Here’s a story:
I spent last summer interning in Washington D.C. For eight weeks, I lived the quite unglamorous, but adventurous life of an unpaid intern in one of the United State’s most expensive cities. I lived in shitty intern housing (we found not one, but TWO unwelcome fungi growing at the base of our bathroom vanity in the course of my time there); I lived off of a pretty cheap diet that would have left my mother concerned (I finally caved in about the fourth week and paid the little extra money for mixed greens at the grocery store, something I initially viewed as unnecessary on my frugal budget…oh my, salad never tasted so good after those four long weeks of surviving off of nothing but carbs and dairy!); I had unlimited access to all the free museums D.C. has to offer and, as a Smithsonian employee, I even got discounts at Smithsonian gift shops (boy did I take advantage of that…once I got my I.D., that is, after five weeks of using the guest badge…because, thanks to the messiness of government bureaucracy, I was actually the forgotten intern until someone thought to inquire with the badge office about me). I roomed with strangers who ended up fundamentally changing my life, I met the most amazing people, I fell in love with D.C. and yearn for the day when I will go back.
I had the summer of a lifetime. Despite dealing with the anxiety of being in a new place with new people for much of my time there, I wouldn’t exchange summer 2014 for the world.
Yet, I was pondering today and you know what? My most cherished memory of D.C. has nothing to do with walking on the National Mall regularly or researching at the National Archives.
When I think about the moments in D.C. that left me feeling most content, it was the fifiteen to twenty minutes that I spent each morning before heading off to work at breakfast, just reading.
I barely read at all in D.C. I finished one book in total while there (granted it was Madame Bovary…so, really long and a bit time consuming) and got started on only one other book before leaving. Living in an apartment with five other girls was a fantastic experience for me, but it wasn’t exactly conducive for reading. After a long work day, most of the other girls preferred to watch TV and the TV was on for a good portion of each evening. It was hard to find the peace, quiet, privacy to sit and read for a lengthy amount of time. I never put much thought into actually leaving the apartment and going elsewhere to read…probably would have been a good idea, but I just never did. I was caught up in the adventure, the excitement of being in this new city and felt that I should always be doing something, adventuring somewhere. Reading just wasn’t at the top of my list of things to do extensively while there…yet, I still needed to make time for it, if only a little…I still needed to read. It is a part of who I am, to always be reading something. Growing up in a household where both of my parents read extensively, reading was already second nature to me by the time I had actually learned how to in early grade school. It just was the way the world was for me.
So, those mornings were really the only time I had to read…other than a few minutes before bed some nights.
It was the magic of reading, yes…but it was also the entire purpose of the action itself…how it made me feel so adult. To read before work. To consciously take that time before heading off for an eight hour day at the National Postal Museum. Moments like those mornings are what I eagerly look forward to when I get a job after college.
Yes, just the whole purpose of taking a bit of time before a busy day, with my cereal, my coffee, and my book. The calm before the storm. Something I don’t experience in college often because, well, I’m always flying by the seat of my pants to get anything and everything accomplished as a student.
It was perfect.
Those mornings were perfect.
I experienced so many incredible moments in D.C. I met a Holocaust survivor at the Holocaust Museum, a memory that I will forever cherish; as part of an event put on for Smithsonian interns, I got to walk around the National Museum of Natural History, see the Hope Diamond, step into the butterfly garden, all without the crowds–in the morning, before the museum was officially opened to the public; I went to a Smithsonian exhibit opening and I wandered around historic Georgetown, the national monuments, while getting to know new friends.
All these experiences were amazing. Admittedly, I didn’t appreciate them enough while I was there because well, it just felt so normal, so natural. I got into the routine of work, of my internship, of D.C. and it became second-nature to do all of that. Yet, they were still these wonderful, life-altering experiences.
All these experiences, and yet I can safely say that those mornings with my book and my breakfast…they were the moments I felt my most content while there.
I am continually learning that it is the little things that mean the most. I guess this is just one more example of how true that is.