10 Years Later

This month marks the ten-year anniversary of my moving to Northern Virginia. I remember unpacking my stuff with my family on what seemed like the hottest weekend in August, giving us our first full-force introduction to DC summer humidity. From that first apartment in Oakton with my roommate Josh, a ten-years-and-counting residency of mystery and excitement began.

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One of the few surviving pictures from the first year of mystery and excitement.

A decade is certainly long enough to say that I’m a resident of this place and that Alexandria is my hometown, but even considering that I’ve started a family here, it still doesn’t quite feel that way. It’s hard to describe, but maybe it’s because compared to my small town childhood, I’ll always be a small cog in the giant DMV machine. I doubt I’ll ever affect the area in any significant way, and I’m okay with that.

I will say, though, that ten years is a long enough time to have some fascinating experiences and to learn a great deal. Let’s go to the highlight reel! I’m going to try to keep this list in the vein of things that could have only happened here – personal stuff aside, since I’ve got enough amazing highlights on that front to fill a dozen posts.

  • Some wild weather: A few weeks after I moved here, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and New Orleans was forever changed. I remember watching the coverage on the Weather Channel with Josh on our little TV in the first apartment. Since then, I’ve experienced firsthand a derecho and the outskirts of a few hurricanes, including Superstorm Sandy. I shivered my way through Snowmaggeddon and some interesting ice storms. I’ve seen the Beltway closed down due to mudslides, fallen trees, and power outages. But the most memorable experience was being on one of the top floors of an Arlington office building when the Great Virginia Earthquake of 2011 hit. It’s one of those stories to tell my grandkids when I’m old and they won’t believe anything I say.
  • Baseball: my third-ever major league game (behind the Pirates and Orioles, respectively) was at RFK Stadium in August 2005, watching the Nationals losing to the Padres 3-0. The team had moved to DC only that year, opening their first season as the Nats just a few months prior to me showing up. For my first couple of years of work, I got to see the brand-new stadium being built day by day. Since then, my interest in baseball has grown, I’ve been to many games including Bryce Harper’s home debut and the first playoff game at Nationals Park, and I’ve learned the ups and downs of watching a playoff-calibre team that doesn’t always play like one and can’t always string more than one win together (see their current mid-August collapse).
  • Traffic: To work is to commute, and in a region that consistently ranks in the top three for “worst traffic in America,” I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in my car. The trusty Altima has braved many of the region’s worst chokepoints (the only one I haven’t had to use on a daily basis is I-95, thank God). I’ve also used four of the Metro lines to a lesser extent and endured the Orange Line crush. Through it all, I’ve learned that creativity and flexibility help keep you sane, and if you’re lucky they can usually buy you back a few minutes. Apps like Waze help discover alternate routes that may not save me much time, but at least they help me feel like I’m outsmarting someone. In the end, though, there are some days when I just have to resign myself to the fact that I’m going to be stuck in a standstill for an hour. Those are the days where I hope I’ve got a good playlist lined up on my phone.
  • Politics: This is a double-edged sword for me, and I almost left it off my list, but you can’t live here without picking up at least some understanding of national politics, even if just by osmosis. And so I’ve lived through two presidential elections and two presidents so far, learning a little more about the function and dysfunction of the American political system all the while. This affected me most directly during the government shutdown in 2013. Don’t get me wrong, I basically loathe politics and try to avoid talking about it whenever possible, but at least I can say I’m more aware of the issues since I live here, and I can form my own opinions as a result. I suppose I respect the implications of politics from a distance, and I suppose that also makes me a better citizen. Or something.
  • The beauty of the area: DC is a beautiful city for the most part, and the surrounding areas are equally amazing. All the lures of the urban jungle and historical sites are just a short ride away for me, but mountains and farms and orchards are within an hour or two’s drive as well. My love of the outdoors usually manifests itself in discovering new trails and parks in which to run, but I also took it upon myself early on to learn the lay of the land so I could play tour guide to out-of-town visitors. And so the Mall with its museums and monuments gradually became more familiar to me, and I slowly added outer-lying and lesser-known landmarks to my repertoire as all my family members grew tired of the same old stuff. Every year I try to go a few new places either by myself or with family or friends, whether in DC or nearby, but I could do that every day until I die and still not see it all. And that’s a cool thing.

