Departure for Rwanda is still five months away, but it has already come time for a bittersweet farewell to my life in the District of Columbia as I prepare to move home to Colorado.
It was ten years ago to the day – on a field trip with my 8th grade class – that I first experienced the side of D.C. that everyone knows: the monuments, the capital, the“room where it happens”, the center of the States’ power. To me, at the age of 13, I was standing in the center of the world where only great things could happen.
Some great things did happen in my time here. I stood on the steps of the Supreme Court building as history was made with the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. I watched as crowds of people gathered to watch the Pope address a crowd of people in a radical speech in which he addressed climate change and a new outlook for the Catholic Church. I celebrated with the nation as fireworks burst over the Lincoln Memorial on the fourth of July in remembrance of our history.
In the ten years since that trip, I have of course come to realize that many bad things happen here too. Living in the District affords us a unique perspective on some of the more negative aspects of the city. I’ve seen just how quickly the grandeur of Capital Hill transforms into some of the poorest and most under-served urban areas of the country. I’ve felt the quiet fear that settles over the city after attacks like those in Paris or Brussels as people silently wonder ‘Will we be next?’ I’ve watched the rise of Donald Trump from the city he now hopes to make his home for the next eight years.
My entire life has revolved around the beat of this city. The President’s motorcade slowing my walk home has become a regular occurrence, and I became accustomed to meeting people lobbying for a different cause every day. Running by the internationally recognizable monuments like the White House has become so normal to me that I had to laugh when a friend from out of town showed up at my apartment and told me excitedly that he had just driven by the Washington Monument. I’ve made amazing memories with the people who I know will be my friends for the rest of my life.
The national (and even international) outlook on Washington D.C. is bleak at times, but living here makes you acutely aware that there are still so many good people fighting for the betterment of the world and trying to make a difference. That perspective is something I can keep with me moving forward, and I hope to bring the lessons of everything I saw happen here to students in my small community in Rwanda.
Will I come back to D.C. when I return from my service? I can’t say for sure; at this point, I doubt it. But I will always be grateful and look back fondly on my time here. Do I still look at this city with the same wide-eyed fascination and optimism that I did when I was 13? Absolutely not, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t seen the potential for great good in my time here, and I will continue to have faith in that moving forward.
I will miss this city. I’ll miss the monuments and the motorcade. I’ll miss the cherry blossoms blooming in the spring, and I’ll miss the city coming to a screeching halt when it snows. I’ll miss the nights out, the quirky bars and going to more concerts than I can count. I’ll miss my friends.
But, it’s time to move on to greater things and see what more there is for me to achieve. Farewell, D.C., until next time.