I got my first library card in ten years the other day, and it came with mixed feelings: joy at having time to read for pleasure; anticipation for books like The Unbearable Lightness of Being and A Visit from the Goon Squad I’ve got tucked under my arm; awe at what public libraries are offering these days (so much!); and the unease I feel at having something that required a permanent address to obtain (even if the address technically is my parents’). The last time that happened, I was 19, finally getting my driver’s license, and was able to put down my college campus box as my permanent address (North Carolina, you’ve always been so good to me). I am stubbornly refusing to exchange that N.C. license for a V.A. license anytime soon; as my last physical hold on a state that feels more like home to me than any other, I hope to keep it for a while.
Life is different these days. Six months ago, I was driving up and down the east coast in my dad’s red Mercury Grand Marquis – which I lovingly nicknamed “The Boat” during my senior year of college – and riding in Jesse’s beloved minivan, “Old Smokey” (and what a lady she is). Three months ago, my default mode of transport was a crowded, sweaty Sri Lankan bus, wind in my hair and sun on my cheeks as I adventured through the country. As of late, it’s the Washington D.C. Metro, which I frequent just about every day. I’ve almost memorized the whole rail map – there is just something about diagrams of public transport systems, words and lines connecting hubs and stations. People always riding the colors, switching platforms and changing cars to arrive at their destination. A symbol of bigger journeys, those Metro cars. So many stories and paths crisscrossing and bumping into each other. We’re all just passing through, huh?
Christmas came a little bit as a shock this year, and not just because my parents were still settling into their new place and I was up to my elbows in boxes while trying to write our family’s holiday letter. The shock was what Christmas in this part of the world is like – at least in the malls and stores and on TV. I quickly realized I was no longer sheltered from Christmas commercialism by the frenzy that is college final exams in the month of December. At Elon, it was pretty easy to stay away from the ads and money and sales and green and red everything, because Christmas started when we all got home to our families, late in the month (and I always went to Germany, where Christmas is more about traditional Christmas markets than sales at shopping malls). This year, I missed that strange sort of naivety – along with the Christmas lights and decorations of Oaks E 210! But Christmas in northern Virginia brought its own kind of fluster and fun.
And even though we didn’t get our small tree decorated ‘til Christmas Eve, it made for a wonderful holiday, one that brought a trip to Pennsylvania and back, a night at the Kennedy Center, a New Years Eve party, and visits from Julie and Jesse!
I’m not sure how long I’ll be in the D.C. area, but I’m trying to jump right in. I joined the D.C. World Affairs Council and have gone to a couple really interesting events downtown. I’ve been seeing a few good friends who are living in the area, am doing some work for a professor, and I became a member of the Newseum (the coolest museum in D.C.). I’m adding some color to the sidewalks by being the only person – as far as I can tell – who wears a lime green t-shirt and bright blue sneakers while she runs (too much black and gray here!) I’m taking yoga classes a couple times a week and am training for a St. Patrick’s Day half-marathon that I’ll be running in D.C. with the brother, the boyfriend, and the college roommate :) I start an intensive GRE course in a few days and studying will be my full-time job for the next month (along with being the Official Family Dog Walker) while I wait to hear about Fulbright. I’ve got my list of things I want to do during this transition/waiting period and goals set out for how I want to use this time, but honestly? I’m mostly just focused on enjoying being here and being around family, which is a rarity. 2011 – my last semester at Elon, a packed summer, and those months in Sri Lanka – was full of very happily busy times, but I’m grateful to have the time now to think about serious next steps and where I want to be. On a phone call today, a new mentor reminded me that having everything figured out right now is not the point, and it’s not what my years at college have taught me to do. Following my instincts, creating options, not losing sight of my passions – that’s what should be the focus of my efforts these days. And that’s what I’ll be doing.
Oh, and figuring out the best way to be the next most-sought-after photojournalist for National Geographic, of course.