For the past eleven years, I spent nearly three and a half hours per day traveling to work. That equals a horrible grand total of 17 hours per week! Finding out this fun fact usually led my colleagues to ask, “are you nuts?” But as recent research suggests, I’m certainly not the only one undertaking such a commute on a daily basis! I’ve started an exciting new position at a new university and while I have wholeheartedly embraced my now under 30 minute commute to work, my experiences on the road have taught me some valuable lessons over the years.
Expect the Unexpected
Spending a long time on the road each day means that you become adept at expecting the unexpected. Whether it’s a driver pulling in front of you without warning or someone slamming on their breaks at the last minute, such problems and challenges pop up as frequently and unexpectedly in student affairs as they do on the highway. Learning to be observant, monitoring my environment and surroundings, and anticipating what may happen next has been a great skill set to develop. I’ve put these skills into practice on many occasion when working in teams, supporting students or managing crises.
Share the Journey
My commute was the longest of my colleagues, but others sharing the road with me were undertaking similarly long commutes. Being mindful that some “drivers” or peers/students could be tired, cranky, preoccupied, disengaged, or just plain stressed is important. Getting to work safely meant sharing the road and taking into consideration the best ways of merging, engaging and interacting subject to the conditions, environment and the interests of those involved at the time – on the road or in the workplace.
Patience Truly is a Virtue
On one occasion, my route to work actually took close to four hours – one way! Yep, you read right, four long hours. I still don’t actually know why there was such a delay, but at the time I knew I needed to get to work. I had no way of getting off a blocked highway and the teeny tiny distance I kept inching forward increased my investment in continuing on. Needless to say, it wasn’t a fun journey, but accidents, traffic jams or the unexplained ‘I have no idea why we’re not moving’ curse happened all the time. I quickly learnt that it was in my best interests to not only accept that my commute was long and that I had to work on my patience, but also make the most of the time I had to myself.
I listened to a lot of radio and my favorite podcasts, sung at the top of my lungs with the odd boogie when I thought no one was watching, and developed a handy general knowledge which is great for trivia. My most creative ideas popped up on a drive home so I had Siri ready to record my thoughts. And, my alone time in my car provided some needed down time before I walked in the door at home and had to be ready to go-go-go with dinner, a workout or whatever household chore was due at the time.
Six Months On
Now that I’m in a new role, I’m appreciative of the extra time I’ve gained back from a shorter commute. However, looking back, I’m also very grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the skills I’ve gained in undertaking such a long commute. Without doubt, it has helped me to be more patient, more understanding and more resilient. All of these skills are great to possess in the dynamic world of student affairs.
How have you made the most of your long commute? In what ways has it been of value to your skill development?