It’s been a minute since last I put on my writing hat while packed into a three-seater on NJ transit or huddled in a corner of Hoboken terminal. My work being heavily digital has gifted me some degree of carpal tunnel and sometimes the thought of clenching my phone a minute longer to write something is enough to deter me from the practice. But so much happens in these minutes, hours spent contained in a metal tube, devoid of service, surrounded by people and on occasion still feeling alone.
Today marks one year for me as a commuter. I refer to other people as tourists whereas I myself was a tourist in this gigantic city system a year ago. I get lost far less often, I can transfer trains, I can help a straggler on the corner and I walk quickly enough to appear to an onlooker like I know where I am heading. While commuting isn’t as romantic as it had been the first spring months I began work, it still entrusts me with forced quality time with myself and for that I am always grateful.
And yet every day, a new experience en route to and from my job, another anomaly of the train uncovered. I lost my mother-in-law at 6 pm on a work night a few weeks back. I had been planning to get drinks with friends and was plucked from this carefree space and transported to one of fear and sorrow. I deliriously trekked to the PATH and sobbed on the train, anchored against the window. I tilted towards the corner to hide my face from view but noone noticed me. Not one soul. I’m not sure if this is good or bad? Perhaps both.
I recall in my writing from about three months ago that I felt as if I was losing my tenderness canvassing the city space. I’m more impatient than I once was. I have trouble unplugging as I feel a sense of urgency to be available. I rarely allot myself the time to be unproductive and feel endless yearning for a moment of calm all the while feeling excited and invigorated to have found work that is stimulating and exciting. When I hit the tunnel and service goes out I am outraged. I refresh the phone as if something will change and magically cell service will cut through water and concrete. Alas, I have to be comfortable sitting with myself and my thoughts for however long that spread of track is. Maybe connectivity is so desired because it prevents me from being in my brain all alone. My college roommate used to tell me that. Try not to reside alone in your head too too long. It can be a scary and vulnerable place.
I still wonder what it would be like to be an adult without immediate access. What would I do on the train in lieu of checking emails or scrolling? Even my reading is interrupted by a buzz or a ring. When I have kids I want to teach them the power of boredom. The joy of being uninfluenced by the forces of popular culture that tell you what needs fixing or who you should aspire to. The allure of disconnecting and daydreaming, without an intended destination. I pray amidst the constant onslaught of information and pressure they will know snippets of a childhood like I had with rollerblades, scraped knees, and conversations happening face to face. I pray I myself get back to this place too. For now, setting my devices aside and gazing out the window at the same landscape will be my solace.