Friday marked one month since I moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C. – my first time living outside of the Midwest in my entire life. Here’s a look at how it’s gone.
First up, the move itself.
I wasn’t bringing any furniture with me to D.C., so I didn’t think it made sense to hire movers at an enormous cost. My new employer provided a signing bonus to cover some of my moving costs, but I still wanted to be frugal about it. As a result, I ended up renting a mini-van that my parents and I drove from Chicago to D.C. with my two cats over the course of two days right after Christmas.
As it turned out, I overestimated how much I could fit into that mini-van (which was half the cost of a full-sized van), so I ended up shipping a few boxes by UPS. My dad took the boxes to the UPS Store while I did the final cleaning of my condo and when I learned how cheap it was, I wished I had shipped more! Oh well. We got a late start out of Chicago, which got even later due to an ice storm – the first really bad weather in Chicago all winter! What should have been a three-hour drive to Indianapolis took six hours! We stopped in Dayton, Ohio overnight and then luckily continued on in clear weather to D.C. the next day, driving through Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and arriving in D.C. early evening on December 29. One of my biggest fears of the move was how the cats would do on the long car ride and staying over in a hotel, but they were great. They barely meowed during the drive or in the hotel and they seemed to get a kick out of exploring both.
I had about five days to get as settled as possible before starting my new job on January 4. I had ordered a bed to arrive the day after I moved in and took advantage of the rented mini-van to take a massive trip to Target to stock up on large items that I wouldn’t want to deal with later – like a living room rug, garbage cans and shelving. I live just a 15-20-minute walk from the only Target in D.C. and ended up spending a lot of time there my first week in the city! I also trekked out to Ikea in College Park, Maryland to order a TV stand, coffee table, dresser and desk and those were all delivered and assembled on Sunday. So by the time I started work, all that was really missing was my couch from Crate & Barrel, which arrived the following weekend (and which fit through my door fairly easily – I was terrified that it wouldn’t!).
On the other hand, I wasted more than five hours waiting for my cable and internet to be booked up on New Year’s Eve and dealt with various challenges with the management company for my apartment building – all of which led to more stress than I would have liked!
Nonetheless, within about ten days of arriving, I felt pretty well settled. Indeed, this is the first time since I left for my career break in August 2011 that I have an apartment full of my own things (as opposed to random stuff I bought on Craigslist). It feels like home.
Starting a new job
Of course, moving to a new city and starting a new job at the same time is not exactly a stress-free endeavor. That said, things have been off to a great start with my new job. The work is completely different from what I had been doing for the past seven years, so it is both challenging and fun. I really like my new co-workers and there are so many fun perks – like access to National Geographic’s massive guidebook library and regular presentations from explorers and scientists about the amazing projects they’re working on. And then just three weeks into my new gig, I was on the road already, taking a multi-day trip to Portland, Oregon (a new state for me!) and Seattle, Washington.
I have also been savoring the fact that, thanks to my shorter commute and shorter work hours, I get to sleep in an hour later (but still have time to do yoga in the morning!) and get home from work an hour earlier than I ever did in Chicago. My first day, I got home at 5:30 p.m. and I didn’t know what to do with myself!
Not in Chicago anymore
I have had several “I’m not in Chicago anymore” moments since moving to D.C. The most obvious one is weather-related. It is completely true that D.C. cannot handle snow – at all. While the whole country was watching as we got socked with nearly two feet of snow last week (I missed it all as I was in Portland at the time), two nights before that storm, we got just an inch of snow and the city completely shut down. Highway exits iced over and were closed, backing up traffic for miles. Hour-long commutes somehow turned into nine hours! And then when the storm hit, it took days for the city to return to normal – the Metro closed for two days (something that is inconceivable in Chicago), many schools closed for an entire week and the government and many businesses were closed the Monday and Tuesday after the storm, even though cleanup started early Sunday morning.
To add some perspective, growing up in Minnesota, I can recall about three snow days my entire life – a couple during blizzards in 1982 and 1983 and one for the Halloween Blizzard of 1991. I can recall a single day off while I was at the University of Iowa for a major ice storm and two days off for the Snowpocalypse of 2011 (which brought more snow in 24 hours than D.C. saw with this storm), as well as a couple days off work for cold (think below zero temps and -30 to -40 wind chills) during the Polar Vortex in 2014. But that’s it.
I returned from my work trip five days after the storm and was expecting the worst, but at least downtown and in my neighborhood, sidewalks seemed amazingly clear (like so clear I would have killed for them while living in Chicago). Nonetheless, my running group cancelled our long run yesterday morning due to “dangerous “conditions. I ran the route anyway on my own and couldn’t help but think of the winters I spent running in Chicago over snow and ice, often packed several inches deep. Again, I would have celebrated sidewalks as clear as the ones in D.C., yet my new running partners thought they were too dangerous.
Another major difference from Chicago? The diversity of the city. While Chicago is arguably diverse, it is incredibly segregated, a fact that has stood out to me even more so since living in DC. Whether I am riding the Metro, walking to work or shopping around my neighborhood, I see a much wider variety of ethnicities and hear a wider array of languages being spoken everywhere I go than I ever did in Chicago. And while I always boasted of Chicago’s ethnic neighborhoods (Chinatown, Ukrainian Village, Pilsen, Lincoln Square, Andersonville, Devon Avenue, etc.) and ethnic cuisine, in D.C., it all seems to be mixed together. For example, within just a few blocks of my apartment, I can choose from Indian, West African, Mexican, Mediterranean, French, Nepalese, Italian, Cuban, Japanese, Brazilian, Vietnamese, Peruvian and Italian cuisine – not to mention a few pizza places, a gluten-free bakery, an all-night diner and a couple fast food spots.
What about those 2016 goals?
As I wrote about in my New Year’s post, I saw moving to a new city as an opportunity to start some new habits and I set a number of goals for the upcoming year.
So far, I would say I am about 50/50 on those. I stopped drinking Diet Coke the day I arrived in D.C. and haven’t touched it since. I have also walked to and from work every day, even as the temperatures dropped into the teens (not a big deal for this Midwestern girl!). I have not been so good about avoiding processed food – while I have more free time to cook for myself, I have to admit, I just really don’t enjoy it at all. Even the “simplest” recipes I find are not as simple and quick as I would like! That said, I have dropped about six pounds since January 1, which is great.
Unfortunately, I haven’t yet had a chance to explore more of the city beyond my shopping trips and some get-togethers with friends. My main goal for February will be to start checking off some of the items in my 100 Things to Do in Washington, D.C. Before You Die and Walking Around Washington, D.C. books – stay tuned!