Because I am feeling a little sentimental, a little thoughtful, and a little homesick, I am re-posting this from a former blog of mine. I wrote it in February, 2010–five months after I had moved to DC.
This picture, however, is recent. Union Station during Christmastime is my favorite. I cannot help but gawk at the giant wreaths when I walk under them and into the old, historic train station.
Union Station is the place from which I emerged on September 19, 2009 after a series of walking a few feet, sitting,walking again, and sitting some more. I had visited Washington DC a total of seven times before buying my one way ticket last year, and in my mind, I have two very distinct sets of images for the times I visited and the time I came to stay. It’s amazing how different things look when you know that what you once casually observed will be a part of your everday life. Like going into a stranger’s house after you have just purchased it.
Walking behind my parents as a twelve-year-old, passively accepting whatever was next on our agenda, my siblings and I were at our leisure to observe and comment on our surroundings. I remember walking down a street lined with rowhouses and saying aloud to my family, “Someday I want to live in one of these houses.” We stopped to take pictures outside of Union Station. I had a 35mm Nikon and when it was loaded with black and white film, I felt pretty cool. Everything was a photo opportunity. Everything was memorable.
Six years later I was still taking pictures, this time with a digital camera and photo enhancing software on my computer. And instead of following my parents around the city, I was with other collegians simply excited to be apart of the excitement. We took a tour of the White House and had breakfast at a nearby cafe. I remember saying to my friends, “When I graduate, I want to move to DC and write. I am sure I could write a best-selling novel here.” The future seemed so distant, I felt safe saying anything.
Four years later I stepped off the train from Baltimore alone. I had my camera, but it was buried in my purse amongst gum wrappers, my passport, and other travel documents. I had two suitcases and no permanent housing lined up. I was in a train station so familiar and I could envision my parents and four sun-burned kids tagging along behind without a care in the world. Hours ago I was in my yellow room with a view toward the rising Oklahoma sun and trees for as far as I could see. For the price of two hundred dollars I had been transported to a world of marble, where the people passing by do not acknowledge your presence.
Like the wardrobe doors that lead to Narnia, Platform 9 and 3/4 that leads to Hogwarts, or the looking glass in Alice’s room, Union Station sucked me in and spit me out into a world that was not unfamiliar, but suddenly seemed so unlike the place I had visited so many times before. Like a fading dream, the memories of my yellow room began to slip away, becoming fuzzy as the images around me came into focus. Stepping out of the glass doors and seeing the Capitol blaring in the sun across the street, it suddenly hit me that I was not a tourist this time. I was staring at my new office building. I was clinging to the handles of the containers that held the entire contents of my new room, wherever that would be. I wasn’t concerned with taking pictures because I knew I would have plenty of time to do that in the days and months to come. There was no longer any rush. The wardrobe doors were far behind and firmly shut.
I am writing this entry in a rowhouse just like the ones I dreamed of on those family vacations. Visiting the White House is old news. I sit in coffee shops here quite frequently and I walk past Union Station every day. I have yet to write that best-selling novel.
DC is looking less and less like that stranger’s house I loved to visit. I am starting to see the cracks in the floor and hear the creak in the front door. I’ve signed the papers, I am officically invested, and even despite the flaws that were previously camoflauged by blissful detachment, there is something wonderfully endearing about commitment. For all it’s worth, I am apart of the culture now and I have the opportunity to embrace it, live in it, and learn from it. There is no way I could have fully known what I was getting myself into when I stepped through the wardrobe, but it is the unknown that is always the most enticing. And the steps toward knowing are neverending and thus, always an adventure.