Author’s Note: After nearly a decade on the east coast, it’s time for Mr. & Mrs. Link to head West. In the last ten years, our lives have changed significantly. We moved in together, got married, bought a house, got promotions at work and earned higher education degrees, hiked, drank, ran, ate and welcomed our son to the world. For a gal from Southern California and a guy from Montana, Maryland took some getting used to – the pollen, bugs, humidity, and distance from home made the change all the more difficult. But as time passed, we began to grudgingly put down roots. We even began to feel at home in our adopted land. What follows is Mr. Link’s favorite (and least favorite) parts about living in Maryland. Other posts here.
Top Ten Things I’ll Miss About Maryland
Number 1 – Friends
I can remember making friends in elementary school. It was so easy. In one case, I remember meeting someone new, asking them if they wanted to be friends. They said yes, and that was that. We were friends! By the time you get to high school and college, friendship is a little harder to come by, but still remarkably easy. The school/college condition is ripe for meeting new people who are open to new friends. Routines are still flexible so it’s easy to fit in new friends. But I’ve found many of those friendships are transient; young adulthood is a time of tremendous personal development and people change as they grow up. Those friendships that survive – and even thrive in – that change are rare, but they are also incredibly rewarding.
By the time college was done, forging new friendships got harder. I think it’s a combination of things. Adulthood doesn’t lend itself to meeting new people quite like college does. Work takes up more time and, unlike college, many of those relationships are restricted by the requirements of being professional. People also tend to have established routines with preexisting circles of friends; it can be hard to break into those circles. It certainly takes more time.
And with that in mind, the amazing groups of people that Mrs. Link and I had the honor to call friends was truly mind-blowing. I’ve mentioned before how lucky we were to be surrounded by gifted, generous, amazing people. Many of the people we shared the last decade of our lives with will remain lifelong friends. What I’ll miss is the convenience of their company. We’ll see them from time to time when our travels coincide. We’ll exchange Christmas Cards. But we won’t, at least in the foreseeable future, be able to share the day-to-day experiences that have made our friendships so rewarding.
Our friends in the DMV came from several different sources. In my head, I sort of divided them between D.C. friends and Baltimore friends (this made sense, as we had to drive one way or the other to hang out). Each side had its own quirks and flavors. One of my favorite things to do was to bring the different circles together with things like fondue dinners, ski trips and hiking/camping adventures.
Capitol Hill & the Campaign Trail
Friendship on The Hill are tricky. They remind me of that famous “how do porcupines mate?” scene from The Thomas Crown Affair. Hill staffers tend to be ambitious and inherently distrustful of one another. To make matters worse, we also tend to be type-A personalities, which means we’re all leaders and none followers. That doesn’t always mix well. I found that the best way to forge friendships on the Hill was through shared adversity, and fortunately, this adversity occurs in regular intervals as established by the United States Constitution. They’re called elections.
I went through four elections during my time in D.C.: 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012. As a general rule, the closest friends were the people who were working with me on election day. My “tour” on The Hill lasted longer than most, and as a result, I was one of the last people still working there from the original Senator Burns 108th Congressional staff. When he lost, and we all lost our jobs, we scattered to the wind. Many stayed in D.C., but without an anchor in the capital, that wasn’t going to last.
New staff came and went; some I barely remember, while others I stay in close contact with. I didn’t serve in the military, but I think of my Hill friends as being as close to being comrades in arms as you can get without actually having bullets shot at you. Reagan’s aptly quoted poem about bullfighting can be summarized nicely as “you don’t know, you weren’t there!”
While my D.C. friendships tended to run short and hot, Mrs. Link’s MD/PhD friends at Johns Hopkins were long and adaptable. Her classmates were with us for our entire time we were on the east coast. When we first met them, Tiff and I were the only ones who were married (come to think of it, I think we may have been the only ones who weren’t single, as the transition to med school is notorious for ending relationships). Life was all parties and drinking and debauchery. By the time we left, just about everyone was married, a few had kids and nice dinner parties and game nights replaced kegs and beer bongs.
I’ll never forget the first major impression I had of the caliber of people Tiffany was studying with. It was at the “First Year Talent Show.” It’s a stage production put on by first-year med students as a way to help recruit the next year’s class. By virtue of the fact that they were all medical students at Johns Hopkins we knew these were top-notch scientific minds. But they could also sing and dance. I remember someone playing the piano, behind her back. I remember a video featuring sock puppets. And, most of all, I remember an amazingly choreographed show tunes number based on a song from the Broadway production of Chicago – “The First Year Tango.”
Through the shared experience of medical school, the PhD process and everything that we did together between, these friendships changed in time, but remain incredibly rewarding for us. We certainly miss everyone!
Too often in cities, the Robert Frost quote about fences and neighbors is true. Except, you don’t even need a fence these days; you just come and go without more than a casual greeting when you happen to pass one another.
Mrs. Link and I were lucky to have forged some very rewarding friendships with our neighbors at the Sierra Villas condo complex off Snowflake Court. One neighbor we dragged in for drinks after work one random night. Others we met during Snowmageddon.
Regardless of how we met, having someone nearby to come over at the drop of a hat to drink a beer, throw some meat on the grill or just hang out was absolutely amazing.
Volleyball & Kickball
Mrs. Link got involved in a volleyball league through Hopkins. She’s a very talented setter, or so I’m told by people who know more about it than I do. Anyway, this activity expanded our friendship opportunities beyond the walls of her specific MD-PhD class in Baltimore. Eventually the athletics circle shifted to adult kickball, which was also competitive, but with more beer. Many of the closest friendships we forged resulted directly from these sports.
The Capitol Hill Tubing Society
I’ve already written extensively about the Tubing Society so I’ll be quick. Just like sports expanded the circle in Baltimore, the CHTS introduced us to new friends in the D.C. area. Given the propensity for outdoor activities, many of these friends became hiking and camping buddies as well.
The Montana State Society
The Montana State Society is a group of Montana enthusiasts in the DMV. The Society is famous for the annual D.C. Testy Fest and hosting an annual Cat-Griz football watch party. While I was involved with the Testy Fest in a shirt-design capacity for years, in 2011 I became the President of the organization. Working with a gifted group of officers, we hosted a number of really fun events and revitalized an ailing organization. Although working for members of the Montana Congressional Delegation kept me in touch with Montanans on a regular basis, many great friendships grew out of my position with the Montana State Society.