All Who Wonder
Are Not Lost
At this point I think it’s very safe to say that I love living and working in DC. After more than a month of doing so, I’ve finally been able to pinpoint at least a few of the reasons why;
-The size. Although DC is our nation’s capital, and obviously a major world center, it’s a relatively small city, making it very easy to manage and navigate. The entire city is only 68.3 square miles (Athens, GA for a little perspective, is 118.2 square miles) and has a permanent population of 617,996, ranking it as the 24th largest city in the country by population. The metro area, stretching into Virginia and Maryland, is obviously much larger in size and population, and a vast majority of people who work in DC (71.2% of them) commute in from the surrounding suburbs and residential districts. Besides weekday working hours, therefore, it’s very easy for a newcomer like me not to feel swallowed in the crowd, and instead the city’s small size is conducive to learning my way around and starting to build a good network here. Not only is it geographically small, but the city has a very small scale and feel to it as well. The Height of Buildings Act, passed by Congress in 1899, limited the height of any building in the city to a very modest 110 feet. Therefore, rather than the towering skyscrapers of NYC or Chicago, the city has a very low skyline, with only a couple of notable exceptions popping up here and there (i.e. the Capitol Building, Washington Monument, Old Post Office, and National Cathedral.)
-Getting around. Another great thing about DC is how easy it is to get around the city. I’m a huge fan of public transportation/mass transit, and the metrorail (subway) system, the second largest system in the US, has made it possible for me to get around very easily without ever needing a car. I’ve only driven my car three times since I’ve been here, and haven’t needed to fill up with gas since I stopped in Richmond, Virginia during my drive up on January 3rd. The trade off is that I spend about $20 a week on metro fares, and of course there’s a little more walking involved in getting to and from the various stations, but I don’t really mind either of these things (the walking especially.) The other thing that I can’t wait to take advantage of is the Capital Bikeshare system. I saw a very similar program in London last summer, and was surprised/excited to find out about it when I got to DC. Essentially you pay a membership fee for a fixed amount of time, and then have access to 1200 bikes spread over the city in 140 docking stations for up to half an hour for no charge. I’m looking forward to commuting via bike once the weather warms up a little bit.
-Visitors. One of the great things about living in a major city is the constant stream of visitors. Just this week I was surprised by a tweet from a friend from my hometown who was in town for part of the week and the weekend for a conference. He goes to UNC and got here the day of the UNC-Duke basketball game, so I was able to meet up with him to watch the game at the UNC Alum bar. On Thursday night another friend who’s in law school at UVA was in town for a moot court competition the next morning, and I was able to grab dinner with her and a couple of other friends from college that night. In a couple of weeks I have another friend coming to town for a conference, and my parents are planning a trip for the Cherry Blossom Festival this spring. It’s great being able to show people around the city, and has almost made me feel like I actually know what I’m talking about most of the time.
-Dawgs/Georgians. Y’all saw this coming. DC has the largest population of UGA Alums outside of the state of Georgia, and there are a ton of new Dawgs to meet and old friends to catch up with. So far I’ve only been able to go to one DC Dawgs event, which was a happy hour on the same night as the State of the Union address, but I’ve also been able to meet up with a ton of friends from college, or am in the process of making plans to do so, which has been awesome. I’m also hoping to go to one of the events for the Georgia State Society, a group of native Georgians who have made their home in DC. I couldn’t be happier to be in DC, but it’s also great to be able to have those constant reminders of home right here in the city. Doesn’t hurt my job search process, either.
-Things to do/people to meet. DC is a very vibrant city, and there’s always something cool going on and exciting new people to meet. Even though I spend most of my time during the week at work or in class, there is still the occasional spare hour or two at night (and of course the weekends) to explore the city, and I’ve tried to do that as much as possible. Sometimes this happens by accident; just yesterday, as I was having lunch with the aforementioned friend from my hometown on Capitol Hill, people in their underwear started walking past the door of the restaurant, and a crowd was growing outside. This naturally caught our attention, and upon further inspection we realized we had stumbled upon the Cupid Undie Run, a short road race run in your skivvies to benefit a juvenile cancer charity, reminiscent of Atlanta’s Santa Speedo Run. An interesting diversion from lunch to say the least, but a great example of how there’s always something going on in the District. Besides the sheer amount of things to do here, it’s also a very young city, and as it’s often put, “everyone is from everywhere,” so it’s been great meeting people from all over the country/world who have settled in DC.
