Yesterday marked two weeks left in Washington. Tomorrow will be my favorite day of the year to live in the District- an explosion of red, white, blue.
DC is where I learned to be independent: that I had to figure out how to do my own laundry, or otherwise I'd have no clean clothing. That I couldn't just eat junk food for all meals, or I'd find myself sick before midterms. That I could (and should) walk to Dupont at midnight for dessert with a friend, just because it was the first warm day of the year.
It's where I learned to play beer pong in a basement, going from completely terrible to mildly passable. It's where I scalped tickets to Boston sports teams when they were in town. Where I slept on the couch of a college newspaper townhouse before waking up at 2 a.m. to approve final pages. Where I thought my whole world was GW and where I learned that I actually loved the whole of the city so much more than the college campus.
It's where I took road trips, only to feel at home the minute I saw the Washington Monument poking through the horizon. Where I could walk to the homes of the people I loved, where I could sit in my yard on a Wednesday night and drink too much wine and laugh too hard, and be awestruck on just how charmed life can become.
It's where I learned to fall in love with sun-dappled monuments poking through the trees, with small corner stores selling pickled eggs, wine in boxes and, if you asked just right, sparklers for the Fourth of July.
It's where I canvassed the city on foot, walking from Georgetown to Chinatown to Shaw to Eckington, only to retrace my steps the next day, because winding through the streets, peering up at the gorgeous townhomes, is my favorite way to pass an afternoon.
It's where I wrote and I cried and I wrote some more. It's where I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt, and it's where I lay catatonic with grief, only sure of the fact that I would never get out of bed.
It's where I read and I read and I found myself in what I was reading. It's where I learned to cook for one, and where I learned to cook for many. It's where I bought a Washington Nationals hat, suddenly realizing that my heart now half belonged to this new city. It's where, once, at 3 a.m. in the middle of one of the biggest snowstorms to ever hit the city, I trekked down to the monuments to see the Mall hushed, quiet, peaceful and blanketed in white.
It's where the summer almost killed me with sunburn and humidity, and where the first dive into a friend's pool of each season was always - always - one of the best days of the year. It's where I learned the names of the bartenders and waiters at my favorite neighborhood haunts, where I spent too much in small coffee shops, where I spent hours wandering through farmer's markets on lazy Sunday afternoons.
It's where I grew my hair long, only to cut it shorter than it's ever been. It's where I drank too much with my softball team to really be effective on the diamond, only - much to my surprise - for us to win the entire league. It's where I made some of the best friends of my life. It's where I experienced the biggest heartbreak of my life.
It's where I learned to run, learned to love mornings, learned to trace the C&O Canal over and over until I recognized my mileage by the trees I was passing.
It's where I learned to run until my heart stopped hurting, pushing myself faster and farther until the only thing I could think about was how much my lungs burned and my legs hurt.
It's where I discovered just how far I can push my body, just how fast I can go, just how strong I can be. It's where I learned that I can survive any kind of break - physical or emotional. It's where I was unable to walk for months, and my friends walked for me, buying my groceries and folding my laundry and mixing my drinks and rubbing my back while I cried.
It was the happiest I've ever been. It was the hardest I've ever cried. It was beautiful and ugly and I wouldn't, couldn't, change any of it for a minute.
The girl that came to DC, scared out of her mind, eight years ago, wouldn't know the woman who is leaving. She couldn't know that by the end, almost every street corner would have a story, every neighborhood a memory, every year present a different challenge.
There will be a day, I know, when it feels like I never lived here. In some ways, it already does - as the night turns to dusk and the sky is ribboned with pastels before plunging into darkness, I look around and marvel at the luck and circumstance that brought me to this magical, infuriating, beautiful city.
My greatest love over the last eight years was this city. And now it's time to go. The next chapter is exciting and terrifying all at once, just like it was when I moved to Washington. There's still a little time to wander aimlessly, surround myself with the people I love, laugh too loud and eat too much Thomas Sweet ice cream. And then it will be time to leave, knowing, somehow, that this will always feel a little like home.