The scariest part of moving away wasn’t anything having to do with finances or mental stability. People asked me time and time again if I was scared, and I would always reply with, “No, I’m just excited,” which was the honest truth.
Oftentimes we avoid jumping into the unknown because we’re afraid of what life might throw our way. Difficult times are easier to face when you’re surrounded with people who know you well enough to get you through it.
But what happens when you don’t have that safety net?
It was about a week ago where loneliness set in. I laid in my bed as the tears started to fall and suddenly I missed my friends and family more than I had since arriving here. I wish I could text someone to got to Chili’s for lunch and spend hours gossiping and talking about people and places we both knew.
I’ve met dozens of people since getting here whom have been nothing short of welcoming and kind. My roommate’s amazing and my coworkers have shown me that Tuesdays can be just as fun as Saturdays. It has nothing to do with my failure to make new friends.
I just missed the familiar, I guess.
The next day was a huge day in DC. The Pope had arrived and the entire city shut down for him (am I supposed to capitalize Him?). It was a monumental event including a parade open to the public right by the White House. After my slight cry-fest the night before, I woke up early enough to go see him. However, I couldn’t find anyone to go with.
Suddenly, I didn’t really want to go.
I texted my friend, “Is it weird that I go and see the Pope alone?” “Of course not, it’s the pope,” he replied. I suppose he was right. If I had no plans during the day and I failed to participate in this huge event, I was definitely doing something wrong. I tied up my running shoes and headed down to the monuments.
I felt kind of awkward at first being alone in a huge crowd, but I glanced next to me and there was another guy about my age walking alone too. Alright, so I’m not the only one. I thought to myself. We walked next to each other and passed the religious extremists shouting/preaching/hating or whatever you want to call it and we gave each other a look that said “What is wrong with some people?”
The look sparked a conversation and he said to me, “I wonder what must have happened to them growing up that they turned out like that.” I laughed and agreed, and from there we spent the rest of the morning together. I had underestimated the time that it was going to take to actually see the Pope, so it was definitely nice having friend there for 2 hours to keep me company.
Conversation with him came easy, he was staying in DC for a co-op through Northeastern University (small world!) and the majority of what we talked about revolved around entering the real world and what it feels like to be a post-grad. He was only a junior, but working in the accounting field during tax season made it feel like he was already in the real world. Oh, and we also bonded over the fact that we were both STARVING.
Our conversation continued and it was as if I had known him forever. It was nice being able to have an in-depth conversation with a new face for once. Oftentimes with people we just meet, conversations are seemingly superficial and we let ourselves believe that we’re only capable of something deeper with people who have been in our lives for a long time. But, I guess when you’re two 20-somethings alone together for hours on end, small talk can only last so long.
The sun burnt my shoulders as we waited for the Pope-mobile to drive by. I had constant dry-mouth from lack of water and my phone battery was quickly diminishing because, you know, I just had to get everything on my Snapstory. We shared these similar first-world problems which made the time go by quicker. This interaction couldn’t have come at a better time after my tear-filled night.
Well, I guess the solution was going to one of the most talked about events in America completely by myself.
I don’t know why I felt super self conscious going to see the Pope alone…I mean, like, it’s pretty freaking cool that I got to see him. I guess I’m just used to always having someone. And here, that’s not always the case.
Since that day, I’ve learned to embrace being alone. When you constantly surround yourself with the familiar, you fail to recognize the unfamiliar, which can be way cooler sometimes. I don’t mind sitting down at a coffee place by myself for hours, I don’t mind trekking to Georgetown to shop without a second opinion by my side.
The beauty of moving to a new place is that you get to create your life how you want to. It’s a clean slate; a chance to put yourself out there in your most vulnerable state. It’s a chance to see life beyond the familiar, beyond the expectations you set.
Because, who knows? You could have an ongoing conversation with a complete stranger for 4 hours next time the pope comes to visit. This guy reminded me that you’re never alone as you think you are. He reminded me that life isn’t meant to be lived by familiar standards, that vulnerability can lead to awesome experiences.
Or, maybe you’ll meet the right people and get invited on a yacht as a blind date…stay tuned, my friends.