I started writing a poem called "My Monument" last fall in the middle of an intensely emotional time in Washington D.C. I doubted my place in a city that I called home. The loneliness was suffocating, every night I prayed to just make it to sunrise.
Was I on the right career path? Will I ever be okay? Can I wholeheartedly love myself?
My entire foundation was shaken. I questioned everything.
"My Monument" tried to reconcile my differences with D.C. I didn't realize how much hatred I harbored for the four quadrants that gave me so much, just to take it all away. I lost so much in such a short amount of time and I blamed it on the city. I wrote a long form city narrative last month and I think it captures what I was trying to say.
D.C., I forgive you.
And to myself:
I also forgive you.
You don't fall in love with D.C. the way you fall in love with a city like New York or Los Angeles.
It’s not an obvious city to love. Beautiful on the outside, ugly from within. A true beast -- all thorns, no romance. I saw this beast up-close when I worked on Capitol Hill last Autumn. I spent a lot of time on buses and trains, navigating around the city. I was jealous of the political elite who came to work in jet black sedans while the rest of us scramble around the city on foot.
I took the N6 bus three days a week downtown. The bus runs every ten minutes across the street from my run-down apartment building. In the bitter chill of November, ten minutes can feel like ten years if you miss the bus, and wait for too long.
This bus takes me down Massachusetts Avenue to DuPont Circle. I get off here and then take the Metro Red Line five stops to Union Station. As I exit the station, the Capitol building is straight ahead. Every morning, I like to pause for a second and remind myself that this is worth it.
I work to the right of the Capitol in the newest Senate building. As a Press Intern, I work long hours at the mercy of the news cycle. By mid-November the glamour of the job wears off and I feel like another political ant on a large ant hill. We scurry around the Capitol trying our damnedest to make some sensible change in Washington. But at the end of the day it feels like I am just another part of the machine.
If the weather permits, I take my lunch break outside of the Capitol building. The Capitol building is a few left turns and a right from my little desk. It’s not very busy in the late afternoon, just a few tourists but mostly white men in black suits pacing back and forth on the phone.
I sit on the marble fountain facing the Capitol and I let
and my fright
In a city on monuments,
I felt insignificant.
I had a desk in the most powerful city in the world,
and yet I felt powerless.
I stare at the Capitol the way I stare at every monument in D.C. I stare at it in awe, and wonder. I stare at it begging for an answer. I feel like a sinner in church, on my knees, wondering if I am good enough. And on my knees I realize how little this city gives back to people who pour in so much.
Autumn turns into Winter and as December flies by, it’s time to turn in my badge. I say goodbye to my little spot on the Hill. That desk was the only marker that I was there, that I tried my hardest to make some change.
I spent five months trying to prove that I was smart enough to make it in D.C. I wanted to show the world that I was good enough and that I could stand amongst the monuments. Yet I left my desk feeling like I did nothing at all.
The rest of Winter was lonely. After the Hill I spent most of those days drinking cheap red wine, and I let my blistered feet rest.
Mid-December rolls around and D.C. gets her first snowfall of the year. Usually the snow in D.C. is ugly. It’s usually just ice falling from the sky, not real snow. But this morning was different. From my window, I felt like I was in a Christmas snow globe. I decide to take a walk.
As I trudged through the wind and the snow, I let the tips of my hair get wet and freeze. I breeze heavily and watch my breath fill the air like smoke. In the middle of a silent forest, I feel the wind creep through the back of my jacket and my spine tingles at the excitement of something new, something different.
In the midst of that December snow, I took back something that was taken away from me. I took back my childlike wonder and glee. I reclaimed the hope and optimism I have for the future of our world. I let the splinters in my heart heal. I forgave myself and I forgave this city.
The brutality of Winter gives way to Spring. And as cliché as it sounds, as the city thaws, and the cherry blossoms wake up, so do the people. It’s the city’s way of telling us that we have to pick up and move on. We have to grow; we have to carry on. The seasons tell us that it’s time to stop wondering, and start moving forward.
D.C. is the city you love because you put in the work.
You saw the marble,
and you said:
I will start from the bottom of this monument, and build my own.