The tears fell the second my feet left the porch and touched the rocky grounds of the house my then boyfriend lived. It was May 2007 in Minnesota, and I had just graduated from college the week prior. Winter was still roaming on our block and its chill still sitting in our bones. Spring was standing at the corner, but it was yet to make its seasonal turn — quite reminiscent of how my heart felt as the tears fell — cold, but thawing.
We just had a fight, and I regretted my stance the moment I opened the door to his room and dashed out. The wisdom that resided in my exit collided with my desire to stay, and this, unfortunately, was eerily akin to the push and pull that had constantly tugged at the frailties in our relationship. It was a relationship I didn’t want to end but felt I needed to because the one thing I desired most in a relationship was missing in ours, but then I loved him and I wanted to stay. Simply put, I hated navigating pain, and there was pain in both staying and leaving the relationship, and I had tried both. Selfishly and with little thought for his own pain, I kept trying both and when you are loved like I believed he loved me, the door to walk back and forth stayed open until...
That night, as I began the walk back to my home from his, my emotions, which were constantly under tension, came unloose. It wasn’t the first time the dam broke, but it was the first time I prayed the prayer I believed brought me to Washington D.C. “Dear God, I need to leave this town, it is the only way I can walk away. I hate the pain. Get me out of this town or else I’m choosing to love whom I’m with.”
We made up the next day.
Two months after on July 15, 2007, I was on a plane out of Minnesota to start my first real job ever as a marketing assistant for a non-profit in Washington D.C. I remember his last words before I got on the train to head to Minneapolis, “This is hard for me, but if you are going to keep breaking up with me, maybe this is just best.”
That was ten years ago, and thank God, we have both moved on.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t pray that prayer. Not because I want the relationship back, but because the pain waiting for me here in Washington D.C. was not one I envisioned. However, the growth I experienced in the nation’s capital is one I’m not willing to give back. I despised the pain of loving so deep and hard, and I decided separation and distance were the only respites from pain. Unfortunately, pain is not limited to the sphere of love; pain stretches itself into places, people, and spaces. I arrived in Washington wrapped up in both excitement and nerves, and I can confidently say the 10 years I chose to live in D.C. has been the hardest season of my entire life. When I was younger and before I moved, I thought breaking up with a boyfriend or longing to have something that someone was unable or unwilling to give and navigating the emotions that go with these were hard, but they paled significantly with the hurt of the past decade. Escaping the pain that sometimes comes with love did not shield me from the pain that comes with living.
Sometimes I find myself reaching and wishing back into the many years before today for a glimpse into who I was, what I believed and the shape of my heart. But I know that surviving and thriving through the last decade would have been impossible if my heart stayed the same way it did when I first moved here. Life changes you especially the shape of your heart. A friend told me about three years after I moved that I was lucky to have gone through life un-jaded, and he hopes I don’t lose my whimsical and joy. Many years after he spoke those words, I truly believe I maintained a sense of whimsical and joy, but a part of me is congealed and jaded. It is for the years I wasn’t congealed that I sometimes reach and wish back for.
Of course, Washington D.C. isn’t the problem, it just happened to be the backdrop for which my life happened. It also wasn’t and isn’t all gloom, D.C. grew me up and into a woman, a fighter, and a realist. D.C. groomed my voice…so here are 10 lessons from the last decade of my life in D.C.
1. Life is not linear, and we don’t always arrive at the destination (if there ever is one) unscarred.
2. Get a support system, speak your needs and receive help whether from family, friends or a professional. I have used all three.
3. Engage what you have in your hands and heart with whatever is in from of you. Dreams and ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is what really matters. I learned the power of commitment, hard work, and excellence
4. Wake up! Nothing wakes you up and pushes you out of bed into life and into the world better than life happening to you and around you. I have always been aware, but my decade in D.C. woke me up.
5. Speak up! I’m learning communication and authentic listening.
6. When life happens, it can harden you. I implore you to commit to staying soft, and don’t fold into your hurt, heartbreak and disappointment. Folding into them congeals you.
7. God is not obligated to do anything for you, but to make you more like Christ through everything he let’s you go through, good or bad.
8. Faith is hard, and faith can also get bruised and broken. Tend to it!
9. Not everyone or everything is for you…walk away.
10. Repeat #2
Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick,
but a sudden good break can turn life around.
(Proverbs 13:12 MSG)