Two years ago, I looked out the fourth-floor window of my office building with a familiar feeling of despair. An ominous black cloud had just broken into a thunderstorm, and the rain pelted the windows so hard that I could scarcely see the parking lot below.
“Gonna be a long drive tonight,” my coworker said.
A feeling of resignation gripped the office as my colleagues and I got ready to leave the office. It was already 4:45 pm and gridlock was imminent. We filed out of the elevator on the ground floor and somberly uttered our parting mantra, “drive safe.”
As I sat idly on the highway staring out at the sea of brake lights ahead of me, I thought about a friend of mine who had just been complaining about their 30-minute drive to work each way. All I could think about was how lucky they were; I would kill to have a 30-minute commute!
A lot has changed in two years. Perspective is a funny thing, and in light of recent events, it seems wise that I should commute now down memory lane.
My time as a commuter has been a constant cycle of progress followed by ingratitude. When I first started out eight years ago, I took the bus to work. Actually, it was three buses and a 20-minute walk, which was three miles uphill, in two feet of snow in my bare feet.
Okay, that last part isn’t quite true. I was wearing heels.
On average, it took about 90 minutes or more each way. I’m sure that given the GTA’s less than stellar commuting standard, my journey was far from being the worst. However, those were definitely the dark ages of transit for me. It was a seemingly endless purgatory of cold bus shelters, cramped seats, and missed transfers.
After about six months of obsessively saving for my own car, the magical day finally arrived when I rolled into work driving my new, gumball-blue Toyota Yaris. My bus days were officially behind me, and I was ecstatic that I could now relax in my own car, blasting my own music, while shaving about half an hour off my transit time.
It was perhaps only two days later that I had resorted to cursing every car that cut me off, and every red light that prolonged my decidedly intolerable trip home. The next six years yielded many tales that included fender-benders, traversing through “snowmageddons”, and narrowly escaping the Toronto flood of 2013.
Near the end of 2014, I took a great new job that was much closer to where I lived. Just like that, my commute was less than ten minutes each way.
I went home for lunch almost every day. Naturally, I took to complaining about how many stop signs there were along the way.
Even so, I would sit on my couch at home during the lunch hour and think, “Now this is work-life balance!”
Unfortunately, in a recent stroke of destiny, this commuting bliss has been rendered temporary. As I write this, there is a sign on the front lawn that reads, “SOLD”. There’s a good chance that my family and I will be moving to the next town over. This could mean a commuting time of up to 30 minutes each way.
I’d been sulking about the prospect for weeks.
Then a couple days ago, I stumbled across one of my old blog posts about my 90-minute commute, and I remembered my own thoughts from two years ago that I’d feel lucky to only have a 30 drive.
So maybe work-life balance doesn’t simply mean having a 5-minute drive to work. Maybe part of it is having the right attitude about a drive that’s doable.
In eight years, I figure I’ve clocked around 4000 hours of commuting. That’s more than 160 days solid that I’ve spent sitting in a car shaking my fist out the window, zoning out to an album I’ve heard a hundred times, or clunking my head repeatedly against the steering wheel.
But that’s nothing when you consider that the average person spends 3 years of their life doing laundry, 4 years making business calls, and 7 years suffering from insomnia.
So I’ll keep it in perspective, and keep on rollin’ – whether it’s for 3 minutes or 30.
What’s your commute like? Comment below!