Having lived in Washington DC for over five years now, I count this place as home. At this point, I feel I can maneuver this city with the best of them, yet I am still finding myself happily surprised about what I don’t know. Still, five years of using Washington DC as your personal playground certainly takes its toll on a young girl. But scattered between all the learning experiences and insane fun things I’ve been fortunate to experience here, there remains a peppering of regrets that include things I both did and did not do. With that said, here is a list of a few things I would change had I the ability to relieve my first time stepping foot into the District.
1. Going all the way to Crystal City to shop for clothes. Coming from a land of strip malls, the first time I wanted to do some serious clothes shopping in Washington, D.C. So I did what any good millennial would do and Googled “malls in Washington DC”. The answer the internet gave me was the Crystal City Shopping Center, so I put some cash on the SmarTrip and undertook the forty minute journey to one of the most over-priced and irreverent shopping spots in the DMV. And I continued to do that for years until I realized that Metro Center holds every major clothing store you could ever want within a four block radius. Someone should have told me.
2. Staying in Northwest. Having moved to DC from a rural backwater that shall not be named, I was immediately frightened by the stories of murder and crack cocaine my parents had told me about that one time they came to Washington back in the 1980’s. So like any good girl I moved into an over priced apartment in Northwest DC, and spent my weekends crawling through Adams Morgan, Dupont Circle, and Georgetown. As I became more acclimated over the years I began to branch out, trying out places like Colombia Heights and U Street. Now that I live in Northeast by the H Street corridor (and have for a while now), I have vowed to never set foot in Northwest again. I mean, come on, there IS an entire city out there!
3. Waiting too long before becoming a DC sports fan. At this point, little annoys me more than when I encounter someone who has lived in the District for years and yet still cheers for their “home” team. NO. You are a Washingtonian now, and if you’ve never used the #natitude hashtag before, then just leave. That being said it took me about two years to go to a Redskins game, and I wish I had embraced my inner Washingtonian sports fan sooner.
4. Not retaining connections. DC is a city that runs on networking. Even though I had heard that before moving here, I still wasted three years not returning emails to people who would have been wonderful contacts to have. Had I actually put effort into the networking game when I first moved to Washington, there is not a doubt in my mind that I would have been far more successful today.
5. Pretending I was an expert. So you’re new to D.C. And you’re probably here because you are a policy wonk, are smart, and have some sort of passion for a subject that would be completely useless anywhere outside of the nation’s capital. In D.C. that does not make you special, it makes you an average Washingtonian. Unless you have a White House clearance, you are just a minnow in this very big pond, and pretending otherwise is the fastest way to black ball yourself from the actual important people in this city.
6. Not taking advantage of free events. I’ve been in this city for five years and still I have yet to visit all the free museums and galleries in this city. Nothing is worse than thinking of the sunny Saturday’s I have spent on my couch ordering Spices delivery and drinking DC Brau when I could have saved my money and had a totally awesome day skipping through the Native American History Museum Even if you’ve lived here for decades, the free events in this city are so vast, I don’t see how you could ever get bored.
7. Ever eating Jumbo Slices. Who ever tells you that you need to eat a Jumbo Slice on the curb of 18th street while drunk at 3 a.m. for the full Washington DC experience is making a sick, sick joke and you should run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. Your intestines and waistline will thank you.
8. Taking the metro only two stops/fearing the bus. As a newbie to the city, I can’t tell you how many times I would get on the metro and take it only one stop down the line. Or how many times I would take a forty minute metro ride followed by a 15 minute walk, when I could have just as easily sat on a bus for 20 minutes. DC is an incredibly walk-able city, and there is no better way to know your home than by walking around it.