Define the word, “commute.” Or better yet, tell me what the phrase “commuting to work” means to you. For the past six months, I have heard, used, and loathed the term above; and one thing is for sure, there is no definitive answer. Now wait, don’t jump to conclusions or rush to your nearest web browser to type “dictionary.com” into the search box and prove my little theory wrong (because let’s keep it 100, no one uses an actual dictionary anymore). Obviously, the word “commute” has a definition attached to it, but so does the word “love.” Poll 50 people and ask them what love is. I doubt that all 50 will recite, verbatim, that it is “a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.” Dictionary.com is a wonderful tool and all, but sometimes it just falls short of our expectations and experiences.
But back to what I was saying, the word “commute” does not mean the same thing to everyone. There are those who drive for 45 minutes, those who take two subways and walk a couple blocks, and those unbelievably lucky souls who live within walking distance of their office doors (damn every last one of you, PS). For me, commuting meant none of these things. No, for me, commuting meant much more. Commuting itinerary as follows:
Wake up at 6:15AM
Leave parents’ house by 7:10AM
Drive to the ferry before 7:34AM departure across the Hudson (Newburgh à Beacon)
Take the 7:50AM Metro North train
Arrive at Grand Central at 9:17AM
Get to work at 9:45AM
**Work from 10AM-7PM (This really shouldn’t be factored into the commuting itinerary, but just so my pity party has more guests in attendance, why not?)
Leave work to catch a 7:21PM Metro North train
Arrive in Beacon at 8:45PM
Take the ferry across the Hudson and walk to car by 8:55PM
Get to parents’ house by 9:10PM
And this was my schedule, Monday through Friday, November through May, with no spare time in between. My apologies, but when people use the phrase “commute to work,” I don’t necessarily trust the validity of their statement until they map out exactly what said commute entails. If your “commute” means saying good morning to the doorman on your way out of your apartment building, hailing a cab in the rain, and getting to work 20 minutes later, kindly shut your mouth and never complain again, I literally feel no ounce of remorse for your frizzy hair and I will forever deem you a spoiled brat. Forgive me for being bitter (because who the hell wouldn’t be), but until you’ve walked in my commuter-friendly shoes for as long (or God bless you, longer than) me, don’t expect my condolences.
As much as I tried to fight against it, commuting took over my life. My daily routine was altered to compliment every single minute that I spent traveling to work. Exercise and Pretty Little Liars were traded for Lean Cuisines and Temple Run. Long, hot showers only existed on the weekends. The closest I came to Happy Hour was via Twitter updates from friends I had no time to hang out with. It was no bueno. But I had no choice. Moving to the city meant spending money that I hadn’t saved up until that point. Between rent, food, laundry, a Metro card, and engaging in a healthy, 20something New York lifestyle, the numbers just weren’t adding up. After about six months of saving, researching safe neighborhoods outside of Manhattan (the average entry-level salary and Manhattan apartment prices just don’t see eye-to-eye), and figuring out my roommate situation, I was ready to start looking at places. We looked low and high, far and wide, after work on a Wednesday and early on a Saturday morning, and finally, we found one. It wasn’t perfect, and it was far from my dream apartment, but it was suitable for first timers like me and my roommate. It would be home for the next year.
Herein lies the difficult part; the five reasons why my excitement to move into the city and end the torturous commuter life I was living came to a tire-screeching halt. Brace yourselves, this could will get emotional.
For those of you who don’t know me that well, this is and will always be (unless I’m rich and famous someday), the bane of my existence, the dagger to my heart, the hangover to my drunk. We’ll call it Kristina’s Kryptonite, only because I’m obsessed with alliteration. I’ve always been that girl who works a lot and spends a lot more. Manhattanville Mentality: My last paycheck was $200 and it’s Friday? Screw it, I’m going to H&M like the baller I am. Not stopping there, grabbing a Grande Iced Skinny Caramel Macchiato (Really, Starbucks? Not only do I have to spend an arm and a leg for your coffee bean creations, but I also have to sound slow when I order? Enough is enough). Can’t forget to buy a bottle of Svedka on my way home so I can pregame and avoid spending money at the bars. But wait, I’m a baller, so I’m going to order the three vodka tonics that simultaneously cause me to trip over sidewalks and forget about how much money I spent that night. Wake up on Saturday morning, chug Gatorade, find out that I have exactly $32 leftover, and wonder how I’m going to last the next two weeks. This is how I spent my weekends in college. In all honesty, I’m not even sure how I managed to make it out without more than just student loans to my name. Above all, this is probably going to be my biggest struggle. Rent and laundry have to be more important than that maxi dress and those sunglasses. Sad, but true.
