“And there’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait. Just you wait…”
I have officially made the one-year mark here in Washington D.C. Here are my ramblings….
I never thought I’d be saying this, but lo and behold, here I am.
I have a track record of bouncing around from place to place and from job to job. I have a truly wanderlust heart and am constantly looking for the next adventure. I had made frequent visits spanning between 2014 and 2015 for various races and pet sitting gigs for my cousin, and thought that D.C. was the greatest city in the world. Having never lived in a big city before, and getting absorbed in the shininess of the city lights and landscapes featuring various architectural designs, I figured I would give it a shot. I applied for a hostess position at a restaurant, and passed the interview with flying colors. Having been rejected from every higher education job I had applied to in the six months prior to leaving Maine/New England and returning to Pennsylvania, I jumped on the opportunity. I started this adventure back in April 2016 with one goal in mind, and that was just to survive. Well, I’ve certainly survived, all right. One year later, I’ve survived the people, the noise, the rising costs, the Metro, an emotionally intense inauguration season…everything that is a complete 180 from my quiet rural hometown and college town that I became so accustomed to living in for nine years.
I’ve learned a lot about myself and the DC restaurant industry in this year. Working for one of the highest-volume restaurants as their reservationist, I’ve learned many lessons with it comes to dealing with people, co-workers and guests alike. Working with an ever-evolving managerial staff has presented its challenges, but they have remained relatively consistent as mentors in my quest to climb the ladder. The company I am with has multiple opportunities for continuing education within the industry, and I take advantage of those chances when I can, knowing what my end goal is. Hospitality is a multi-faceted industry where I can actually put to use some of the knowledge that I acquired in my nine years of college. On a personal note, I have realized that I am far more introverted that previously thought: I can turn on the people skills when I need to, but the second I’m out the door, I want to retreat into my bedroom and not come out.
Personally, I am incredibly fortunate to have a set schedule. After two months hostessing and working a variety of shifts, I got bumped up to full-time AM reservationist. This works perfectly with regard to my work-life balance. If I need time off for a racecation (such as runDisney), my management is willing to work around that, knowing how important running is to me (and the fact I submit my time off requests like, three months in advance). I have been able to travel a bit in the last year, making it to Florida four times (twice for running, and twice for Disney and Universal). My number crunching obsession pays off every time as I plan my budget down to the dollar. It does seem like I travel a lot, and some of you may preach that, “You complain about finances, and traveling gets expensive!”, but hear me out: I plan my dollars and I save up, finding deals at every turn. Not all of my trips are horribly expensive. If it wasn’t for the travel bug that sits on my shoulder, I would be way worse mentally and emotionally than I am currently. My co-workers always ask about my races and travels and I happily show off my bling after a race weekend and talk about my experiences. This camaraderie keeps me going, even when I’m not feeling my traditional spunky self.
More often than I want to admit, the happiness is often clouded by the tremors of frustration and stagnancy, with bolts of sheer anger crashing down, striking whatever is in its path. It is very difficult to remain positive when the rules are constantly changing and the communication is not there. I have been pushing so hard for a management position or something new within the company because of a drowning feeling of stagnancy and under utilization of many more skills that I have, but I get turned down every time I turn around (3 times and counting). Having my intelligence underminded is aggravating and frankly, disappointing; it results in me becoming more resentful of my position, and in turn, more resentful of where I’m working and who I’m working with. These lightning bolts come out of nowhere and make their mark, and I am unfortunately stuck picking up the pieces due to the at split second reaction. It is a huge, “I want to be in the room where it happens.” scenario, and it just doesn’t happen.
(I’ve taken a liking to Aaron Burr’s character from “Hamilton” in recent months, trying to, “Talk less, smile more,” “Wait for It,” with regard to moving up, getting angry when it doesn’t happen, and causing destruction along the way.)
Trying to get a handle on my financial situation has been a huge issue and one of the primary reasons why I’m becoming very acrimonious in continuing my journey in D.C. I barely make enough to survive, even with two raises. I live outside of the city, and commute in via Metro and driving to the Metro. Between rent and Metro, there goes half my monthly pay. I deliberately do not travel into the city on weekends, because that’s more Metro money. Once in awhile I will, if I get to pet sit, if there’s a race, or there’s something I truly want to do. Most of the time I stay inside, away from people, sipping my coffee and writing (like I am right now). I know things would be a lot better if I had more to work with, but living in D.C. and most of the surrounding places in Virginia are very expensive. I shake my head at most of the rental prices, thinking, “Who the hell makes that much?!” Oh wait…CEOs and politicans. Never mind.
(With regard to my traveling a lot, read the statement up a couple of paragraphs. I plan and save, and bank time off. We have a great PTO plan, and I take advantage of that.)
I have not gone out of my way to actually hang out in the city often after my work day is done. This past Tuesday was the first time in a very long time that I went and did something remotely fun, and I actually enjoyed it! It was a rare break for me, and I look back and still can’t believe that, “Hey, you stayed out super late and actually had fun doing it!” Maybe there will be more nights like that in the future. I don’t have an aversion to the concept of hanging out after work…I don’t need to.
I am very over the crowds and noise. I feel like I’m in a constant state of stress due to claustrophobia. Tourist season makes it worse. I find my solace in late night walks around the mall, when there is hardly anyone outside. Being trapped on the Metro is the worst; I am a “first car in the train” type woman because it is typically less crowded than the rest. With the “Safe Track” that WMATA has implemented in the past ten months or so, hours have been cut and transportation not as reliable. I now have to revolve anything around that midnight closing time, and often, it’s such an inconvenience, I forget about hanging out in the city (even if I truly want to) and just go home. I finally went back to my hometown a couple months ago, and those few days of quiet were so refreshing. No horns, no chatter, no sirens…just quiet bliss. I guess I’m more of a country girl that previously thought.
My final thoughts are: I really do not see myself staying in this area for another year, and if I do, something incredible must have happened. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a relatively decent experience, but being priced out and not making enough to reflect my level of education and experience is a serious damper on my being able to legitimately stay here. I love my company, and I love most of the people I work with…but those financials…I cannot stop crunching numbers and stressing out over how to make it all work. My student loans are on hiatus because I don’t make enough, and I’m planning on scaling back my running for the next several months in an attempt to build a nest egg. (This means no races after my 10K tomorrow until maybe September, and of course, Chicago and MCM in October. Shocker, right?) I do have to say that I am incredibly proud of myself for being disciplined in the needs vs. wants categories due to crunching those numbers. Rent and Metro come first, then whatever is left is carefully allotted. Once I start making the numbers work, I know my stress levels will be far less than what they are now. But for now, I remain under the storm of paranoia and fear that I’m almost thirty and still don’t have my life in order.
I am beyond needing to survive. I want to live. But once again, Aaron Burr comes to the rescue…
Life doesn’t discriminate between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes, and we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall and we break and we make our mistakes
And if there’s a reason I’m still alive when so many have died
Then I’m willing to wait for it…