My husband and I have decided to stay in our apartment for another year. For a while we toyed with the idea of renting a house. But just the thought of moving with a four-month-old baby was so exhausting, we decided to stay put.
Next spring we’ll think about buying a house – I’d definitely like more space and a yard – but we plan to stay in Silver Spring, Maryland. We like it here. We can metro into downtown DC in less than 20 minutes, we’re within walking distance to Rock Creek Park, and though downtown Silver Spring isn’t as cool as DC neighborhoods, there’s a bubble tea place, an indie movie theater, several yoga studios and a T.J. Maxx, so I’m happy with that.
Depending on where we buy a house, I may or may not be able to continue tutoring part-time at Washington International School in Northwest DC. Right now it takes me about 20 minutes to drive the 6.4 miles there, and then, because of rush hour, it takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to drive back home. I can deal with this ridiculousness because of podcasts, but if we move any further north or east, the commute won’t be worth it.
What’s ironic is that back in 2010, I used to live in DC and commute up to Silver Spring to teach. Back then I didn’t want to live in Silver Spring because I thought it was a lame suburb and all the cool kids lived in DC. My, how the times have changed.
Back then I didn’t have a car, and so I often got driven around by other teachers for off-campus events or after-work happy hours. I was also the volleyball coach my second year there, so I spent a lot of time in the front of the school bus as we fought afternoon traffic to get the girls to various schools for their games.
These days, as I’m driving around suburban Maryland, I’ll sometimes have flashbacks to sitting in that school bus, watching the same scenery flash by. Except back then I never knew where I was. I didn’t know the difference between Bethesda and Chevy Chase. I didn’t know that Wisconsin Avenue turned into Rockville Pike north of the beltway, or that you could take Connecticut all the way from Northwest DC into northern Silver Spring.
When someone else is driving, you don’t pay attention to details like street names or exit numbers. When you have to drive yourself, on the other hand, you not only pay attention to where you’re going, you also start to figure out how the roads connect. Even if you rely heavily on your GPS, after a while you begin to form a map in your mind.
It occurred to me the other day that the difference between driving and being driven is much like the difference between writing a book and reading one. When you’re reading, you get to sit back and enjoy the ride. But when you’re writing, you have a mental map, and you have to figure out how the story roads connect. Even if you take the scenic route, you need to get your readers from the starting point to the destination… and that’s not always easy. In fact, it can be as frustrating as DC rush hour traffic.
Speaking of which, the other day I was stuck in stop-and-go traffic on 495 and decided to take a different exit than my usual one. As I followed my GPS home, I suddenly realized how a road I was familiar with connected to another road I was familiar with, and my mental map of suburban Maryland grew a bit more sophisticated. It was, in it’s own little way, sort of exciting.
It was similar to the way I feel when I make a new connection in my writing. It’s exciting when I suddenly realize a new direction to take, or a way I can bridge two ideas.
That’s the nice thing about both driving and writing: being in the driver’s seat with the radio (or a podcast) blaring, going my own way.
Watch out, Silver Spring: mama’s here to stay!