On my last full day in D.C. as a resident–as I see it for the moment, I checked things off of a list of lasts:
go to the third floor of the Smithsonian where I took the coolest forensic anthropology class
eat at the GW Deli
sit at my favorite places on campus
and, visit the Reading Room of the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress as a student.
The last time I was here, I was a doe-eyed freshman hoping to channel her inner Hermoine as she studied for a chemistry exam she aimed to ace. I did maybe 10 problems and then spent the hours letting my eyes roam over the intricate work on the walls and ceiling. And when that wasn’t enough, I took a slow walk around the stacks of books, running my fingers over the countless spines that held the ultimate key to power: knowledge.
I thought that being in our nation’s greatest atmosphere of wisdom would help the chemistry sink into my pores and carve its place in my brain. And while there is something to be said about the grandiosity of this academic arena that sends shivers through my spine, I still had to put the work into learning my chemistry (which I did later from my plain desk in my plain, crowded dorm room, with a plain lamp and a bottle of soda).
I wanted to come back here as I tied up the loose ends of my undergraduate career to feel the shivers of grandiosity once more as I look forward to a path of work, travel, and graduate degrees. I was hoping for the wisdom of the great minds whose words weigh down these floors to sink into my pores as I face life’s next big decisions: What jobs to accept? What career path do I want? What should I be studying next? How can I make my way across the globe again?
The LOC doesn’t quite work like that, but there’s a calm that settles over you as you gaze at the intricacy and feel those book spines: the wisdom that with a lot of hard work, everything will be okay.