helping me drive my car and Becky’s ex boyfriend, Dan, was helping her drive hers. This was my first big road trip and I was ecstatic to visit all kinds of new states.
We spent our first night on the road in Ogalala, Nebraska. The next day, we got all the way to Cincinnati, Ohio. We stayed at a very nice Marriott and the next day, we went to Kings Island and road roller coasters. To this day, I’ve never been on such insane rides. We stayed another night at the Marriott and then spent another day on the road before arriving at another Marriott near the Dulles Airport, which is about 18 miles outside of DC. After a good night’s rest, we drove Dan and my parents to Union Station so they could start heading back to Utah. Union Station is located next to the Capitol and Supreme Court. It was the first time I had ever been there. I will never forget how awestruck I was by the city. While Becky drove, I was hanging out of the
window taking photos. “These buildings are HUGE!” I almost shouted. The power of the city reverberating through my bones. My heart was pounding and I was just stunned and excited all at the same time.
Becky and I had just one day to “recover” from our long drive across the country before we left our cars at the Dulles Airport Marriott and boarded a flight for Paris. I had never been to Europe either. We spent the next three weeks Eurorailing from Paris to Munich, Zurich, Salzburg, Rome, Nice, Luxumbourg, and Geneva. I flew back to Washington, DC a week earlier than Becky. My friend, Emmy, met me at the airport and drove me to her brother’s house. (Emmy was in town for a few days finding an apartment and job before flying back to Salt Lake City to pack up. She moved to DC a month later.) I literally had no home and no idea what to do next. Emmy’s brother graciously allowed me to stay at his apartment for a week until Becky would get back.
The very next day, I needed to report to my first day on the job at my internship. I didn’t even know where I was going or what I should wear. I dug through my suitcase in my car and picked out a skirt and top and, jetlagged, found my way to a metro station, parked my car and got out. I asked someone how I should get to Capitol Hill. Where in Capitol Hill? he asked. Because there are several stops. I didn’t know how to answer. Any stop, I responded. I picked Union Station, since that’s the only area I knew in DC and when I finally got there, I hailed a taxi and gave the driver the address for my internship. He dropped me off at the front door.
And that’s how I started my first day on the job. Jet lagged, homeless, alone, with piles of laundry and no idea what to do next. But that was ok, the adventure was worth it all.
A week later, Becky got back from Paris and I picked her up at the airport. We went directly to look for an apartment. We had no time to waste– we had to have a home! We heard that Alexandria, Virginia was a good and safe place to live and it was just four miles from Capitol Hill where I was working. Sounded good to us! We picked the first place we toured– a small one bedroom unfurnished apartment in a gated community with a great community center and pool. We slept on the floor with a few blankets that we had shoved into our cars on the move out. A few days later, we went to Ikea and bought a bed, futon, a bookshelf, a couple of bar stools, and a TV stand. It was a start.
Such was the start of my seven years in Washington, DC. While there, I had a great career. I finished my internship and got my first real job at Chemical Manufacturers Association as a Staff Assistant. I was there for a year before I got my dream job at the National Rifle Association as an Event Services Coordinator. I was promoted a few times and earned a very good income. I bought more furniture, went back to Europe a couple times, and met lots of friends. I went to Clinton’s Inaugural Ball and had so much fun purchasing my first real cocktail dress. I attended the
Clinton Impeachment Hearings in Congress. I attended a beautiful ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House. And I spent loads of time exploring the underground passages that connected the Capitol from the House and Senate Office Buildings. I loved every minute of my time in DC (minus the traffic and weather).
After Becky and I fulfilled our one-year lease on our little apartment, we went our separate ways. Becky got married and I met my friend, Amy. We rented a very cute townhouse in Alexandria and lived there for almost three years. I actually started buying real furniture!
I never would have had any of those experiences if I had allowed myself to be intimidated by the unknown. Because the unknown can be scary. I just did it– with full confidence that I would be able to figure it all out in some way or another. The adventure was worth it all.
I think that willingness to just go for it has served me well in my fight against myeloma and leaving my abusive marriage. I didn’t know how it would all shake out. I just closed my eyes, said a prayer, and pressed forward. Gutsy? Absolutely. And fearless. And full of hope.