I’ve lived in the greater DC metro area for 3+ months now and I’m still trying to adjust to living in a big city.
Life in a big city is pretty much polar opposite of where I’ve lived previously. The exception is, of course, Minneapolis. I did live in Minneapolis proper, but I wasn’t working a job outside the house so my experience is still different. Living in Minneapolis did prepare me nicely for DC, though. Namely in the differences in parking and higher prices for things.
Differing Consumption Habits
I’m used to shopping being An Expedition, not an everyday casual thing. Where I grew up, shopping was something that had to be planned out. The nearest grocery store was 15 minutes away by car, so we usually only went once a week and stocked up. The nearest grocery store to me now is a little over a mile away by bike. It’s smaller, with less selection, but who really needs 45 types of cereal to choose from? I’m also getting used to casually swinging by the shop to pick up a few things. I’ve started carrying reusable bags on me in case I need more fruit and veggies or some ingredient for dinner.
I also don’t have room for a lot of stuff in bulk, so my roommate and I have to be careful with what we buy at Costco. Nobody wants 16 rolls of paper towels casually hanging out in their living room! Not that we have that problem, yet.
Ease of Access
My parents’ house in the Midwest has a walk score of 3. There is one small strip mall next to the neighborhood with a small restaurant, a gas station and a Dollar General in it. Across the highway from that is another small pizza place. To get there, you basically have to take your own life into your hands crossing that road. It would be incredibly dangerous to have a few drinks there and then try to get home.
People simply aren’t used to pedestrians in the area and don’t watch for them. The infrastructure for walking or biking is also sorely lacking. No bike lanes and few sidewalks.
Here in DC, the opposite is true. Drivers have to yield to pedestrians in intersections with no lights or face a fine. There are crosswalks and sidewalks everywhere! Bike lanes are abundant and most drivers respect the space. (I have fun examples of a few people who do NOT respect cyclists’ rights to be on the roads!)
Things are easy to get to. I live near several grocery stores, tons of restaurants and shops to get whatever item I may need. It’s incredible to me I don’t have to drive 20 minutes just to get to the nearest Target or Walmart. Just walk for a few minutes and pop into the nearest CVS! Easy peasy.
With the increase in walking and biking options, there’s less use for a car while living in the city. I’ve only used my car a handful of times since I moved to DC. 4 times in 7 weeks is not a lot. I’m strongly considering getting rid of it as the insurance and fees to park on the street don’t seem worth it. I’ll probably have a post on that coming soon as I weigh the pros and cons of having a car in DC proper.
There is a lot more noise and light pollution in the city than I’m used to. The streetlights are VERY orange and light up both the city and my bedroom. (See the picture below for the lights I’m talking about.) I’m used to pitch black, dead quiet bedrooms so this has been a bit of an adjustment for me. We live off a pretty major street, so ambulances and fire trucks scream by at pretty much all hours. Normally I don’t mind it, but it can be annoying late at night, when I’m trying to record a podcast episode, or trying to have a casual conversation with my roommate in the living room.
I could also write about other forms of pollution like car exhaust, but honestly it’s not that big of a deal. I haven’t noticed it being a problem in my day to day life. The only time I notice it is when I’m biking on a bridge across the Potomac and have a lot of traffic next to me. Other than that, the tree canopy and abundant gardens everywhere seem to soak up the bad air. I love being able to take a stroll around the neighborhood and check out the pretty flowers around me!
The only downside to this is allergies. I’ve never had a problem with allergies before I moved to DC but they hit me like a freight train. Thankfully my roommate introduced me to the wonderful world of Costco brand allergy medicine! No more itchy, watery eyes, puffy face, runny nose and sneezing for me! I also found a vendor at the market who sold me some local honey. I’m hoping that helps and eventually helps wean me off the medicine.
Busy busy busy!
You might have noticed I haven’t written much lately. Living in a big city means there are lots of things to do basically all the time! I spend more of my time actually going out and doing things, which doesn’t leave much time for me to write about the things I am doing. I had the same problem journaling in high school. It’s easy to write about your life when you don’t have much going on! There are always people coming into town to visit, fun things to do in the area and of course, the biggest time sink of all, work. I don’t mind going to work, but I am casually looking for a new job in the area as I don’t think this job is the right fit for me long term. Interviewing for new jobs also takes time!
I do have a lot of things to write about that I need to get out before I forget. I attended the Playing with FIRE documentary première in Longmont Colorado, I’ve started biking to work fairly regularly, and I had an initial consultation with a personal stylist that is making me reconsider basically everything about my life.
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