There are plenty of other reasons why I’m enjoying my time here, but this list at least starts to address them. Wonder how many more reasons I can discover before I return to the Peach State for my final year of law school?
Another week, another update. I think it’s safe to say that most of my posts will come over the weekends given that my spare time during the week is pretty limited, which is actually what I wanted to write about today. The assignment for our clinical class this past week was to establish some goals we hope to achieve during this program, and one of mine was to learn to maintain a work/life balance. Now that I’ve had two weeks to play around with my routine and get settled in to a schedule, I think I’ve found a pretty good way to do that. Below is a run-down of my weekdays; it might look a little crazy, but so far it’s worked very well and I hope I can maintain it.
-5:00 AM (yes, 5:00 AM); wake up with the assistance of wake N shake, a somewhat brutal but highly efficient alarm app on my iPhone that I highly recommend if you have a problem with hitting the snooze button
-5:30 AM; leave the house after getting dressed and packing my gym bag with a change of clothes and my breakfast/lunch
-6:00 AM; arrive at my building after a quick metro ride, where at least half of the people on the train are usually fast asleep
-6:00-7:00 AM; work out in the staff gym in the basement of my building. It’s small but very nice and has everything I need, and there’s almost never anyone else there. Quick shower in the locker room afterwards and then…
-7:20 AM; sit down in my cube and eat breakfast at my desk while my computer decides if it’s going to cooperate. I share an office with Patti, a very nice paralegal, who is usually there by the time I arrive. The GSA gives employees the option to use flex time, meaning you can work anywhere from 6:00 AM-6:00 PM to get in your hours rather than requiring a fixed 9-5. I love the flexibility, and a lot of people in the office take advantage of it.
-7:30 AM; usually my computer has gotten going by now, and I can start working. There’s no shortage of work to be done, but so far it’s all been pretty interesting and engaging, so the time usually goes by pretty fast.
-12:30 PM; lunch break. I’ve unfortunately fallen into the microwave box lunch at my desk rut (my inner foodie/generally social self is horrified), but it really gets expensive to eat out for lunch every day and I only get a half hour break anyway. Usually I’ll get out of the office at least once a week for lunch though, and I need to get in the habit of trying to eat with some of the attorneys I work with.
-5:00 PM; quitting time. On Monday I stay until 6:00 but on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I have to be in class by then, so I leave at 5:00. Speaking of…
-6:00 PM; class. The building where we have classes is about two blocks from my house, so I have time to grab the metro, run home, change out of my work clothes, drop off my gym bag and grab a small snack, and then head to the building.
-7:20 PM; class gets out, or at least it does on Tuesday and Thursday. On Wednesday our class goes until 8:00 since it only meets once a week.
After class gets out, I can finally go home, eat dinner (usually a re-heated plate of whatever Mr. Andy and Ms. Peg had to eat that night), and relax for a bit. I usually use this time to catch up on personal e-mails/blogroll/tumblr, read homework assignments (not), clean up my room, etc. Once or twice I’ve gone for a quick run around the national mall to clear my head after exceptionally busy days. On Thursdays, we’re trying to continue the UGA Law tradition of TNT (Thursday Night Throwdown) here in DC by grabbing a couple of drinks after class at one of the nearby bars on Capitol Hill. Whatever that night happens to include, I always try to wrap it up by…
-10:30 PM; bedtime. Turn on my mattress warmer (the greatest thing ever invented for cold nights) and pass out.
This can make for very full days, and on its face might not seem to give me very much work/life balance at all. The hidden perk of this madness, however, is that working this schedule lets me get in my required hours Monday-Thursday and I always have Fridays off, which opens a ton of time for things like exploring the city, meeting people for lunch, sleeping (novel idea, right?), running errands, etc. So far, so good…here’s hoping I can keep it up!