“I’ve got good news!” My friend trilled, smiling wide as she slid into the seat across from me at the trendy coffee bar in our neighborhood.
Her green eyes sparkled and her positive energy was contagious.
“What? What?” I asked eagerly. I shot a glance at her left hand searching for a ring. Was she engaged? Pregnant?
“I just accepted a job in New York! I move in two weeks!”
My face fell. “Whaaaat?” I sputtered, “That’s not ‘good news’.”
Her grin vanished and I instantly felt awful. I should be happy for my friend. She’d been downtrodden about work for months, the new political climate had pretty much killed morale, and she had been actively searching for something new. I knew that. I shouldn’t have been so blindsided by this information, but I just assumed that her next professional opportunity would come along in this city. My city.
“I’m sorry,” I murmured, tucking a lock of hair behind my ear. “I just… wow.”
“I know,” she replied quietly. “It’s a big change.”
It WAS a big change. Being outwardly excited for her was going to take a massive amount of effort.
I don’t want to hold my friends back. I realize everyone needs stimulating life experiences, but forming new female friendships takes so much work. And I’m TIRED.
I’ve made a new set of friends every 14 months as the old ones cycle out and new folks move in. DC is a city of cyclical friendships. People come and they go. They arrive bright eyed and bushy tailed and optimistic about hope! and change! and making a Difference! (capital “D”) but they eventually walk away beaten down and broke and ready to return to their hometowns.
I get it. I do. But I’m allowed to hate it.
And maybe there’s an element of envy. Maybe I want to pick up and leave too. It would feel pretty fucking great to say goodbye to ego-driven policy wonks, shitty public transit, and no decent food options before noon, but, ultimately, this place IS my home.
I mean… huh. Okay.
I’m fairly flexible. I adapt easily. I’m not even really interested in politics or the DC “scene”. So maybe I’ve just fooled myself into thinking this is the best place for me because it’s all I really know?
At the end of the day, what makes me happy? Who even am I?
I sat there in the cafe mulling all this over. While my eyes stayed trained on the animated face across from me, I was in the middle of an existential crisis.
My friend chattered on about the job offer, the new expectations, the timeline, the packing. I smiled and nodded and asked a couple questions. I thought I convincingly faked enthusiasm, but she seemed to sense my general gloom and we wrapped up our coffee date quicker than usual.
“Jim’s throwing me a little goodbye party,” she told me as we gathered our things. “I’ll send you the invite on Facebook. It would be great to see you.”
I gave a tight smile. “Yeah,” I agreed. “I’d like that.” I grabbed my bag, gave her a quick hug, and moped away.
From across the street I heard a homeless guy shout in my direction.
“Hey girl. Smile! You look like you just lost your last friend.”
I looked up at him, smiled meekly. If he only knew.