Who likes doing laundry? Who likes carrying pounds of dirty clothes down three flights of stairs and over two blocks? Who likes scrambling for enough quarters? My point exactly.
New York City is an amazing place to live. Restaurants of all kinds, bars open all night, non-stop transportation. So can someone please explain to me why the apartments are sized to house small animals instead of human beings? The cost of a studio on the Upper West Side matches the cost of a two-story house in Texas, including the driveway. Why is space so limited? Do they make closets that small merely to coerce you into spending more money on more furniture to store your crap? There’s no space, and there’s nothing any of us can do it about it.
I come from a meatball-loving, sauce-on-Sunday, eat-till-you-drop kind of Italian family. My mom cooks at least five nights out of the week. And when I say cook, I’m talking full-out meals. So to walk in her footsteps is intimidating, to say the least. Living on a budget makes scouring the aisles for sage and thyme and just the right kind of provolone cheese extremely difficult. Cookbooks, 30-minute meals, and frozen food WILL be my start-up survival kit.
Of course, this was the hardest part for me. Most college graduates cringe at the thought of moving back home with their families after their four drunken years come to a close, but it was different for me. I’ve always been close with my family. My decision to dorm in college was a crazy concept to my parents; and mind you, Manhattanville is an hour and 15 minutes away from their house. My two younger sisters, my parents, and I have this crazy bond that I can’t even really put into words. Naturally, when it came time to pack all of my clothes and zip the last suitcase, we were all quiet. About halfway to Astoria, my youngest sister (11) got upset, which caused my mother to get upset, which caused the entire car to burst into tears (minus my Dad, because even if he did cry, I wouldn’t blow his cover by announcing it to the blog world). And it was then, in the back of our jam-packed blue Nissan Quest, crossing the GW Bridge in bumper-to-bumper traffic, when it all came to light—how painfully beautiful it all was, this cycle we call life.
Moments like these are rare to capture and even harder to hold onto. We’re constantly in motion, forever chained to our jobs, our responsibilities, our necessities. When do we look around at the life we’ve built and appreciate the means in which it came to fruition? Few and far in between are the times we watch our parents and recognize the sacrifices they’ve made for us; the $50 bill they hand you for groceries when they haven’t owned a new pair of jeans in two years, the 8AM reminder text to pay your student loans so those greedy bastards stop harassing you, the leftovers they set aside so you don’t go to bed hungry, the look in their eyes when they realize you’re growing up too fast. These are all the things that life hands us. These are all the things that it prevents us from cherishing because we’re too busy moving, always in-transit, planning the future before experiencing the present. Life gives this to us. It gives us the fear of starting anew, paired with the promise that we’ll always have a home to go back to.
I’ve never been one to welcome change. Matter of fact, I usually slam the door in its face until I’m both physically and emotionally forced to look through the peephole and say Hi. As someone who’s been scared, anxious, and too emotional for my own good, take my advice: Step out of your comfort zone. If it were up to my safe side, I would still be living at home, either working locally or continuing to make a four-hour commute every day. But who ever got anywhere by playing it safe? The greatest minds of our time will tell you that taking risks is the first step to success. Our visionaries, our legends, our role models—they will encourage you to accept change. Your dreams don’t come true if you’re too lazy to find change for laundry or too nervous about burning the chicken you were making for dinner. Never forget your roots, never lose sight of the present, and never fear the future. Growing up is a part of life; grow with it.