It’s been an entire week that I’ve been in DC, and a completed work week at the National Air and Space Museum. Yesterday we had an intern morning at the Museum of Natural History which was a grand old time, seeing the giant Hope Diamond and getting butterflies to land on me in the butterfly pavilion. Lunch hours have been on the employee terrace enjoying the not yet stifling June weather with some other interns or on the national mall, solo on a bench, watching tourists try and take pictures of them “holding” or “leaning against” or “poking” the Washington Monument (this is a hilarious escapade, and I highly recommend you do this at some point if you happen to find some free time where you can hang out on the mall in DC). Work hours have been spent with many, many Google spreadsheets cataloging data for social media posts, exploring the Air and Space Museum’s social media platforms and looking at different analytics tools.
But I’ve also spent about two hours of each day commuting from Manassas, VA to the mall in DC. This has been a pretty rough schedule for me to adjust to as such a night owl (6am alarms…), but tea and happy puppies to greet me in the morning help. I’ve always loved trains and as much as everyone pulls a face when I say I’m commuting from Manassas, I really don’t think it’s that bad. You have plenty of time to get other things done, especially in summer, when there’s not homework or other responsibilities to worry about. So, I have compiled a list of ways to maybe make your morning commute a little better, inspired by many different corners of the internet.
This may seem obvious, but this is a great way to get a few extra minutes (or hours) of shuteye. Unless, like me, you are paranoid about missing your stop and/or can’t seem to be able to actually sleep unless you’re all the way supine. But, if you are blessed with a body that will allow you to take a few breaths and knock out, feel free to stay up that extra hour binge-watching “Orange is the New Black.” You’ve earned it. And, obviously, you can just catch up on the train tomorrow.
Though this tactic has made the conductor actually have to yell “ma’am?!” in my face to get me to show him my ticket twice this week already, reading is an awesome way to pass the time. I’m on my fourth book of break already – pleasure reading? I haven’t done that probably in years! Unfortunately, motion sickness is a big issue with this guy. I feel you, I really do. I’ve been training myself to not get carsick for years. Start slowly and try and build up a tolerance to it (unless you get nauseous as soon as you look at words. Then don’t do that). Audiobooks are another awesome alternative. I’ve had friends who said listening to music helps, as does eating – which leads us to our next activity…
Again, maybe obvious… but I don’t think enough people take advantage of this activity. Don’t be gross, but this is a great opportunity to sleep an extra few minutes and grab yourself a smoothie for breakfast on the way out the door or a sandwich on your way home from work. Saves time and who doesn’t love food (unless, of course, it’s not allowed on your preferred choice of transport)?
Especially with a normal 9-to-5 schedule, it can get hectic and stressful. Commuting time forces you to not do something for a while, and that’s a perfect time to sit back and think about you. Meditating is a really easy activity that you can do while on the way to or from work. You can even get apps to guide you through the meditation process, or you can just plug in your music and go into yourself. Again, don’t miss your stop, but take this time for you. You can also relax your eyes, which can be strained after lots of staring at a bright screen. So put your little smartphone in your pocket and let your body recover.
In the same vein, our bodies can get extremely tense, especially if you’re working at a computer all day, those shoulder and neck muscles are probably strained beyond belief. If you know me, you know I love yoga, and there are awesome resources out there for simple stretches to get the blood flowing (like an awesome sitting version of surya namaskar, or sun salutation). There are tons of great exercises you can do to not only stretch out those muscles, but help you wake up or relax after a rough day in the office.
Podcasts. I don’t think I will ever get over how awesome podcasts are. I posted on podcasts a while ago, but I’ll tell you again. They’re awesome. From narrative fiction tales like in Welcome to Night Vale, real life stories told by ordinary people like in The Moth, starting to learn a new language, discovering crazy new things in Brain Lab, listening to reviews … they’re a great way to expand your knowledge while just sitting on a train or a bus. Go. Listen. Absorb.
A lot of stress stems from the fact that we’re overwhelmed with things to do. Commuting can be a great time to make to-do lists (maybe with the help of crazy awesome apps like Habit HPG cough cough) or spend some time going over what you’re thankful for by making a gratitude list (which has shown can help with depression and other mental illnesses). Take some time to physically or mentally list out stuff.
A big tip a lot of people have when searching for good things to do while commuting is rehearse. A presentation, a speech, an important conversation… anything. But this is a great time to take advantage of the fact that it’s just you and your thoughts, and you can plan out anything you want to say – big talking points, ideas you want to hit on, questions you should be prepared for.
I honestly think people-watching is highly underrated. It’s one of my favorite activities to observe other people and see what they’re doing on the train – and part of me wanted to make this post much, much creepier by posting photos of random people doing things I saw on the train (aren’t you glad I didn’t?). But watching people can be an awesome way to pass the time – I saw a guy get really high scores in 2048 this morning. You can learn a lot from watching others – be it observations for a short story, a new way to use your phone, or anything else. Take your nose out of your technology and check out what the world looks like.
This is by far, my favorite thing. Commuting is a perfect time to make all the things you didn’t have time for, allowing that they’re not too messy or annoying. But want to learn to knit? This is the perfect time. Refine your drawing skills (and hold them over other people’s faces)? No problem. Considered trying to make friendship bracelets? Flower crowns? Jewelry? Cards? ART? Yeah, do it. You got this. You’re a hip, young professional and you got time on your hands.