Off the Beaten Path: Cherry Blossoms, the Flat Belly Diet, and a 30-Something Washingtonian’s Dilemma

March 30 – April 3

1) I received my first Stitch Fix over the weekend. It felt like Christmas, my birthday, and a mid-season sale all in one– absent the sore feet, crowd rage, and a sugar crash from the obligatory mall coffee drink. I’d asked my stylist to send spring dresses that could transition well from work to happy hour, and I got a long gray maxi dress (not a fan of maxis), a coral sheer blouse (too billowy), and an asymetrical navy stripe t-shirt dress (perfect but see-through). I also got these dresses:

The Andrew Marc navy blue Taylor dress was jaw-dropping, knock ’em dead amazing. Perfect for a hot date or post-work cocktail reception. The Taylor printed dress was also great. I felt pretty in it, like I was ready for an Easter egg hunt at the White House or a Kentucky Derby party. In the end, the printed dress was what I ended up keeping. I had too much navy blue in my wardrobe and the skirt on the Andrew Marc dress was so tight I had a hard time not pinching my own ass in it. The Taylor dress will need a couple of inches taken out of the top, but I just felt at home in it. Like childhood Sara in adult Sara’s body. I scheduled my next fix almost right away. If you’d like to give StitchFix a try, go for it (that’s my referral link). I really didn’t think I would like it as much as I did. Now to find a tailor…

No cherry blossoms in bloom yet, but getting closer!
No cherry blossoms in bloom yet, but getting closer!

2) On Monday, the folks at Capital Weather Gang (which is DC’s go-to for anything related to weather) declared winter to be officially over in the greater Washington area (meaning: anyone who already knew what CWG is). I’m SO relieved. February was a huge jerk, and March was like the cheese who, in those Cheez-It commercials, hasn’t fully matured and keeps pulling pranks on the exasperated but ever patient food scientist. Every choice I made this week, from my wardrobe to my choice of beer, was made under the influence of some serious spring fever.

Magnolia trees almost nearly bloom
Magnolia trees almost nearly bloom

3) March ended this week, and so did my Flat Belly Diet experiment. Here’s what happened: I really only stayed faithful to the program for about two weeks at the beginning of March and I still lost 5 pounds. As in, the scale stayed consistently 5 pounds below where I usually am. I didn’t cheat, except when I was planning a long run, in which case I fueled up with pasta the night before and Pop Tarts the morning of. And obviously when I had two race weekends and a birthday. To be honest, I don’t really care about how much weight I lost on the program. What I learned from it was far better. I realized that my old meal-planning ways were making me bored with my food and causing me to give up and grab a snack or dinners somewhere unhealthy. But what I learned with this program was how to make your groceries last long and how to be creative with what you have. I was completely irritated with spending about $250 on grocieries– more than twice my grocery budget– but all month, I incorporated these foods into meals that were creative, fun, delicious, and oddly aesthetic. Try turning down toast with almond butter and dried cranberries for M&Ms. Or a breakfast of waffles, berries, and toasted nuts over a doughnut. It was impossible not to reach for the good stuff, and that’s how it should be all the time. Going forward, I know how to keep my meals fun, interesting, and budget-friendly not to mention healthy.

Pentagon City neighborhood on a warm April night
Pentagon City neighborhood on a warm April night

4) This week, a colleague of mine announced that he was leaving his position because he accepted a job in his home state. The job is basically in the same line of work as what he does here. Though I haven’t been at my current job for all that long and have no plans to leave it or DC anytime soon, his annoucement was surprisingly jarring because it made me think about the inevitable dilemma of being a 30-something Washingtonian: should I stay or should I go? Most of us come to our nation’s capital to try to “change the world” or because it’s the best place to do something important. Some of us, myself included, land behind a desk on Capitol Hill where we take phone calls from constituents, try to push bills and resolutions that end up as some warped version of what they started out to be (if we’re lucky), and learning tree-top level knowledge of a rainforest of issues. If we learn well, we decide that we’d be better off using our inside-knowledge on K Street or at an advocacy organization. Some of us wander downtown to one of the college campuses to pursue a triple combination of letters that start with the letter “M” or the two letters “JD.” The luckiest of us, and I really mean that, find another three-letter “M” combination: Mrs. And then we start to think about settling down with kids and a house in one of the DC suburbs, and the thought gives us a lot of belly burn. Home prices around here are absurd. Rent is even more absurd. It’s crowded as heck– 2 and 3 hour commutes will always be the norm. I mean, I love DC and Virginia, but why would anyone who wants a healthy family and work life balance want to live like that? And so enters the dilemma: should I stay or should I go? The irony is that, as much as we know the day is coming in which we need to figure that out, we think we have forever here until suddenly something happens and we need to make the choice. Sometimes we don’t even look to leave: it often just happens, like it did for my colleague. But the answer is go. If you get a job doing what you love outside of DC and it happens to be near your family, you take it.  Government affairs and public policy jobs are few and far between outside the Beltway, so if you find a “Washington-like” job in another part of the country, especially with or near the ones you love, that is undoubtedly the definition of blessed. I absolutely adore my life here in DC, but I do wonder if I’ll be so lucky as to have the career I worked for outside of DC and near the ones I love. And I wonder how wanting to make a difference here in DC as a 20-something began feeling like a life sentence when you can’t have both.

The moon outside my Crystal City apartment
The moon outside my Crystal City apartment

5) With the National Cherry Blossom Festival underway, all the tourists have come out to play. Honestly, I really love knowing that people come to DC to visit and that I live in a “destination town.” Just when it seems like the government couldn’t be any more dysfunctional, school groups and tour groups are descending on our city to learn about the big picture of our nation’s history and values. But, as a local, this week also begins the most annoying five months of the year. The five months when our city’s “stand right, walk left” escaltor rule in the Metro is completely ignored, causing those of us on our way to work to miss our trains (on Tuesday, a whole family with their child-loaded, Hummer-sized stroller and suitcases caused a backup on the escalator and one guy yelled almost in my ear, “Excuse me!” when I wouldn’t let him past, until I showed him that walking down the left side of the escalator would entail a quick game of parquor, and I said, “Dude. Seriously. Be my guest,” to which he said, “Ohhhh…..sorry.”). The five months when troves of people dazed from walking around all day take up literally the entire sidewalk or wander like drunkards in wavy lines, thus blocking you from passing them (I just want my afternoon Satrbucks, come on man, moooove, I have to get back to work!). The five months when saying, “Excuse me!” takes you from being polite to being an asshole when a crowd turns to stare at you making your way past them, chalking you up as another one of the rude East Coast-ers when really you just want to say, “Can I please just get to work and you can wander around all day on your vacation?” It’s not really any use to vent here, except to get it off my chest. To those who don’t understand what it’s like to live in a tourist town, imagine you are trying to get from one side of Disney World at peak season on a hot or rainy day wearing a dry-clean only suit, trying not to mess up your hair and makeup, carrying your purse, gym bag, and lunch bag and you have 15 minutes to get from one side of the park to the other. Good luck with that. And Godspeed, DC. Is it September yet?

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