My Morning Commute

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.

9 thoughts on “My Morning Commute

  1. I love that you walk daily. How far is the walk? I go back and forth on this myself. The idea of being part of the community out where I work is a lovely one. But also, parents wanting an impromptu conference over my shopping cart full of wine doesn’t seem fun. Or kids trick or treating at my door! I actually love my commute of about 45 minutes. It allows me to set up and then process my day. With three kids, it has been a saving grace for me.

    1. I walk 1.7 miles each way, and it is meditative for me. I see parents and their kids everywhere, but it doesn’t bother me. I teach in a special town.

      1. That’s wonderful! I work and live in very (Chicago) suburban areas. All kind of the same. I bet I would feel differently if I worked in a smaller area.

  2. I love the topic of commutes! I don’t know why. I think it just reveals so much about a person.
    Just this morning, my youngest daughter mentioned, “Dad lives so close to school.” (He does, a 1 minute drive. They’d walk, but it’s not safe on the busy country road with no sidewalks.) And I said, “That must be so nice!” And she balked. “No, I don’t like it! I need this drive.” (It’s about 7 minutes for us.) Which totally makes sense to me… a little bridge between home and school. The carefully selected music, the little chats with me, maybe a last bite of breakfast. It gets her in the right mindset.
    My oldest and I commute to the middle school, which is only 3.5 minutes away. It’s mostly a blessing, but I do miss the transitional period sometimes. One job I had, a small publishing house in Boston, I had a quarter of a mile walk. It was too short! But I did love the walking part.
    Personally, my favorite commute is one that involves a short walk, a short ride on public transportation, and then another short walk. I achieved this in both San Francisco and NYC, and I was really in my sweet spot.
    Oh, one more thing — I did really love walking my daughter to public school in Brooklyn. I said it felt like being inside Sesame Street. I felt very connected to everyone and the joyful greetings the kids gave each other as one would walk out of a building and spot a pal, was really heartwarming.
    Your commute sounds just perfect and I love how you connected it to a bigger shift in your life. “my internal impulse to simplify my life and some of the external comforts and connections that have resulted.”… Sounds like a life lived in alignment, and that quite often results in contentment.

    1. It sounds like you’ve lived quite the life! San Francisco? Boston? NYC? Sesame Street? (Haha!)

      I completely relate to the walk-drive-walk commute, too.

      So, the last part of your comment—once again!—reassures me that my point is coming across. Thank you for offering such meaningful remarks on my writing. It encourages me to keep trying.

  3. I taught music at my parish school for 23 years before three schools merged into the one at which I teach now. While I never walked to school even though I could have, living in this community has truly been a gift. Some of my current students are children of former students. Hopefully, I retire before I find one of their grandchildren in my class! 😂

    Your walk sounds wonderful!

  4. Oh, how I would love to walk to school each day. My small town has sidewalks up near the courthouse square, but the rest of the county is rural rolling hills, a highway or two, and country dirt back roads. Think John Denver and you’ve pretty much got the picture. This part made me stop and reflect: Sometimes our objectives are elusive, but true fulfillment comes from within. Yes, I agree! This is a nice slice today. I agree with Amy – commuting is a fascinating topic, and I often think about this a lot more when I’m traveling – who takes a bus, who takes a train or a subway or a ferry or even a plane ride to get to work. All the ways we get where we are going, as a prompt, would bring an interesting cross-section of slices.

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