Cities Project Culture

A Love Letter to DC

by Svetlana Legetic

September 16, 2014

When approached to write this letter, I was asked to be emotional and real and true to my feelings about Washington DC, and about how it has shaped me as an individual (and entrepreneur). If you know me, you know that I am neither outwardly emotional nor nostalgic, and so this was, well, a little bit of a challenge. But because it turns out that I do truly, legitimately love this place, here goes...

Aside from Novi Sad, in former Yugoslavia, I have spent more time in Washington DC than anywhere else in my entire life. When I moved here eleven years ago – architecture degree in hand and really no clue what to do with myself – it was on a whim and with no certainty whatsoever that it would be on a long term basis. I got a job and then an apartment and thought about it all the way most 23-year-olds tend to: I had a lackadaisical attitude about settling in, and one eye always on some other place or person or project outside these city limits, where I knew (or assumed?) brighter lights and bigger city streets were waiting. [

Yet after a few years here, DC really started to get to me, and to really get me. I think that's sort of the appeal of this city. My love for it and my realization of that love snuck up on me, as it does most others I’ve met since I’ve arrived. DC, for better or for worse, does not seem to be a love at first sight kind of town.

I am not sure when the exact moment I knew this was happening was: Perhaps it was when the basement of Saint-ex became my personal dance em- porium, or when I started biking pretty much everywhere,  except up 15th or 16th Street (horrible hills await there, just stick with 11th or 18th). Or maybe it was when the city, as big as it is, started to feel like a village in the best way imaginable. Commutes became second nature, shop owners became friends, waving at me as I went about my day. I was regular here.

And then in 2006, the urban core of DC really started to stretch beyond what I, and others, perhaps, had ever expected. Businesses and music venues began opening farther and farther east, bringing attention to areas that for a long time were never even considered as cultural or dining destinations. Museums and theatres started to incorporate less traditional programming, creating more opportunities to consume interesting and creative culture beyond what I had come to know about or expect from DC exhibits. And with this, new and awesome and interesting local people emerged as if from nowhere, and others started moving in, each a part of something that deserved the collective appreciation and support of the town. For as much as it meant to me personally, a lot of these more fringe experiences weren’t getting attention in the mainstream press outlets. The idea of supporting and growing this new cultural landscape seemed natural - and I set out to try and do so on my own, at first through a silly Myspace blog and then later, on a larger scale, on the site and production company I co-founded, BrightestYoungThings.com. [

At that time, I didn’t even own a laptop and I was a horrible photographer (although not much has changed in that sense); add to that the fact that English was my second language and in any other town this would have been a recipe for disaster. But not in DC; DC wanted – and needed – a cheerleader. We wrote about anything and everything those first days and months developing the blog, including early landmark stories about the time friends and I went to get our shoes shined with Chuck Brown, and about the afternoon we spent with Jose Andres and his hams in Bethesda. What was initially purely a labor of love, five years later is a very full-time job for me, our staff and an ever-growing group of contributing writers and photographers on BrightestYoungThings, working tirelessly to produce, support and promote the efforts of all we find worth getting excited about in of this burgeoning city. [

Finally, last year, after a full decade of living here, I succumbed and bought a condo. Much like the city it is in, it was not cheap, and it is not big, but it is perfect for me. At twelve floors, it is also in the tallest (and one of the oldest) buildings in DC. My first week in, I went to the roof, the first outdoor space I could ever even partially call my own, and looked out at the city and up at the sky, and I felt fully and completely at home. Every street I could see was a street I walk, every hill a hill I bike, and every corner holds a memory I have made.

So while for a long time I was reluctant to call this place home, it is this place where I have found myself – as cheesy as that may sound – and it is only this place that supports me being me each and every day. 

 

A native of Novi Sad, Serbia, Svetlana Legetic came to Washington DC in 2003 and took the city's social scene by storm. An architect turned blogger turned trend empress, Legetic was inspired by all that DC had to offer and founded the blog Brightest Young Things, which has since become the go-to place for events and trends around DC.

 

 

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The GOOD Cities Project is a five-month collaboration with Ford, exploring how we make our cities and how our cities make us. As part of the project, GOOD and Ford have commissioned cultural creatives across the country to help illuminate and celebrate the rich and vastly diverse points of view that make up each city's individual character. Each week, we will be exploring attributes that we believe are fundamental to living meaningful urban lives.

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A Love Letter to DC