Pros & Cons of Living in DC

Something pretty significant I've learned in the last five years is that, no matter where you live, there are going to be pros and cons to living in that particular place (or city). There are a multitude of reasons I moved to DC, foremost being that I got accepted to a school that is one of the most highly regarded for the degree that I wanted. The main reason I moved to DC, though, is that I just wanted to get out of Indiana. I wanted to live in a big city and I just wanted to get away from all of the things about living in Indiana that I felt were negative (and are still negative, but I've grown up and realized that the positives outweigh the negatives, and that we can work around the negatives by being diligent in the lifestyle we want to lead).

For the first couple of years, living in DC was awesome. It was novel, there was tons of free, incredible things to do, public transit was a new concept that I loved having available, the political culture was exactly what I was looking for, I was being challenged both intellectually and professionally by my peers, and living in a city where people actually came to be tourists was fascinating. My initial experience in DC was also colored by the fact that I was in grad school and living primarily on student loans. So, a lot changed when I graduated.

I want to lead with saying that though we will not be living in DC forever, there are awesome things about it (that have been especially awesome while we've been young). There is a heavy emphasis on education, which we really appreciate. The best public schools in the country are in a suburb of DC, there are multiple world-class colleges and universities located in and just outside the city, the best private schools are located here, and the city with the highest concentration of PhD holders per square mile is a suburb of DC. We love that, and wish we could justify raising kids here for that reason.

We really love that this area has a culture that is very focused on eating well and staying fit. People bike and walk to work regularly, everyone loves to get out and hike, the climbing community here is extremely active with several great developed climbing areas within a reasonable driving distance (and there are several climbing gyms), organic food is easy to come by and fast food is far less prevalent than it is in Indiana. We love all those things because, while we could of course stay fit and eat well in Indiana, having it be such an integral part of the culture here makes it a natural part of your lifestyle and a whole lot less work.

Since you're in the capital, there are a ton of resources and activities that are 100% free to the public that really enrich the lives of those living here (does it come out of DC residents' tax dollars? Of course. But I digress.) Having a dozen free Smithsonian museums in the city is amazing, not to mention the monuments, the Cherry Blossom festival, all of the readily-available ethnic food, and the amazing diversity. People actually want to come visit us here, because we live in such an awesome city. And that's novel to us.

But….our values have changed a lot in the last year. Despite all of those fabu things about living in DC, there are some serious negatives that for us outweigh the positives. First, DC is incredibly, outrageously expensive. Unless you graduate from school with very little debt and land a job making six figures, there is no way you will be able to responsibly afford a home for at least 10 years, if not more. And even then, your debt will be doing double-duty with student loans and a mortgage. In the meantime, you will be flushing about $2,000 a month down the toilet on rent. (The metro is even expensive, around $7 round-trip, every day, on average for someone that relies on it to get to and from work.) Since neither of us have been able to land the 'dream jobs' we were looking for when we graduated, we really aren't in the type of financial position to make living in DC manageable.  And we just aren't okay with that. I think it's great that some people are, because someone needs to be. Those people just aren't us.

The people here, by and large, are….tough. (I realize that is a broad brushstroke, and I have many fantastic and lovely friends in this city. But this is just my opinion based on the majority of what I have experienced.) People are aggressive, stressed, overworked, often underpaid, and hyper-competitive. At one point I actually thought I was looking for this high-intensity culture. I was wrong. As we've gotten older, we've realized we want certain other things more than we want the dog-eat-dog career-focused environment. That makes us different than folks that are happy settling here in DC, though it doesn't make us better or worse than those people.

It is crowded, and the drivers are awful. (You thought Indiana or Ohio drivers were bad? Fortune did a study that came to the conclusion that DC ranks among the top-10 worst places to drive in the United States. Spoiler alert: Unless you count Pittsburgh, no midwestern cities made the list.) At one time I thought I loved riding the metro, but I don't any more. There are mornings when I have to let two or three trains pass me because they are just so full I can even squeeze my little 110-pound 5'3" butt on there. Just getting to work is a challenge, and is a huge stressor for both of us. WHY.

We want to live near our parents and our family - not just as our parents age, but also as we start considering the growth of our own family. Our friends here are awesome, but I personally had a close and very special relationship with my grandparents that I want my children to experience. Neither of us could imagine having and raising children so far from our families, and for us that is a huge deal-breaker. It will of course be bittersweet for me to leave my climbing community here and assimilate into a new one. We love our friends here and will continue to visit DC regularly throughout our lives. For us, though, the proximity to our families is trumping almost every other reason to stay here in DC.

We love certain aspects of living in DC, and it has been a wonderful experience for us while we've been young. I don't have regrets about moving here, because we both got to experience living in a big city and won't ever have to wonder 'what if'. Everyone's life follows different paths, at different times, for different reasons. This is the path our life has taken, and I love it for all its twists and turns. Everything has happened for us for a reason, and we have an awesome life because I have (tried really really hard to have!) gone with the flow. I'm super excited for everything life has in store for us in the next few years, and can't wait to keep sharing it with you guys. :)

3 comments:

  1. Funny how your priorities change. I agree, raising children near family is hugely important, for the opposite reason as you--I did NOT grow up near my relatives and it sucked. I saw my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins a couple times a year. I've always been envious that they were so much closer to each other than to me and my sister. I don't want that for my son (gah, it still feels weird to say that!).

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  2. Totally! Our priorities and values have done a complete 180 since we got married. It's crazy how that stuff just happens and how your heart changes as the years pass!

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  3. They are soooo cute!! Love the first and second images!! Beautiful as always!!
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