The picture will mislead. While there are cars and traffic backups, I am completely unaffected by the hassle and stress that could come from my morning commute.
On all days that weather allows, I walk to my place of employment.
I’ve referred to this briefly in earlier posts, but my daily walks are vital to what I have become. The topic for the writing challenge I am participating in this month is Slice of Life, so I see some relevance.
Until I was seven, I lived in a town called Piscataway, the next town over from Dunellen, where I live now. I walked to school each day with Tammy and Ricky from next door, who were bigger than I and could look after me. In second grade, I moved to a rural town in southern New Jersey, and I had to take a bus. For years, I missed Piscataway, and I missed walking to school.
When I became a teacher, I did my best to live close to where I taught. I wanted to keep my commute short, but I also wished to have a strong connection to the communities I served. When I taught at Queen of Peace High School in northern New Jersey, I truly achieved the balance I had sought. I lived less than a mile from school, and I not only walked each day, but I attended Mass every morning at the church that administered our school, and I became active in the parish.
Life changes, though, and within a few years, I was teaching in a public school and driving forty-five minutes each way. This went on for several years as I was willing to make sacrifices in order to build other things for myself.
And life continues to change. Sometimes our objectives are elusive, but true fulfillment comes from within. Relatively recently, at the least likely of moments, I chose to move to the town next to my school district, where I have taught for nearly two decades. During these years, I have made many friends. Some are colleagues, some are the parents of former students, some are simply residents whom I have come to know. Some of my former students are now in their thirties and have kept in touch. And despite the satisfaction I have cultivated within, I am fortunate to have earned the appreciation of some people in the community who have valued my work and my involvement in local organizations.
On my walks to school, I sometimes get honks and waves. Sometimes strangers stuck in backups on Washington Avenue roll their windows down to tell me how happy I look walking every day. Sometimes students wave to me from the deli as they walk in to get snacks. And one fifth-grade student sometimes runs to catch up to me, and we talk about Star Wars, Legos, and his family, all of whom have always been kind to me.
I have taken lately to saying that there are many things external to me that I do not necessarily need, but I value them deeply. I see a meaningful connection between my internal impulse to simplify my life and some of the external comforts and connections that have resulted.
I consider myself blessed, and I am grateful.