A Zen Approach To The Daily Commute.

Now that I have my first grown-up job, I’m discovering the hellishness of commuting and how stressful it can be to someone as Type A as I am. I’m currently staying with my aunt and uncle in the Maple Leaf neighborhood of Seattle (just slightly north of the U-District and slightly south of Northgate), and I commute to Bellevue everyday. I consulted MapQuest, which told me that it is approximately twelve miles from my dwelling place to my work place, and that it should take me nineteen minutes to get from Point A to Point B. I can’t help but laugh at that, because I spend anywhere from thirty-five minutes to an hour and ten minutes everyday, each way, commuting.

My personality does not mesh well with my commute. First of all, I’m completely anal about being on time. I think I have a punctuality complex because my parents are never on time for anything, so I’m really the only person in my family who can be trusted to be somewhere when I say I’ll be there. And I don’t believe in being on time per se, but I do firmly believe in being ten minutes early everywhere I go. In my commute, I leave at the same time each morning (8am) and never arrive to work at the same time two days in a row. For example, it took me thirty minutes to get to work on Monday, forty-five minutes on Tuesday, an hour and five minutes on Wednesday, fifty minutes on Thursday, and forty minutes today. The inconsistency of my arrival time at work is enough to make me pull all of my hair out in frustration.

Second of all, I’m not the type of person who does well when I’m not able to do something productive. I’ve never been the type to vegetate in front of a television; I like to always be going, acting, doing. Being stuck in traffic is almost like torture in that regard, because I really can’t accomplish anything during my commute, except the obvious end goal of arriving at work. A couple days ago, I tried to read a book whilst sitting in stop-and-go traffic, and though I was able to read a few pages, it was still a little too difficult to be able to focus on not rear-ending the car in front of me and to be engaged in my book simultaneously. All I can really do is just drive, which isn’t entirely unpleasant, but when you have to do so unnecessarily for two hours each day it begins to be wearying and burdensome.

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Today while I was driving however, my mind was in a different place. Instead of letting my heart begin to palpitate at an alarmingly rapid rate, succumbing to road rage, or cursing the architects of the 520 bridge for not building three lanes of traffic instead of two (all of which are generally daily occurrences), I allowed myself to relax. I remembered that all of the people who clog up the lanes of the freeway and keep me from getting to work in timely manner are going through the same wretched experience of commuting that I am, and that many have to commute a lot further than I do. I remembered that, after seven months of unemployment, I have a job, and I decided that being employed and have a crappy commute far outweighs the discouragement and boredom and lack of a sense of purpose that accompanied being unemployed. I remembered that I have a boss and co-workers who are understanding of the fact that my commute is inconsistent and unpredictable. I realized that there was absolutely nothing that I could do differently that would make my commute better or shorter or more productive. And then I looked out my window and saw the sun hanging low over Lake Washington, making the water glimmer and glow with warmth, and I realized that this beautiful moment was mine and mine alone, and that I was grateful for it.

I hope this feeling wasn’t a fluke. I think every day is going to be an exercise in patience and in letting go of the need for control, embracing the strange loveliness of the wild unknown. And I welcome it.

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