Rooftops, Air Mattresses, and Forced Minimalism

Empty apartment living is not the new lifestyle chic.
Empty apartment living is not the new lifestyle chic.

This week, I got back to a sense of normalcy. I have a job once again so that means I can’t sleep in until 9AM then wander off to 9:30AM yoga pretending not to be curious why so many other people are there on a weekday morning. Waking up in a strange apartment everyday has taken some getting used to. There’s the typical noises of air conditioners going and neighbors wandering down the hall, but in Arlington, Virginia, it seems like there’s literally always a fire to be put out somewhere. Distant sirens are so commonplace here I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll make my fortune by adding that sound to sleeping noise machine apps for “city” folk. I can’t be crazy with that idea…my sleep noise app has a distant train on it, which reminds me of the five years I went to college in a cow town that had trains going through it at all hours.

On top of the noises that I’m getting used to around my 12th floor studio apartment, I’m just now getting back into deep sleeps on my father’s flimsy not-even-a-twin-sized “here take this” air mattress. I have to sleep on it for now because my furniture is still in-transit via U-Box (a disaster if I may sidebar briefly) and I don’t quite see the point of going to buy a fancier air mattress until I either pop this thing or get a visitor who I like more than to do this to. The problem with sleeping on air mattresses, while at first it’s the soul-crushing realization that you are in fact too damn old to be rolling off an air mattress and Neanderthal-ing to your feet every morning, is that they’re not particularly breathable. Say you sleep on your back for a few hours and then decide to roll over to your side. You may not realize while you’re deep in a REM session that your back is kind of clammy; however, when that clamminess starts to evaporate, you get a little cold and then you wake up with chills later on. It’s an unpleasant way to wake up, especially in the middle of the night. Pretty soon, all the tossing and turning leaves every possible sleeping position unavailable to all-over clamminess. Your only objective, besides getting back to sleep, is to warm up but you have to choose the least clammy side to be exposed as you curl up into a fetal position and try to fall, shivering, back to sleep. The key to avoiding all of this is placing a thick blanket between you and the air mattress, but in my rush to pack and remember more important things like shutting off my utilities and booking transportation logistics, I didn’t have the foresight to take along some blankets for the transition. While I did use my faulty planning as an excuse to finally buy an ivory cable-knit sweater blanket that I’ve been eyeing for months to drape along my couch, the thin, decorative throw is about as useful as a corkscrew on a screw top wine bottle. After three nights of waking up damp and shivering, I decided to double up the blanket by folding it in half. For two nights now, I’ve slept in relative soundness. I still toss and turn, but even if I am clammy, a thicker blanket solves the problem.

View from my 12th floor apartment. Sure beats the parking lot outside my window in Lincoln!
View from my 12th floor apartment. Sure beats the parking lot outside my window in Lincoln!

Sorry if that grossed you out, but for the tip: you’re welcome.

So, as I am air-mattress-ing it up in my new apartment, I’m also being forced to wait patiently in a state of minimalism. I’ve sometimes considered going extremely minimalist in my lifestyle by only owning the things I know I need. Not that I am materialistic– I’m just indecisive. What should I wear? Eat? Watch? Do? Do I really need six sets of tri-colored Fiestaware? How do I own four Internet-capable devices and not contribute to the economy with a small business? Why on earth do I keep all these workout DVDs when I’m pretty sure I’d be ripped just by doing push-ups? The answer is I need options. Indecisiveness is a small price to pay for feeling prepared for six dinner guests, being able to watch Netflix on the treadmill via my Kindle or on my TV with said dinner guests, and trying new methods to get fit when push-ups bore me to death. This week, my only options have been use the same bowl, plate, and glass for meals, rack up my data charges on my iPhone until my Internet is hooked up, and to run, swim, and do push-ups. Frankly, minimalism is dull. Efficient as heck– I haven’t run the dishwasher once, I forced myself to go to the gym or stay home and be bored, and now I’m blogging this via my iPhone instead of waiting until I can type it out on my laptop (so far it’s taken me about an hour to write up to this point but hey, I have the time on a minimalist lifestyle). No, I’m not about to have a moving sale on all my stuff, but I can’t lie the minimalist lifestyle is appealing in some senses. I can appreciate that…but, uh, when is my stuff getting here, U-Haul?

