Thursday, September 17, 2015

Moving To DC in 1995

Me, September 1995
It was exactly 20 years ago today - September 17, 1995 -  that I decided to finally grow up and be an adult.  On this day, two decades ago, I moved out of my parents' house for the last time and into my own apartment 150 miles away in Washington, DC.  I was 29 years old.  

I had spent the previous decade starting/quitting/restarting/graduating college, coming out to myself, working something like 21 jobs and living in almost as many apartments/dorms/houses over the years.  I'd spent most of the time with my two best friends, learning about myself and life in general.  There was a scientific belief, then, that gay people went through two pubescent periods:  the first in their teens as their bodies changed and they learned how to interact with each other, then again in their 20's having to unlearn the "straight way" and learn it all back over the "gay way".  There was a different set of rules to follow back then.  It's not like now where high schools have gay clubs and kids aren't waiting until their 20's to come out.  

It all started in June 1995.  I had moved in and out of my parents' house several times when life didn't work out, so I found myself living at home once again.  An old college buddy and I decided to spend a weekend in DC, running around to the bars and having the type of fun 29-year olds have.  We were walking down Connecticut Avenue and stopped in The Gap.  While we were in there shopping, my buddy had a revelation:  "Let's move here!  Let's get applications and jobs and move to DC together.  We can share an apartment and really do it!"  I was more spontaneous back then, so I agreed.  We asked for applications, tucked them in our shopping bags and went on our way.

A few weeks later, I learned through friends that my buddy had taken a job on a cruise ship without telling me.  He did these kinds of things.  Often.  And one night a few weeks later, I came home from a bad day at work and found The Gap application tucked away in a desk drawer.  I filled it out and mailed it in.  Two weeks later, I received a call from Tom, the District Manager for Gap in DC.  I drove to the store in Georgetown, had a great interview, and was offered an Assistant Manager position in the Connecticut Avenue store the next day.  It seemed impossible, but I decided to do it.  On my own.

After a frantic search with a considerably low budget, I found an English basement apartment on The Hill on Lincoln Square at 1310 Massachusetts Avenue, SE.  I moved in and started work the following day.  I remember there were times when I'd sit in my little, sparsely-furnished apartment and say to myself, "Wow, I'm doing it.  My rent is paid, my phone bill is paid, my car insurance is paid - I'm doing it.  All by myself, I am doing it."  It was incredibly empowering.  Oh, there were definitely times of struggle, like when I would order 2 for 1 large pizzas on Sunday night and make them last as my dinners for the entire week, or when I would walk 30 blocks home from work at night because $2.50 was too much to spend on Metro fare.  But I was too stubborn to let the city I loved defeat me.  Somehow, it always worked out.

I'd spend the next 10 years in DC, learning more about life and people, the ways of the world and how I fit into it.  I allowed myself to try just about everything and learn from the experience.  I would have wonderful moments like having a deep conversation with a complete stranger while sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at 2AM, and seeing the pink cherry blossoms color a gray dawn at the Tidal Basin, and shopping on an autumn Sunday at Eastern Market, and biking along the Potomac River through Georgetown, and walking through the streets of the city with thousands of others during the very first AIDSwalk – all things that could only be experienced in DC.

I would get involved in 3 relationships a
nd make a countless number of friends and acquaintances. Near the end of my time in DC, people would remember meeting me 10 years prior. I know it had just about everything to do with the fact that I have an interesting name, but to my vanity, I would like to think that I left some kind of lasting impression on them, as everyone I met had on me. 

Me, September 2005
It's funny now,  looking back, at how important all those people were to me and how I expected - no, KNEW - that we would always be close friends.  And now I never talk to them, not even to the two best friends I spent thousands of hours with.  It's funny/sad how important they were to me then, and how little I think of them now.  A precious few remain, though.  Life really does move on.

It was a full, 10 wonderful years in DC when I moved from there in 2005.  It would have been impossible for me to imagine then how life could get any better.  Little did I know.