It struck me recently, in my usual in-denial-until-the-last-minute way, that going to graduate school means leaving DC.

I took a walk at dusk today and stopped at all my haunts: the soldier on horseback pointing his copper arm at the Capitol, the dry cleaners with the pink awnings I once wrote a story about, my old row house with the Portuguese landlady living downstairs. I saw the woman with the little dog who is a Chekhov character in linen pants and a bob. I stumbled over the same broken cobblestones I always do.

It’s taken me almost three years, but I’ve built a life for myself here. I have a neighborhood, a house, work, friends, colleagues, people I recognize on the sidewalk. I have haunts.

And to leave, having struggled in earnest to get to this point, is sad.  But the other thing I’m realizing lately is that this is what life is. You build it as best you can, and then a corner crumbles away or a new life is waiting that’s better or you can’t bear to stay. We’re always moving on in one way or another.

“Life is change,” says a note from my grandfather written in my middle school graduation card. I found the card a few weeks ago, when I was in Minnesota and attempting to clean out the junk drawer I spent twenty-two years filling. If I believed in fate — sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t — I’d think that I was supposed to find that card again, now that I’m facing a similarly daunting change.

In a little over a month, I’ll be walking at dusk in a new town. And everything will begin again.

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