It’s still dark outside as I awkwardly shuffle toward the metro station on my first day at my new job at the Pentagon. My fuzzy boots aren’t quite gripping like they used to, and I wave my arms wildly as I skid over the thin sheet of ice that must have formed overnight. This is my boots’ first real winter, and they’re a bit unsure about their new life tromping through a layer of fresh snow instead of glamming up my Fabletics leggings in California.
My roller bag whirs behind me as I wrangle it from veering off course. My face is clenched with the same crazed intensity as when I’m rushing to catch an absurdly early flight before the sun comes up. The early morning January air is sharp in my lungs and my toes have already gone numb. I can’t believe I just voluntarily traded sunny southern California for winter in Washington. Before I moved, my mom assured me that the mild DC winter climate would be a good “transitional living space” from west to east coast. I love you, Mom — but there was nothing mild about this. This was straight up winter. I guess I’m not just living life in recovery from an eating disorder — I’m in recovery from seven years of perfect, unchanging desert sunshine.
I’m full on running now, my overturned roller bag dragging behind me as I arrive at the top of the escalator leading down to the metro. Last night as I was trying to fall asleep, I had pictured this moment in which I’d descend down the escalator Cinderella-style, breezily board the metro, and arrive for my first day of work fresh and dazzling. Now, I’m somehow freezing and sweating profusely at the same time as I struggle to retract my bag’s long handle. Great — it’s stuck. I start kicking at the handle and cursing out loud as to why I thought a roller bag was an acceptable accessory for my first day as a true working professional.
I hear the sound of an incoming train and know there’s no way I can make it down there in time. It’s not even 7am and I feel like I’ve already messed up the entire day! I start to tear up and think about how good it would feel to turn around, get back under the covers, and not have anyone expect anything of me because I’m not ready yet. I’m not ready to be away from my graduate school friends, my improv team (which was more like an improv family), or my therapist. I’m not ready to live life in recovery from an eating disorder on my own. Maybe taking this job was a mistake and I was wrong to think I could burst my California bubble and leave the team of people that had helped me stay afloat. Maybe I need to go back there and hide until I’m 100% ready.
I stand motionless at the top of the escalator as the other commuters bustle past me. I know I need to either go or get out of the way, when a booming voice snaps me out of my terror-induced daze. “HAPPY, HAPPY MONDAY!!” It’s gonna be a GREAT day!”
I whip around and come face to face with a beaming, well-bundled man who hands me a copy of the Washington Examiner. I have zero mental bandwidth to read anything right now, but he is radiating such friendly, warm energy that I can’t help but step toward him and reach out my hand to take one. He smiles again and looks down at my boots. “Oooo weee! Those are some FINE boots. I’m gonna call you Miss Boots!” I burst into laughter and immediately feel my tense muscles relax as I take the newspaper and tuck it under my arm. If I make it down the escalator in the next minute, I can still get to work on time. I thank him and tell him he just saved my day.
I board the crowded metro and take a place next to an intensely focused man in full Army fatigues. I smile at him and he smiles back. A muffled voice cracks over the intercom, “Next stop, Pentagon.”