And then of course there are the smaller, miscellaneous details. From witnessing a space shuttle flyover to picking apples in a Virginia orchard, from running the Marine Corps Marathon to enjoying the Cherry Blossom festival, from discovering the deliciousness of District Taco to shopping the Old Town farmer’s market, Gina and I have enjoyed this area’s less famous offerings all in our own way. Despite all of these wonderful and interesting things, I have still barely scratched the surface when it comes to experiencing all that this area has to offer. And although through the rest of 2015 I won’t have too much extra time to explore, I know it won’t be that way forever. So, here’s to the next ten years and all the promise they have to offer!

2013 Year In Review

Another year draws to a close today, so it’s appropriate to take a moment to reflect back on the mysteries and adventures of 2013.
In fact, I think it’s a requirement to post something about your year today in order to keep your Facebook account active, based on what I’ve seen.

Much like the Star Trek films, the even-numbered years seemed to turn out better for me for a long time: I got married in 2008, graduated high school in 2000, and so on. But recently, I’ve been on a string of goodness no matter whether the year has been odd, even, a prime number, part of a Fibonacci sequence, or my ATM PIN (hint: it’s never been that). In thinking about this post, it didn’t take long for me to list a bunch of highlights from 2013. I guess if there’s a theme, it’s that I made a concerted effort to “expand my horizons” and try new things, and for the most part I think I succeeded. Restarting this blog has helped me focus my creative energies, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

An easy highlight from a physical fitness perspective was running my first marathon, as well as around 960 other miles, to come in at just under 1,000 for the year. Elsewhere in the world of sports, I deepened my interest in baseball and cemented my place in Nationals fandom. I don’t know that I’ll attend quite so many games this coming year, but it’s nice to have a decent team to follow in DC.

From a travel perspective, in 2013 Gina and I went to Cincinnati, Austin, New England, and Canada together. While I might not call them our best trips ever, we made some good memories with each one. In fact, I still have some trip notes to report for Austin, and it quickly became one of my favorite cities. I look forward to returning there someday.

Music is always a passion of mine. This year, I discovered several new bands, began rediscovering long-lost favorites in my CD collection and loading them into iTunes, and was fortunate enough to attend several concerts. One of those was Paul McCartney, which scratched one off of my bucket list. I also time travelled to the past in digitizing some old cassette tapes from high school as well as some vinyl I’d had lying around. My only disappointment on the musical front was not practicing guitar more and dedicating more time to playing, but at least that’s easily fixed and a nice thing to anticipate for 2014.

In 2013, I embarked on a quest to read more, which has worked out beautifully. I started my sequential reading of presidential biographies and threw in some historical accounts of the Wrights and the Transcontinental Railroad to boot. I began delving into some classics that I never picked up in school, and I also caught myself up on the Song Of Ice And Fire series, which accounted for the bulk of my fiction reading. Overall, I know I’m never going to be on the cutting edge of everything that’s ever been released, but it’s nice to know that I’ll always have the chance to read, and a book is a great companion on a quiet weekend morning. And who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll be writing even more original material on something more than this blog…

On a personal and professional note, 2013 saw me earn a promotion at my job, which I feel blessed to have gotten. Though it was a turbulent year to be a federal employee, I can at least say that I do still have a job that provides for my family, which is another huge blessing. With Heidi’s puppy antics behind us, she’s a (still very energetic) and loved member of our family that helps Gina and I get through the long workweeks. I was glad to have shared several special moments with my family, including a bonus visit back home to West Virginia for my niece’s graduation, as well as another round of birthdays for our parents, siblings, and grandparents. Time with them is always a blessing. This coming year, I hope to strengthen those connections with friends and family even more.

And there you have it. Not a bad year, 2013. As I sit here today, however, I can feel a sense of promise for the coming year that I can’t recall having felt recently. I won’t post any formal resolutions, since those almost never work out, but I am excited to think of the possibilities.

In short, I have no idea what’s in store for 2014, but I am ready to meet it! Happy New Year to each and every one of you. May you face no challenge that you can’t overcome and no joy that you can’t appreciate to its fullest.