This month marks 20 years since I packed my bags and moved to DC with no job and no place to live. Ballsy, eh?
It had been my dream for years to come to DC and work in the political or advocacy field. And, at the age of 28, I decided it was now or never. If it didn’t work, I thought, I could at least say that I tried.
Well, after two decades, I’d say it worked. Has it worked out as I’d expected it would? No. Have there been ups and downs along the way? You bet. Have I ever regretted doing it? Not once.
What’s striking to me on this anniversary is how similar my life is now to what it was 20 years ago. No permanent job. Loads of uncertainty about life both in the short- and long-term. Endless thinking about the next steps in life.
But the context of my life is very, very different.
At 28, the world is there to be conquered. There’s a wide array of opportunities to choose from. Seemingly every path through life is there waiting for you to take the first step. And, if that one doesn’t work, there are others close enough to step onto.
Now, all of that has changed. Ironically, with more experience and age under your belt, the opportunities become fewer and more competitive. And the paths are now so far apart that you can’t even see them much less step onto them. If you want to change your life path, it takes a lot of effort.
And there are more things to consider now. I’m thinking about things like overseas travel, home ownership, and retirement, things that were far from my mind 20 years ago. And there’s a clock that I can hear ticking in the background. It’s faint now…but it gets louder with each year. And the list of things I want to do in my life is not as short as I’d like it to be.
The nation and the world are vastly different now as well. In 1997, the economy was booming, the world was relatively peaceful, and there was a vast optimism in the future as the year 2000 approached. That is no longer the case in 2017. Now, a sheen of pessimism seems to cover everything – and that seems to limit options even more.
So what’s going to happen as I enter my 21st year in DC? Who knows? Perhaps there are dramatic changes coming and perhaps there are slight changes coming. Perhaps, after three years of uncertainty in my life, 2017 may finally bring things back to Earth. Or maybe nothing will change and I’ll be right back here next year.
In any event, I’ll do what I’ve always done: meet the challenges and changes as they come and taking every chance to accomplish what I want to do in life.
But it won’t be as easy – or nearly as exciting – as it was 20 years ago.