Visiting DC last month was a bit of an emotional rollar coaster for me. As much as I hated living in that town, my time there was very influential on my life. It was there that I had my first professional job and built a community around a cause I believed in. Many of my fellow freedom fighters are stronger than I am, they were able to push through the tough years in DC and even come to enjoy that terrible swamptown.
I feel like I betrayed them. I took the easy way out. I threw in the towel and rode off into the sunset instead of fighting the beast from the inside.
I don’t regret it, but I sometimes wonder “what if”.
If I had stayed in DC I would probably be a relatively successful mid-level non-profit employee. Maybe I’d work for CKI or IHS, or maybe I would have gone back to school. I’m not sure I’d be married or not… none of my relationships in DC were terribly serious at the time except one, and I think that would have burnt out. I was mostly a Hank Reardon for a community of Dagny’s waiting for their John Galts. I don’t have a problem with my role, I knew I couldn’t have provided what most people in that city look for in a partner. But who knows, maybe I would have become Galt for one of them.
Some people say that it isn’t wise to wonder “what if”. I kindly disagree. I think it is unwise to dwell on “what if” because, to paraphrase Aslan, “we can never know what could have been”. I think reflecting on our choices and running the other scenarios through our heads can be valuable. It can be inspiring to feel like you could have thrived in a variety of scenarios, there is no set path and we should strive to make every path a wonderful one. Future decisions become less scary if we know that we will be alright, regardless of what choice we make.
I’m glad I visited DC. I saw some people that I love and were able to reconnect with them on a level that is difficult without being together physically. It was good to see how successful they are in their lives, and know that I could have had that life if I wanted it. I was also able to meet some kindred spirits for the first time in real life, people who I feel a strong connection to and hope to have in my life for a long time. It gives me hope to know that there are lights fighting the heart of darkness, even if I am no longer on the front lines with them.
I hate DC… but I’ll probably be back soon.