To Be Both Tourist and Guide – RGADC

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(She’s my mom; she’s my best friend; we’re silly.)

When I first arrived, my impression of D.C. was “white.” The Washington Monument. The Lincoln Memorial. The Capitol. And the most obvious: The White House. All white. All pure and symbolic.

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(As my Nana pointed out, Washington D.C. is powerful. It is impressive. It is timeless.)

As a sucker for symbolism, I shouldn’t be surprised that I love the city as much as I do. And I do love it. I get a thrill when I so much as look at the buildings out the window. And I knew this would be my adventure. I knew I would have the time of my life. I wasn’t even nervous or afraid.

I still didn’t expect living here to come so naturally.

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(Though I do still miss and am loyal to Texas.)

History was one of my strongest subjects in school, second only to English. I know the gist. I remember the gist. The things I’ve learned and retained since arriving in D.C. go deeper than the subjects taught in school. D.C. is built by the personality of history, not just the facts. That personality is visible everywhere: Watergate, the Smithsonians, the Eisenhower Executive Building, the Blair-Lee House, the Kennedy Center, etc.

In the first week I was here, my supervisors at the Archives and the professors at TWC all spouted off information as naturally as leaves change for fall. I never thought I’d be able to do that. Hearing them talk made me aspire to learn more. Maybe someday, I’d be a wealth of information to others, and I could summon it as needed for books, stories, and projects.

I just didn’t expect that to actually happen.

When Mom told me over the phone that she and Nana would join me in D.C. for the annual TWC gala, I was overjoyed. Mom is coming back with the rest of my immediate family for Thanksgiving, but this past weekend was Nana’s chance to see the city. We made the most of our girl’s getaway with every second.

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(We crammed a lot of sightseeing into three days.)

Except, even though we went to several places I’d never seen before (like the Vietnam memorial and Arlington cemetery), I didn’t feel like a tourist. The transition has been so smooth, so natural. I feel like a part of D.C. and I’ve only been here a month now. I feel like it’s my city, even though it isn’t. I think I take a piece of every place I’ve been as my own – Austin, Chiang Mai, and now D.C. – to keep in my heart.

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(Speaking of D.C. being powerful, the memorials here seal the deal.)

And I’ve done that in only a month. Walking around Lafayette Square, and even the National Mall, I felt more like Mom and Nana’s pocket tour guide than a tourist. I talked their ears off with random facts and tidbits on just about everything we passed. I also got tasked with all navigation, but that’s only halfway because I know my way around D.C. and halfway because I know how to work Google Maps effectively on a smartphone.

It got even worse when we reached the National Archives portion of our trip. We spent around an hour in the museum portion of the building as I pointed out my favorite documents and exhibits. I rattled off facts about our holdings, the Constitution, and the location of the nearest bathroom. All were things that I didn’t even realize I knew so well until I was given a time to share them.

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(Also, I’d never been in the Constitution Avenue entrance to the Archives before, so that was new.)

Really, I worried that my trove of trivia tid-bits on D.C. would drive them crazy, but they insist that they enjoyed it. I hope so. It felt good to share what I’ve learned. A lot of these stories are so cool, but history textbooks never touch them. I’d have been fascinated to learn about Dolley Madison in high school. Especially since, apparently, we’re related to her? So Nana says. Which is pretty darn cool.

No matter where I go from here, the personality of history will stick with me. The names and places never mentioned in a classroom, but that meant so much to this country and to me here, won’t go forgotten. I never expected to feel so natural here, but I am so glad I do. Being a part of D.C. is truly a beautiful thing.

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(But no matter how much I love living here, I’ll still desperately miss these lovely ladies.)

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