On a typical day I could easily take a 10 minute walk from my office to the White House. I could hop on the metro and go to the Capitol Building. I could stroll under the Cherry Blossoms along the Tidal Basin.
As the weather warms up and the Cherry Blossoms are out in full bloom, swarms of tourists have started flooding the city. Their cameras click away at every stone, flower, and twig listed in their tour books. Things that are special. Things that are unique. They become enmeshed in an awe of being where they are. They huddle up in clusters on the sidewalk and wear matching colored T-shirts and fanny packs so they won’t get lost.
When I first came to DC I was convinced that the awe of being here would never wash away. I was convinced I would never tire of looking at buildings and statues that have come to symbolize so much for not only the city, but the country.
I failed to consider the fact that after a while the extraordinary becomes ordinary. There are only so many times you can walk past the Washington Monument or the White House or the Jefferson Memorial and be overwhelmed. The buildings don’t lose their beauty or magnanimity. They don’t become any less impressive or significant. They become part of your ever day life.
The early spring weather in DC this year gave me a rare opportunity to enjoy the white and pink Cherry Blossoms without the barrage of tourists. Diverging from my usual Tidal Basin path, I decided to take my camera and wander around the trees that gather on either side of the Capitol Building. It hit me in that moment, “I’ve become a native DCer,” something I’ve become increasingly aware of over the past year.
It’s in those moments when you’re by major tourist spots that you can spot the DC residents from the DC tourists. The tourists spend their time taking the cliché photos and staring at the buildings. The residents sit and take in the atmosphere, they point out and photograph the things that most people don’t see, they go off the beaten path.
I stood next the Capitol Building with little to no acknowledgement that I was there. I didn’t see or feel anything unique or “cool” about walking there. It was and felt like an everyday occurrence. I can pin point memory after memory that I’ve experienced on those steps and in that neighborhood. The more memories you have from one place, the more ordinary it becomes.
There are those moments, Presidential Inaugurations or exceptional lighting where you pause and realize “I live here!” But, the longer you stay the more fleeting they become.
I’m consistently torn between wanting to live somewhere that I know back to front, somewhere that is my own, somewhere where I can just be and somewhere that is consistently exciting, consistently different, consistently making me go “it’s so cool I live here.” The traveler in me keeps weighing out. Telling me to keep moving, to keep exploring. To keep seeing the extraordinary where so many others have come to see the ordinary.