Authenticity: What I Hate Most About Washington DC

It’s not about the things we love, it’s about the reasons why we love them.

My story is similar to that of many other people. I grew up believing that the steps to success were to work hard, graduate from a “good” college, and get a “good” job, at which point I would be happy. And so I did. I moved to Washington DC when I was 18 years old, full of hopes and dreams of someday working for the government and traveling the world.

DC was a great place to go to school, especially if you were studying International Relations, as I was. I spent three years in college reading everything I could get my hands on about security policy, insurgency theory, and the Middle East.

However, I quickly realized that I wasn’t really interested in any of the jobs that came along with my chosen field of study. Working in the policy community in Washington DC extended far beyond just getting to nerd out about things that I was passionate about. Yes, there’s a lot of super nerdy research involved, but in order to be successful in your field, you have to live and breathe your area of expertise. While I may have been capable of success, the DC workaholic culture would have killed me.

It goes far beyond the pervasive expectation that you will show up early, stay late, and answer every work email immediately, regardless of the time of day (looking at you, boss who called me at 6am and three times while I was in an hour-long yoga class because I didn’t immediately respond to his email).

I fundamentally take issue with the American cultural norm that we live to work and our value to society is based on how much output we produce. But the factor that really set my decision to leave was the people I had to interact with on a daily basis. DC is a city of of politics, connections, and ulterior motives. You can be brilliant in your field but if you don’t know the right people or run in the necessary circles, you won’t get anywhere. Everyone in Washington has an agenda, and nothing is real.

It’s the polar opposite of life on the open road. The anonymity of being in a city where you know no one means that you can be completely authentic. When no one knows you and you cross paths with people for just a few short days before moving along, you have no reason to bullshit. And life without bullshit is beautiful.

For so long, I struggled with trying to wrap my mind around the monotony of the 9-to-5 office job where you show up, see the same people, deal with the same office politics and drama, and sit in the same uncomfortable chair day in and day out. Had I loved my job and the people I worked with, it may have taken me longer to come to this conclusion, but there was something missing from my life.

Authenticity.

Washington is a town of people with agendas. Out of all the people I met in the year leading up to my decision to leave DC, there were maybe a handful of people I could actually see myself wanting to be friends with because they seemed genuine. Of these few – several of them, I met while I was traveling, and the rest I met while they were visiting DC. Not one of them was from the town I had adopted as my home.

I decided I didn’t want to be around people who treat connections like currency and always have some ladder to climb. The city I had come to love began to feel more and more foreign as the days went by. As a college student, it was easier to feel as if I belonged here. Once I transitioned into the adult world and realized that I no longer fit here, the decision to leave was easy.

I’m not sure where this path is going to lead, but I know that it’s the right one for where I am right now.

 

xoxo,

Hanna (Bubu Backpacks)

P.S. – If you’d like to keep track of my daily adventures, please follow me on Instagram and Twitter @bubu_backpacks.

 

Authenticity Pinterest Image

17 thoughts on “Authenticity: What I Hate Most About Washington DC

  1. I love this post – I can so relate to this. It was the life I was living before kissing it all goodbye – and Ive never looked back… finding something that’s ‘you’ is the journey and being ‘real’ to yourself is the biggest challenge given the type of world we live in… excellent post… xxxx

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  2. I agree. There is nothing compared to the freedom of traveling. Office politics and drama are not good things. But it’s great to visit Washington D.C. We found the Smithonian museums to be awesome and we are looking forward to going on different art tours in the National Gallery. Our second trip to Washington D.C will be in late March of this year. Have you been on the FBI tour?

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    1. The funny thing is that I do actually really love Washington DC – it’s a great place to visit and to live. I never got around to doing the FBI tour but I really love the art galleries! You should also check out the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of American Art while you’re there. They’re a little out of the way off the mall but totally worth a visit! They’re pretty close to the FBI building too!

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      1. Thank you for yout advice! We will definitely check out the National Portrait Gallery and the Museum of American Art. Looks like that we have a list of attractions for more than one trip already. It’s difficult to get onto the FBI tour. We don’t know yet whether or not we’ll be allowed to. Did you write a post about attractions in Washington D. C.? I would really like to read it if you did
        .

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    1. It’s so interesting, I can’t tell if it was a DC thing or just in my field, but I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to surround myself with. That’s crazy how LA is the same way! I believe it though.

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  3. Girl. I have only recently come to terms with the American way of trading my time for a few dollars and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I love LOVE my job, but I also love doing my own things and being my own boss. luckily my boss is ok with me traveling and working remotely from time to time but it took two college degrees and NO JOKE 20 jobs to finally find something worth doing. And I only applied for my job on a whim so I really got lucky. But you’re doing it- following your gut to bigger things! YOU CAN DO IT!!

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    1. That’s awesome, I’m so happy that you found something that is fulfilling and also gives you the freedom to pursue your dreams! I’m a little nervous about just setting out but I’m sure things will work out in the way they’re meant to 😃

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  4. “Life without bullshit is beautiful.” I would like this framed and hung on my wall please and thank you! ❤ Loved this post girl. America has everything so ass-backwards. Your mention of people treating connections like currency really resonated with me. It's so hard to make genuine connections anymore when it feels like people are only targeting the friendships that might benefit them in some way. I'm so excited for you to escape the bullshit!

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    1. It’s so backwards, I’m surprised it hasn’t imploded already. I can’t tell if it’s just in my field that the connections thing is so prevalent (because I was politics-adjacent), if it’s a DC thing, or if it’s a larger American thing but either way I’m not a fan and I’m super excited to move away from it 🙂

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  5. So true! It didn’t take us too long living and working in Latin America to realize that we much preferred the lifestyle, and how much healthier it is too. Although it made it much harder to go home!

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    1. That’s how I knew if I was going to switch over to the nomadic lifestyle, it was going to have to be for the long term! I originally started planning for just a year on the road but quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to go back. It’s so much easier and healthier to live without all the drama!

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