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The 20th Anniversary Edition

20th-anniversary20 years. I moved to the DC area 20 years ago. How amazing and crazy that life has passed by so fast. Today is the anniversary of my first day at my good government job. I moved to the area a few days prior. I never remember the exact day but I always remember the circumstances. I waited 7 months for the background check to be completed for my job. By the time it was completed and I picked a start date, I accomplished nothing I wanted to prepare for my big move. It was an interesting time. Any time I say interesting, it means I am protecting some party from a potentially incriminating story. I hoped to do an apartment hunting trip, buy furniture and schedule movers in anticipation of my start date. I did none of this. All I did was look up potential spots online and realize I know nothing about D.C.. My girlfriend offered to look for places for me as she was near the area but I nixed that because she has expensive taste and I was worried she would select a spot I couldn’t afford. I came up with the brilliant idea in my 22 year-old mind to just drive to D.C. the weekend before my start date with a few suitcases, book a hotel and look for apartments that weekend. As a full-blown adult now looking back this idea sounds terrible but God looks after babies and fools. So it actually worked out.

I found a simple, clean, and cheap hotel to serve as my base. And looked around. Overwhelmed, I discovered I could rent a room in a group house. I decided to do that until I could better understand the area and pick the best apartment. This seems like the weirdest idea ever to anyone who doesn’t live in an expensive area, but this arrangement was very popular in the D.C. area. I had a room furnished with a bed, chair and dressers, shared bathroom, a parking spot (more on that later) and two random other people living there. The landlord ran a “Christian” house, meaning no members of the opposite sex there without the door open and no overnight guests. I really didn’t care as I didn’t know anyone anyway. I was so excited to start my new adult life that I couldn’t even process all of my mother’s constant complaining, which is miraculous in hindsight. I conducted a test run to my new office which turned out to be in a terrible neighborhood, a neighborhood that even looked terrible on a Sunday afternoon. I kept getting lost. This was pre-GPS and I relied mainly on actual maps and printing out instructions from Mapquest. I completely confused 295 and 395 but knew my job was off of one of them. I didn’t understand quadrants and first went to the same address in the wrong quadrant only to find a restaurant. Upon finally finding it, my mother remarked that this cannot possibly be where they let government workers come and she actually asked the guard if there was a nicer building I could work. This was my first instance of DC customer service when all questions from the public are just ignored.

But surprisingly, in three days, I secured a place to stay already with furniture, practiced driving routes to my job and found a Wal-Mart to buy sheets and towels after being told there was no Target nearby. Lies! There was a Target! For some reason, my landlord wanted me to have sheets that fell apart after two washes. I drove my first day but could not find out employee parking lot, which was not adjacent to the building. A nice guard let me park in the parking lot for another government building. This never happens but I must have looked young and clueless. Started my adult life and was well on my way to success.

Oddly that first week, it snowed. Not real snow to a Michigander but enough snow where everything was closed: my job, the stores. I had no food. I relied on my housemate’s okay spaghetti and boring conversation. Thankfully, the next day conditions improved (well for them). But my car wouldn’t start (I left my lights on all night). My kind neighbor actually recommended that I take the Metro to work and gave me detailed instructions. I hopped on the bus, got on the Metro and walked across the street from my job to work. Easy peasy. Unfortunately on my way home, I quickly realized Maryland was full of communities that all looked alike and I got off in the wrong neighborhood. I walked around aimlessly, slipped in the snow and lost my mitten. Which was hilarious (again in hindsignt). My solution: go back to the bus stop, get back on the bus, and figure out where the hell I lived.

After a few months, I found an apartment, not my first choice as it had no vacancies. Bought a bunch of economical furniture in Michigan. Had the government ship it back (turns out I had a 90-day window for moves, thank goodness). Had a huge fight with my landlord at my rooming house. She wanted to charge me for parking but our townhouse community only designated 2 spots per unit and I frequently had nowhere to park nearby. Funny enough, she still hates me to this day. I found this out the hard way a few years ago. But my apartment. My own little apartment. I felt so grown-up at 22. The mover (yep, just one) arrived and had me help him move my furniture to my apartment. That’s when I learned that the lowest bidder wins these contracts. So much education! But I didn’t care as it was all so new and exciting.

Thankfully, my job had a 4-month internal training program for my work role which was full of people like me – young, new to the area, and excited for no reason. The Agency, to stem the mass exodus of retiring govies, embarked on the largest hiring program in their history. Because of this, I developed a little social network via classmates and Agency employees including meeting my best friend on the shuttle bus. We discovered the power of D.C. happy hour. That was my Friday routine: happy hour after work. I attempted to explain this phenomenon to friends back in Michigan and so many thought it was so weird to drink in afternoons. Ha!

