(I still worry but don't hurry so much)
Back when I had a forty-minute commute on I-81 South I used to drive really fast, pushing the car up past seventy and toward eighty, often going fast through terrible Upstate New York weather. I white-knuckled the wheel even in good conditions worrying that sirens and lights would appear in my mirror. The commute filled me with anxiety but each day I tried to shave a few seconds off the drive. It seemed necessary to get there fast and faster.
One day I did math in my head as I often do when I'm driving. How much time, I wondered, was I saving by going seventy-five instead of sixty-five? I thought about it from Lafayette to Tully, but the numbers were all wrong. I figured it again through the wind shear roaring across the flat straight-away in Preble, getting the same results but not believing them. I couldn't possibly be saving only six minutes. No way. That couldn't be right. At school I worked it out on paper, incorporating the fact that I'm not on the highway the whole time and found I was saving at most only four minutes. That was the sum total return on my anxiety and risk-taking.
I slowed down the next day.
Later I figured out that my car gets its best mileage around sixty miles an hour. I found the right lane and let traffic pass me by. The first day going slowly I had a thought which got me laughing: Why the hell am I hurrying to get to a job I don't like? I mean really. I asked the question out loud alone in the car and laughed for a mile. It was easy to go slowly after that.
Since my first teaching job I've come to school way early so I can enjoy peace and the quiet. I love being in school alone. Sometimes the hall lights aren't even on. I've kept to that tradition even though just walking into my school pulls my mood down no matter how buoyant I hope to be. It's not like I need to be there early or that I'm doing school work. Most times I'm writing or reading. There's no need to go in early and every reason to stay. This morning, despite anxiously feeling I was late, I sat on our couch, opened my book, and read for twenty minutes instead of going in early.
Like my slow drive, a question came that made me happy. This time I smiled instead of laughing because by I'm no longer shocked at the revelation: Why would I leave my book early for a job I don't like? I mean really.
I can't quit the job yet, but I can confine it to the smallest space necessary and lock it up. Driving fast and leaving home early allow the job to take up too many hours on the clock of my life. There are better ways to spend my precious time and invest in a better life.
Friday morning because I left "late" I was still on the couch reading Jeff Tweedy's memoir when one of my daughters came down to get ready for school. A sleepy teenager, she didn't have much to say, but I kissed her head and there's no way to measure the impact that had on my day. At the job I still felt the warmth of loving her carrying me through to quitting time.
Of late I'm asking how do I want to live this life and at what pace? Sometimes it amounts to almost nothing. Friday, I folded the blanket after reading on the couch. I enjoyed taking a moment to fold and slow down. I felt no need to hurry. Talk about being on time.
I don't want to be late to my own life just to arrive early at my job. There's time to slow, to read, and fold a blanket. There is time to kiss my daughter's head, to say good morning, to feel love in my life, and to go write about it.