Stop Requested

Stop Requested

Finished with my morning routine, I dropped my mascara back into the drawer and paused to look at myself in the mirror. Hair still wild, skin even more pale than it had been when I’d arrived, there was something different about this girl. The blazer and blouse that I’d pulled at in discomfort 3 months earlier in the Macy’s dressing room, fit to me perfectly. An outfit that once felt so strange felt finally natural. No longer teetering in my mild-high heels, I stood strong and straight. There were no butterflies in my stomach as there had been the first week that I’d stood in front of this same mirror.  My eyes did not reveal worry or stress. My reflection was a picture of confidence, comfort, and poise. I ran a brush through my hair and wondered to myself, when was the last time I’d looked at a mirror and saw all of that?

Boarding the morning D3 bus for my last day of work, I smiled and said my usual good morning to the driver. I will not likely see this man again; he has shuttled me nearly every day to my office from my apartment. Instead of reading, I gazed out the window, taking mental snapshots of the familiar route and feeling nostalgic. “Stop requested.”  Waving goodbye to my driver for the final time, I stepped onto Pennsylvania Avenue and let my eyes travel to the end of the road where the Capitol stands, glowing in the morning light. I’ve looked down this street every day for 3 months, but it still hasn’t gotten old. The sight of it gives me the same feeling that I got when I biked around the memorials at 3:30 a.m., or saw the sunrise flood the National Mall with golden light, or I stood on the sidewalk and watched Obama’s motorcade flash by me. I feel, for maybe the hundredth time, that surge of joy that stops me in my tracks and makes me say to myself – “wow, I get to live here.”  I’m really going to miss that feeling.

It’s hard to leave D.C. but not as hard as it is to leave the people that I’ve met here. My eyes and cheeks sting as I bring my hand up over and over again to wipe away hot tears.  Hugs on move-out morning last long and words, though kind and loving, do not nearly begin to cover everything that I need to say. Recalling pot luck dinners, late night conversations, thoughtful day-time emails, and wild bar excursions, it’s impossible to choke back emotion. To live with such motivated and passionate people for the past 3 months has been a true privilege.  While riding home on the Metro for the final time after work, I reflect on my time at the Trust for the National Mall and on first experience of living in a city. Arms thrust to the ceiling, fingers wrapped around metal bars, and feet  planted to keep balance, I consider how everyone I’ve met in D.C., even these quiet souls in my train car, have shaped my experience here this semester.

D.C. is now a place I feel like I can call home. Loosening the tape over the corners of posters on my wall and folding my socks into my suitcase seems strange and wrong. I know I’ll be back soon, but it doesn’t stop me from hitting the brakes just ever so slightly as I pass the “Entering Maryland” sign on 295-north. As if in an instant, my world explodes from the 10-by-10 mile city, back to what some might call reality. Washington D.C., 68.3 square miles of culture, youth, expertise, and passion, stands in stark contrast to every place I’ve lived before. D.C. is only a small city but it has had everything I needed in it. I’ve learned about my future, about my world, about myself, within the city limits. And packed discreetly in my car amongst my portable life of blankets, clothes, and a half-full bottle of shampoo, are all of these things I’ve learned.  I cannot wait to unpack.

Light from my high-beams illuminates familiar roads and fields. The soft patter of rain on the windshield ceases as I pull into my garage and put the car in park. “Stop requested.”  As I shift and pull my bags from the trunk, I remind myself that just because something has come to an end, it does not discount what it was. I heave a bag over my shoulder, wearily rub my eyes, and let the trunk door slam shut.

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