“Sometimes, you have to turn around, give a little smile, throw the match and burn that bridge.”
I was sixteen when I decided that I wanted to leave Philadelphia. My mother tried to talk me into staying; she wanted me to close to home.
But I wanted more.
I skipped my junior prom and instead I spent the weekend touring colleges in Washington, D.C. I fell in love with George Washington and its motto, “Something happens here.” I didn’t know what would happen, but it was the way of life that appealed to an over-sheltered 16-year-old. I wanted to something to happen, anything, even if it meant going it alone in a city two hundred miles away from home.
A lot of my memories of young adulthood are wrapped up in Washington, D.C. They were the streets I walked at night with friends coming home from nightclubs. The nervousness I felt as I waited outside on K street killing time because I arrived early to my first real job interview. I marveled at the cherry blossoms in spring and how if the breeze was perfect and the lighting right, they looked like puffy clouds floating on the wind. It was magic.
The monuments provided the backdrop to my most vivid memories. The steps of the Lincoln at night, the reflecting pool shimmering, two people holding their breath. My daughter’s eyes when she first saw the White House and realized it’s not as big as she thought. The tears that flowed in the Holocaust museum for the lives that never had a chance. Watching fireworks on The Mall, playing frisbee, and sitting on a blanket warmed by the embrace of a friend. These are the moments I go back to when I think about my youth in D.C.
Then there are the feelings that will never leave me. The despair I felt walking down the escalator of the Metro when you told me you were in love with someone that wasn’t me. Every time I stand on that platform, I see myself, over a decade younger, phone in trembling hand praying for the disconnect that never happened. Your words were real, and they cut deeper than anything I could ever imagine. I see myself on a day in September, the silence in the streets, the smoke that rose over the Pentagon, the hole that would never be filled.
It was time to leave.
I moved to Virginia in search of something that had eluded me. A life. I wanted to live the dream I thought everyone else was, a job in the city, home in the suburbs. I surrounded myself with all the trappings of a life I thought I should have but I never stopped to think if it was what I wanted. I never to stop to think, if it was me. The clothes from all the “right” stores, the “right” model cars, keeping up with the Jones’ or being the Jones’ was tiring and it was a façade. Inside I felt like I was a failure. I wasn’t successful enough, wasn’t educated enough, and I never held the “right” kind of job. I’ve always felt like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole in Virginia so when the opportunity arose for me to move away, I grabbed it.
I wanted more.
I wanted the space to become me and not this person I created to fit into a mold that bores me. Even though I’ve never been to Colorado, that excites me. It’s an adventure, a new life waiting to happen and all it needs is me. But I don’t fly, not ever, not at all. I know that once I leave the East Coast, I won’t return. At times that fact propels me into tears, and in others it’s exhilarating. It’s freeing. I can’t wait to leave it all behind and go running into the second half of my story, burying the past as I go.