My social life consisted of Friday happy hours with coworkers and biweekly Sunday matinees and chain restaurant lunches with my college friend and her adorable toddler. I was so happy. And I wasn’t even busy. I would go on little solo outings around the city on Saturdays. D.C. is full of activities I would see in the newspaper. I met a woman at some free DC summer festival and she invited me to join her book club (this was quite hot back then). However, the book club was terrible with spotty attendance. I ended up great friends with a woman after the two of us attended a meeting alone. Yep, just the two of us. She introduced me to other friends, Howard Homecoming, Republic Gardens and U Street, CBC weekend, road trips. Man, D.C. was the place to be in the early 2000’s. City life almost kicked my butt. I even interviewed for another government position in another region which I got and turned down. After meeting potential colleagues, I didn’t like any of them. Decided to keep my talents right here.

Eventually some of those friendships petered out due to marriage and babies. But I survived. These 20 years have been nothing I could have imagined as that eager, silly 22 year old. Right now, I smile thinking of my great circle of friends – including that amazing woman I met on the shuttle bus – and the love of my life. Despite my career restlessness, I still got a good government job. I wonder where I will be in 30…

The 2018 Recap Edition

It dawned on me that my 2018 recap which had been roaming around in my head for a month was never put to paper. So how would I sum up 2018, in the immortal words of Dave Chappelle – I’m broke, [word I don’t say]. I’m broke! Wow the hits kept coming.

