I've lived in DC now for about 4 months, but it may as well be four lifetimes. People say that moving around gets easier, and that once you learn how to travel, how to do a new city, it becomes like a powerful muscle that you can just exercise. Well, here I am, having lived away from my home country of Australia for five years now, and hopped around between England and Europe in between, telling you that's not true. Sure, I'm less of a mess regarding the whole apartment-finding, bill-paying, job-doing thing. Sure, I've picked up a few handy tips on how to meet people and find the place to be if you want to see life going by, and have some weird, weird adventures (which I want to blog about). But even those can't substitute for the time and patience it takes to find your feet in a new city. Knowing a place, really knowing a place takes an incredible mix of proactivity and patience, and forming long-term friendships with people probably takes the most. Sometimes, in DC, I'll think back to the first time I walked around all these pastel, row-houses and try to recapture that sense of enchantment, but it's been replaced by anxiety. What if I never feel comfortable here? What if I never make the most of it?
And so what? There is no deadline on when, and how you explore a city. You can go to museums every week, or talk to every stranger to see, or do none of those things and just people watch. At the end of the day, moving alone to a city is you and yourself, and being fine with the things that happen, whatever they may be. Like finding something utterly delightful like a funny new bookstore, that you share with only yourself, and holding it to yourself like a ball of warmth. You get to know yourself, and maybe even like yourself. Hooray!
Last weekend, when I was feeling particularly out of touch, I lay in bed for a while, looking at the ceiling. Then, I got on my bike (a terribly, heavy, dusty thing) and rode to Rock Creek Park - one of the only urban National Parks in the country. As I flew down the entry road, the trees started rising around me, and then like someone had pulled a switch, I was away. The leaves had fallen, and the floor was this achingly mix of browns, reds, and golds. I breathed in, somewhat amazed, and the air was good and fresh. There was a maze of trails, and I followed one that disappeared into the woods, not quite sure where I was going, and then hugged the riverbank, until I found a rock and settled on it. I took in the reflection of the trees in the water, almost like the river had become a thing of gold, and in the distance, I saw a couple on another rock, leaning on each other. In this moment, I was happy that I was alone, happy that I was seeing a place in the world I had never seen before, happy that I had tried, after all, to start afresh.