Suddenly I See ...

There is something about a Dunkin' Donuts that will always get me. Aside from their actual offerings (that blueberry cake donut is so hard for me to pass up despite the fairly unnatural color revealed upon biting into it), the smell that hits me when I walk in jolts so many memories awake. It brings to mind one specific moment in time that led to so many more. One almost child-like moment that pushed me into my now adult-like life.  

I was sitting across from my mom, my three sisters crowded at the table with us, when KT Tunstall's Suddenly I See came on and I started to cry. Yes, that would be the song from The Devil Wears Prada and, no, I was not tearing up because it was slightly overplayed at the time. It was a song that reminded me of the drive up the New Jersey Turnpike (usually tear-inducing in and of itself) to look for my first apartment in New York City. And here I was, saying goodbye to my family after they had just helped me move into said apartment.  

I was overwhelmed. A feeling that even after ten years in the City never really went away.  It just shifted in its intensity and origin. And I grew to love it and even thrive off of it. There was the beginning years spent toiling away in various J.Crew stores installing window displays, dressing mannequins and sitting front row as the very brand that drove my passion for visual merchandising, hit all time highs. This was punctuated by the overly frequent overnights and early mornings that would lead me back to Dunkin' Donuts for a caffeine fix - again, greeting me with that scent.  

After breezing past the one-year mark, which I initially worried I would not make, I noted a few changes. I found myself moving up in the visual merchandising world, leaving a company I had been at for 12 years for a nine-to-five, something so new to me. I also cheated on my beloved Dunkin' Donuts, discovering the affordable addiction of an iced-doppio from Starbucks. But what were changing the most were the things I wasn't even aware of at that point. I was making friends - true friends, not just fun pals that would fleetingly come in and out of my life. My best friend from high school and my cousin were cushions when I moved into the City and I would not have survived that first year without them. But their lives were taking them to new adventures that left us all geographically further apart.

And so that overwhelming feeling would meander back into my life.  

But I was better prepared this time. I discovered people that were like me and yet so different - symbolic of the very City we met in. Individuals that I simply worked with and, years down the road, joined in on their weddings. True personalities that guided me to a career and yet taught me how to appreciate the down time. Kindred souls who, despite the initial skepticism towards me, found common ground and rare connections that will never be lost.  

For a City so tied to its gritty image and cold persona, I found just the opposite there. I found humor and authenticity and solidarity. I found some of the most heartbreaking times of my life eased by those around me. I found some of the most humorous times of my life reflective of those same relationships.

I found that you truly couldn’t judge a book (or city) by its cover.    

And then, just as abruptly as I moved there, I left. A quick jaunt to Ohio (!) and I was packing up and moving on. An experience that I was hesitant to take, but curious to try was not new to me, so I went. And that overwhelming feeling that shadowed me in my choices in the City seemed to take a step back, as if I had finally earned my reprieve. This trek didn't run the ten year course that New York did, landing me back in D.C. with my family and leaving me to wonder if I gave it up all too quickly. I still can't put my finger on the proper answer to that one, but maybe a quick trip to Dunkin' Donuts will help me figure it out.

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Written by Jill