“Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself…soul-less and evil. You will be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.” –Remus Lupin to Harry Potter
Now read that sentence to yourself and replace “Dementor” with “DC.” Now you know what I feel. According to Harry Potter Wiki, “Dementors hold no loyalty except to whomever will provide them with the most souls to consume.” Yup, sounds just about right.
I’ve lived in DC for over 5 years now. I didn’t hate it during college; in fact, I felt pretty awesome living here, because we not only had pandas, but also like, the White House and stuff. I had a thousand internships, people always came to visit, and I could venture out of my bubble of a campus to great restaurants and concert venues. What more could I ask for? But when I graduated and moved into the real world (just three miles away from my campus apartment) I realized DC is completely unlivable for me. I’ve been to cities that are traditionally referred to as the “cold” and “unfriendly” cities — New York, Paris, London — but those are like southern charmers compared to my daily life in Washington, where having someone say “thank you” after I hold the door for them is cause for celebration.
I judge cities by their personalities. DC’s personality? Stuck-up and sterile. DC is a place where you will meet people from every state and country, but no one ends up staying here very long; jobs depend on the politics of the day. With people coming and going so often, DC has absolutely no sense of community. Instead, the city makes you think of everyone else as your competitor. “Which congressman do you work for? Here, take my card. Oh, you live in Northeast? Isn’t that dangerous?” Most of these people are complete losers who steal your softball and throw it into the duck pond on the Mall because they’d rather kick around a large red ball to make up for the fact that they were never chosen in gym class (yes, this really happened to my softball team). As for the rest of us, once you’re here for a few months, your soul starts to wilt, and you’re forced to conform to the asshole attitudes in order to survive.
I have brilliant, happy friends who don’t appear brilliant or happy until they are about 30 miles outside of the District of Columbia. The same goes for me. The moment I’m far enough away, I feel like I can breathe normally and be myself. DC stunts personalities and sucks creativity and joy out of everyone who enters. Correction: not everyone. Some people survive. Those brave people who do stay here and enjoy it are just so passionate about their work that they are oblivious to what goes on around them. Bless them. Others stay because their souls have already been sucked dry, like bureaucratic robots, so they may as well stick around and play the game.
I want to live in a city where strangers don’t automatically hate your guts, where I can skip down the street singing and wearing a hot pink wig without people looking at me like I’m holding a birthday cake made of poop. I’m done with the awful wardrobes, the click of the BlackBerries on the silent Metro, and the cars that honk at pedestrians as they’re walking in the crosswalk when the light tells them to. No matter which of my four cities I end up in next summer, I know it will be a happier place than this. The New York Times recently said that if you are around happy people, even — or especially — if they are strangers, you too will be happy. I can’t wait.
Quotes from friends (who have recently moved or are planning to move) about our dreadful town:
“You think I want to be some chooch tool networking up the asshole in Georgetown with all the other overly competitive pretty girls, trying to vie for some position at a big marketing firm? Yeah, let me work on my cardio and run up and down the steps of Rayburn.”
“People take themselves too seriously. Everyone on the Metro looks fucking miserable. Either they look angry, or they’re making out. Two things I cannot handle.”
“DC is, to me, a city completely devoid of character. With a population mostly composed of out-of-towners and diplomats, it’s understandable that the city wouldn’t have a distinct feeling to it, but what is inexcusable is the lack of warmth. If it weren’t for my lovely college friends (most of whom have now either left or considering that option) I would have left a long time ago.”
“Ugh I’m sure I don’t have anything that unique to say about this shithole.”