By Blake Balfrey
If my family were to give you one piece of advice about me, it would be to never trust me with directions – ever. Just don’t do it. Until just a few weeks ago, I have lived my life in familiar places all filled with wonderful and resourceful people to help me. Mid-May however, I chose to abandon this familiarity and challenge my navigation skills, or lack thereof, by spending a summer in Washington, DC.
My first test included navigating the city, and let me tell you, it’s not easy. Someone chose to lay this place out in a very “systematic” way – making my life miserable. During WMI boot camp, I seemed to always volunteer to navigate the group efforts to find lunch in our short hour. I managed to make it shorter by leading everyone fifteen minutes off route. I’ve had six ubers and counting cancel on me because we (mutually!) could not locate each other. Now that I’m about four weeks in, I have managed to figure out that yes, the streets are numerical, but bottom line is there is definitely room for improvement.
Below street level, the metro has been an entirely different story. The very first attempt of me getting to my internship included metroing to a stop (I couldn’t tell you which one to save my life), getting on a bus, the wrong one for the matter, transferring to the opposite direction bus and eventually getting into an Uber to Cannon Office House. Other than that, I’ve relied on others to know where we are going and so far, it has worked – shout out to Catherine, even if we get to work 30+ minutes early!
Pretending that I’ve improved my navigating to work, my next learning curve has been in my office building itself. The not-so-secret secret is that there are numerous tunnels under the hill that connects the congressional, senatorial, and Capitol buildings to each other, and let me tell you that is a whole new ball game. There are endless corridors, hallways, elevators, and room numbers. So, without a question I have been getting my 10,000 steps in. The best is that not once, but twice I have taken the senate subway to the Capitol and have found myself on the fourth or fifth floor – apparently having an intern badge gets you in everywhere. Moral of the story is confidence is key to people not questioning if you’re lost. So, I’ve been familiarizing myself with the lesser known parts of the Capitol building – they’re beautiful by the way; if you can, you should go.
But despite all my mishaps, the most enjoyable part has been learning to navigate DC culture – figuring out how DC operates, learning to guide myself through meeting entirely new people, and being thrown into a new lifestyle. This crazy city is quite the culture shock, especially when you are being led (or more like thrown into the deep end) by Jon, Katey, and Amos. By week four, I have actually managed to understand the complicated, intertwined social scene and interactions, the balance necessary to balance work and class, and most importantly adulting. Overall, there is a learning curve, but if someone is teaching a navigation class, please, please sign me up.