I swear, if I got a nickel for every shocked expression I received when others learn I live an hour from campus, I’m pretty sure I would have all student loans paid off! It’s funny, because even though UH is thought of as a commuter school, somehow everyone always seems shocked. Usually I hear things like, “Why don’t you move closer?!” or “Isn’t that hard taking that much time out of your day just to drive?”
I’ll be honest; it was not easy making the trip in when I first started going to UH for undergrad back in ’06, but the twice a week commute got easier. Then came my job at Baylor, and suddenly the trip took on a whole new meaning: 7am traffic. After a while it got a little better, but still wasn’t what I looked forward to in the morning.
Fast forward to my first semester at GCSW, when I began enjoying the ride with another student who not only shared the same zip code, but also cohort and field placement! I always advise students to carpool if possible… if not for the better gas mileage, less pollution, or fewer minutes in traffic (hello, HOV lane!) the time spent processing after class was priceless.
The daily drive was beginning to get better.
Then came this academic year. My dear friend had moved downtown for the fall and back to her home state in the spring, and I was left to make the long drive in solo. Apprehensive at first, and remembering the toll road nightmares before GCSW, I found my perspective on the ride beginning to transcend. No longer was it fighting traffic, but with everything else going on (ie. classes, work, beginning the PhD journey, the handful of student groups and committees I was involved in, traveling to conferences, wedding planning, etc.), the drive to and from school became my sanctuary. I wasn’t at risk for compassion fatigue or burnout in my driver seat… in fact, I was able to recharge (it’s funny how solar energy does that to us).
It’s amazing how therapeutic an hour in the car in the morning and afternoon can be. I quickly fell in love with spending that hour every morning marveling at the sky, watching the sunrise (I love it when you can see the rays reaching out, shining through the clouds!), chatting with the people at the toll booth (I purposefully haven’t gotten a tag yet to speed through the toll), listening to music (recently other cars have been watching me sing and bop in my seat to Dave Matthews Band, Mercy Me, Jason Gray, Matt Wertz, and Owl City) and just wholeheartedly being in the moment. It’s beautiful.
Gratitude is another major part of my morning and evening drive. There’s something about the entrance onto the toll road that always reminds me to be grateful for the opportunity I have to wake up and embrace the day, knowing that will not always be the case.
Regardless, with the limited time of self-care I’ve had lately, I find myself so fortunate to have that time each day to just be still, enjoy the moment, breathe, and remember that the journey truly is the reward.