In addition, I’m taking the time to explore a new neighborhood of Arlington. In my previous time living in Arlington, I lived along the “Orange Line Corridor.” I started out on the edge of East Falls Church and eventually moved eastward to the Clarendon neighborhood over the five years I was here previously. This time, I’m living in the Crystal City area on the south side of Arlington. While I tried to get out to this part of Arlington when I lived here last, I tended to stick to my neck of the woods (people in the D-M-V are really loyal to their neighborhoods!) Now that I live here, I’m walking around to new stores and restaurants in my area and getting used to the notion that I may have missed out by not venturing out here earlier.

I now also work in a different part of town. Most of my time in the five previous years I lived in DC was spent working on Capitol Hill. Now, my office is downtown on Pennsylvania Avenue and a block from the political epicenter: The White House. It’s interesting to note the differences between work life on “the Hill” and “downtown.” Leaving work downtown now feels more professional, solitary, and scattered whereas leaving work on the Hill felt almost like class being let out for the day. I’d hear fellow Hill staffers, walking in pairs or packs, talking about their bosses or meetings of the day on their way to happy hour. There was a feeling that, despite the deep political divide governing our leaders who are supposed to be governing our country, everyone who worked on the Hill as an aide could relate to any other Hill aide because we all went through the same things in our day. Seeing this difference between Hill life and downtown DC not only makes me appreciate my time on Capitol Hill even more but makes me realize that those six years will continue to resonate throughout my life.

This describes my relationships with DC rooftops...
This describes my relationships with DC rooftops…

Between these two neighborhoods in my new home and work lives, I have one grand theme in common: rooftops. Both homes I lived in between 2008 and 2013 were houses: I had about as much business on the roof as I had desire to be on them. Getting on the roof of the Russell Senate Office Building where I worked was probably not an option– I don’t know, I never asked the Capitol Police if that was possible. I did get on the “roof” on the U.S. Capitol building for a tour of the dome, and that was utterly spectacular. But you only go up there to marvel at the view and all the history along the way. Now, in my new apartment building and new downtown location, I have rooftop access to my disposal. Not only am I living on the 12th floor, but my apartment complex has a gym on the roof– A ROOFTOP GYM– that provides spectacular views of the Pentagon, Pentagon City, the Air Force Memorial, and Crystal City. I’m not a fan of the treadmill, but for a view like that as I slug out my miles, we might actually become besties. Also, on the roof of my office building along Pennsylvania Avenue, there’s not just a rooftop platform where you can see great views of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the White House, and the U.S. Capitol building and Washington monument in the near distance but it’s an actual sort of oasis of lounge chairs and tables and aesthetic marble trellises where you can actually relax without someone wondering what you’re doing on the roof. I doubt I will be able to get over it as long as I am working there. Rooftops might be old news to some, but to me, it’s like I’ve found my wings or something. I can get off the ground and explore new heights! Bad puns are abundant with a new life, new job, and a new home with rooftop access.

All things considered, my first week back in DC has been an exciting sense of discomfort. I probably feel like our family cat Tucker did when we first brought him home from the shelter: he was bouncing around exploring all the nooks and crannies of his new home and getting used to people who already loved him and wanted him there, but it was no doubt a little stressful in that everything freaked him out. It takes awhile to settle into being yourself when you’re busy settling into new roles. I just haven’t gotten to that point yet with my new job and my new home, but I’m not rushing it. I’m just exploring my new life and trying to identify with it and letting myself geek out over the fun parts of moving and starting a new job. Like setting up my stuff at home and buying new furniture and fixing up my new office and taking lunch breaks to explore the roof and running on new trails. In a word, I am nesting. All in all, I literally can’t believe my prayers were answered and that my dreams came true.

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