  1. I got a new car. I worked so hard to keep my beloved Smokey alive at great expense. In the end, my car had this annoying oil leak that three dealerships and several mechanics couldn’t identify. The accelerator pump died which meant I went from 0 to 8 after any complete and total stop for about 30 seconds until it decided to sorta go 50. But I couldn’t let go. But once it got the shimmy shakes when idling I had to let it go at 200,8XX miles. Love live Pearlie Sue.
  2. Black Panther. As an apathetic Hampton grad, the highlight of my first quarter was meeting Ruth Carter – a fellow alum whose career I have been following for 20 years. Being from Hampton really feels like a cult sometimes though. I will see folks I went to school with and the first question I get asked is when is the last time I was on campus. Ummm..what about important issues like is this woman and children next to you your family or what? However, Black Panther had the entire community hype. I still have a Lesotho blanket in my Amazon cart but broke. Wakanda Forever. Peep my General Okoye painting.
  3. Despite my lack of funds, I did a lot of long weekend and day trips.
    1. Went to Dover Downs for my birthday. I really only like to do one thing for my birthday – watch March Madness and eat chicken wings. We discovered that though Dover allows sports betting on football, which is not true for basketball. So watching and no gambling for us.
    2. We traveled to Ocean City for the first time since the first year I moved here. We stayed in a brand new hotel at a discount but truly why does it cost $300 a night to visit there?
    3. We went to New York for Pinknic. Wow was it hot. So really, really hot. I already own cute pink clothes, so I was good to go. It was ridiculously expensive. $70 for a bottle of rose or $12 for a frose. And it was all house music (Yay for me. Boo for other people who wrongly don’t love house music).
    4. I went to Detroit for Labor Day for the Jazz Festival. I made it to tv apparently since we were sitting right by the camera. Thank goodness I love Esperanza and could easily look entertained.
    5. Finally we went Austin for Austin City Limits. I had a bit of an incident the first day of the vacay with an evil scooter. Austin is such a drink and walk around town. We completely wasted money on that city tour as we saw nothing we didn’t see just walking around normally. ACL was great though they swapped Childish Gambino for Travis Scott and I am old and he makes songs I don’t know. Camilla C. (I ain’t googling the spelling) was so cute but her catalog is short. We really were there for Janelle.
  4. I recall counselling my baby cousin (waves if she is reading) that you can go out regularly with ever even thinking of a club or bar. That was certainly true for me. Summer of 2018 was marked by continuous rain, so many of my typical summer activities didn’t happen.
    1. Attended a movie screening. You have to see the movie to understand the earrings.
    2. Painted and sipped. Thank goodness I found a spot that outlines the work because you don’t want to see my previous experience attempting to draw a pumpkin.
    3. I went to fun cooking classes, learning how to make pasta and fry chicken. Honest to heaven, the very first time I made fried chicken, it was absolutely perfect – well seasoned, crispy and juicy. I peaked. I never made chicken that amazing again. But hoping I can try again with confidence.
    4. I took a graffiti and DJ class. Don’t worry all my DJ friends are safe.
    5. I took a poker class and won nothing. Someone gave me a trinket though as she won twice, and I happily took it.
  5. Without trying, I visited three Black-owned hotels. First, I went to Salamander Resort. Smaller than I thought it would be. So ages ago I stayed at the Biltmore in Coral Gables, same problem. It appears to be this sprawling resort and it is amazing, but not truly as huge as I thought. We spent the weekend at Akwaaba Inn in D.C. It’s been there for 14 years and yet never made it there. Plus I have never been to a bed and breakfast in my life. This was so cool. I definitely plan to go to more. Finally, I have been obsessed with the Ivy Hotel in Baltimore since I saw it in a magazine. Happily I found a spa deal and had a lovely spa day and tour of this highly exclusive hotel. I may never afford to stay there, but I can get a massage.
  6. I went to Spain.
  7. I became a boss. It’s much harder than it appears on television. I am no Michael Scott, but I definitely had some odd, exhausting days that felt like weeks that would make it a very funny episode on my version of The Government Office. And good bosses get no glory. It’s all about developing people to be their best or some such nonsense. I did sit down with a really useful executive coach who provided practical advice to ease some interactions.
  8. I started and didn’t finish a lot of television. I started so much and yet finished so little. I don’t even know what I was doing with my nights. Maybe I was overwhelmed. There is so much television. I literally finished a bunch of started television over the Christmas holidays. And am still nowhere near finished. And my book reading suffered. I only read 7 books this year and the only thing that got me that far was some long plane rides.
  9. Did I have a favorite movie this year (Black Panther withstanding)? I cannot say. I didn’t see a lot of the popular and critical darlings. I loved Widows but some people did not (I guess).
  10. Music was good, yet social media makes it so difficult to like certain artists. There were lots of soft, crooning female singers to like this year – Ari Lennox, H.E.R., Ella Mai. I’m old and current hip hop mostly annoys me. I continued my consistent concert tradition independent of those I mentioned earlier with, reverse order:
    1. Anita Baker
    2. Bilal
    3. Zo!
    4. Big Freedia / Tank and the Bangas (saw them twice)
    5. Elton John (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road)
    6. Raphael Saadiq
    7. Hamilton (second time is the charm!)
    8. Capital Jazz Festival (In the rain as always. But a tent this time)
    9. Shabazz Palaces (this was obviously free)
    10. Black Alley
  11. Went to some out there parties.
    1. Attended the Fresh Ball courtesy of a friend and got dress up and listen to good hip hop There is a difference.
    2. NMAAHC held the most fun Derby Day party. We learned about the history of Black jockeys, wore amazing hats and nibbled traditional treats from each of the races. Which meant crabcakes for Preakness; hot browns for Kentucky Derby; pretzels for Belmont.
    3. Went to the worst mud ball of Preakness ever. Some attendees slipped, fell and were covered head to toe in mud. I’m taking a year off.
    4. Diner en Blanc was at Nats stadium, which was extremely unpopular due to the length of time to process in through security, sitting in the rafters and not being able to step onto the field. Dah well. Great parties can’t last forever.
    5. The National Portrait Gallery threw an anniversary party. Sadly the full space wasn’t open to partygoers. So the Michelle Obama portrait continues to elude me. But Amy Sherald was there.
    6. I threw axes at a Christmas Party.
  12. My tribe and I recreated my amazing bridal shower by hiring a driver to visit wineries along the Frederick Wine Trail. These elevated excursions we plan for ourselves are the best.
  13. Let me tell you. This diet from the wedding completely fell off. First of all, weddings are exhausting enterprises so you naturally lose weight with nervous energy and not eating. But that drinking green smoothies and popping mints as snack replacements couldn’t last long. I tried my best with exercise but I went to lamb festivals, and high end steakhouses and cooking classes. It was all so delicious. But at this age, I really need to concentrate all my efforts on dry salad.
  14. I continued my fitness outings. I danced to Afrobeat, Soca, Bellydance and Zumba. So many classes are devoted to dancing. Dancing isn’t the best workout for me because I spend too much time concentrating on if I got the moves right and forget the exercise part. I pounded. This was my favorite. Such a release of aggression. I took a kettlebell class. I didn’t do badly due to my semi-commitment to boot camp. However, this boot camp is ruining me for my preferred exercise – yoga. I truly love yoga, everything else I do is make sure my cute clothes fit. There I was in aerial yoga doing a backflip when my right shoulder gave out and I tumbled right onto my head. My muscles are so tired and achy that my practice is regressing.
  15. I barely golfed this year. I think I let those bitter bitties convince me into not coming back. But the end of the season once the rained cleared, I truly regretted my decision. I am not the best golfer by any stretch of the imagination, but I really liked the challenge it gave me. It took consistent effort and concentration, which isn’t my strong suit and a growth area for me.
  16. I realized that my hobbies weren’t strong. It’s important to have hobbies as I realized after having a pre-adolescent pen pal who constantly asked me what I liked to do. “I am a grown-up, kid! I don’t do anything but start television I don’t finish!” Anyhoo, I attempted to write and stuck to it an entire two months. Someday soon I need to start reciting these story ideas to myself (before my husband thinks I am crazy) and write them down. What is my blockage?
  17. So I mentioned that I was broke. Well, being a landlord sucks on ice. I went two months without a tenant after finally ridding myself of the tenant from hell in late 2017. Plus we had an unfortunate incident with a pipe bursting and damaging the basement. So we got all new pipes and walls. I didn’t want all new pipes and walls. But here we are.
  18. For 2018, I didn’t set resolutions. I didn’t even make a vision board. So there was nothing to judge against by the end of the year. I truly was in a grumpy funk at the beginning of the year, because I felt under water with finances. I made strong ones this year. (Hope I don’t fail).

That was my 2018. Here’s to 2019 (two months in)! Check the gallery.

 

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