Facing The Morning Pilgrimage

When I die and go to Hell, I will spend an eternity sitting on route 80 in bumper-to-bumper traffic, making bets to myself on how long it will take me to get to work as I slump behind an 18-wheeler and a beer-bellied plumber.

As rogue travelers, we spend a lot of time on the road, usually going somewhere cool (or cool in theory). However, I don’t think “a lot of time on the road” should translate to 30 miles and an hour and a half to work each way.

Am I the only one that sits in an obscene amount of traffic twice a day, everyday? No, I’m not – because if I did, route 80 would be empty for at least some of that strip of 30 miles. And honestly, that’s the part that really irks me. According to a 2011 Texas A&M University study, traffic congestion caused Americans to travel 5.5 billion hours more and to purchase an extra 2.9 billion gallons of fuel, which adds up to 56 billion unnecessary pounds of carbon dioxide released during that year.

Hard to grasp? Yeah that’s probably because it is. Also, just so you know, this adds up to an average of 38 hours per commuter per year, according to Adam Werback in The Atlantic. Personally, I spend about 480 hours in my car each year just commuting to and from work, so this figure sounds pretty awesome to me, as well as my 100,000 mile ’02 Ford Focus.


This picture actually gives me anxiety

In America, we go on about how we have to save the environment, about how we should recycle, drive hybrid cars, and use reusable products, which is all good advice since Americans make up for five percent of the population yet use 20 percent of the world’s energy, according to the World Population Balance. However, also in America, train station stops aren’t necessarily accessible, nor are they necessarily fairly priced, or necesssarily reliable.

Conversely, we are also constantly told we need to put more time and effort towards our personal lives; that we need to spend more time with the kids, take the retriever for a walk, have dinner with the wife. According to the International Labour Organization, Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers. Somehow, I highly doubt that every single one of those Americans chooses to work an extra ten hours each week.

What great advice! Too bad it’s totally unrealistic, especially considering there are three unemployed people competing for every position, says Fox News, which makes for slim pickings for jobs.

To top the whole thing off, many of us come home angry, frustrated, and anxiety (and back pain) ridden – just from coming home from work. Exhibit A: Today at about 8:00 pm, a 60-or-so-year-old man in a small yellow convertible car actually followed me back to my apartment complex, parked behind my car, proceeded to walk up and then bang on my windows screaming “You know what you did,” and then trying to physically open my door. Luckily, I had locked the doors, feeling like the fact this guy had been behind me and then drove into my complex for six miles or so was kind of weird. Then after he left and I went inside, I looked out the window and saw that he had come back and circled around, most likely copying down my license plate so that he could find me and kill me. True story people. If I go missing, you know why.

I’m no genius (obviously). I’m not an engineer, I don’t know the makings of how to build a highway, or how to manage traffic issues, or how to deal with energy usage in this country or any other problems that I have mentioned here. But I do know one thing for sure – something isn’t quite right, and it’s not the residents of 740 Park who are seeing the effects. It’s you.

Live a Life Worth Telling.

I always thought I knew who the winners were.

The businessmen and the lawyers; they were the ones who had it right. Ever since I was little, they were the ones who had it all, with their big, happy families in their cozy mansions with a golden retriever who had a bandanna around their necks. In my head, they came home at 6:00 everyday to a beautiful homemade meal on the table and they spent their weekends on their yachts and drinking cocktails on the porch with their neighbors by moonlight.

Being a middle schooler who unlocked their own door everyday and begged for rides home from track practice, this was the dream. This is what I thought about when I was studying and figuring out how I was gonna pay for school one day; that one day, it would all be worth it.

However, now I’m 22. And I’m not going to med school and I’m not going to law school. Hell, my major is Communication and I spend most of my time palling around in this office and drinking free coffee and trying to figure out which break I can go run at. I may not have a full-time job yet. I may not have a family or a golden retriever and I may drive an ’02 Ford Focus. But I don’t think the businessmen and the lawyers are the winners anymore.

When I was abroad, I met some of the happiest people I have ever known who barely held what you would consider a full-time job. You know what they did? They picked potatos in Ireland. When the season was over, they would take the money they made and then they would go to England and they would bartend in Camden Lock. When it got too cold out, they would fly to Turkey and live in cheap hostels in Istanbul. They always had a backpack on and barely ever wore shoes. They told the most interesting, exciting, and wonderful stories I have ever heard. This is winning.


Medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

Getting older, little by little, it is this quote that has much more merit, for me at least, than an endless doctor’s shift or 80 hours workweeks at a law office. One day, some of you will (if you have the time) go to parties and you will say, “I’m a doctor at the local hospital.” Or you will say, “I make $150,000 a year as a lawyer.” And you know what? This is great. But truth be told, for some of us, these figures will never bring happiness. Spending all our daylight hours in little rooms and being tired and hungry and overworked and missing our friends and our families will never, ever, be enough for that beautiful mansion or that red convertible. It’s just not.

Those people, those wealthy, suited, briefcased people are the ones who cheat on their wives, whose children go to therapy because they were always alone. Those are the ones who can count the number of vacations they have been on on one hand because there simply wasn’t time for anyone else.

For some, this will be worth it and they will leave a contented life and maybe make themselves feel like they did something of value for making someone else money. They will not mind that they spent 50 years selling insurance for a faceless corporation. But for me, and many others, we need more. We need substance. We need a life, a story, we need to see a sequence of adventures when the time comes for that white light, not just a series of numbers on a lit-up screen. We need to travel, to see the world, to meet people who are interesting and exciting and to do things that other dream about when they say One day, when I retire. And for this, I don’t mind sleeping late, wearing jeans, and wondering how the hell I will pay for lunch today.

It will always be worth living a life worth telling.


Time is of the Essence

Throughout my life, I have been giving my time up like charity. You need me to come in and work an extra shift? Not a problem. You need someone to put the project together for class? I’m in. You need help with your article? I’m on it.

Doing this gave me some great opportunities. I met a lot of cool people, had a lot of great experiences, did a lot of neat stuff. But the thing is… I never enjoyed it. I never took it in, appreciated it, breathed it. I never had the time to.

In Italy, you don’t do this. If you’re going to dinner, you’re not going to be on your iPhone doing work when you’re supposed to be chatting- and not catching up, either, because you don’t need to catch up if you had the time to be already caught up in the first place. Everything you do, you do it because you enjoy it, because time is of the essence, but in a slightly different way.

In America, we do use our time wisely, always; if we at stopped at a traffic light, we’re emailing. If we’re waiting in a restaurant, we’re making a phone call. If we’re at our shitty part-time jobs, we’re doing homework.

In Italy, the Italians also use their time wisely; in the fact that if they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it. If someone is cooking your meal, it’s not going to half-assed and rushed, it’s going to be beautiful and perfect. If someone is going to talk with you, they’re gonna talk with you, not shove you out of the room because they have another meeting like right now. 

Now it may just be senioritis, but this year, I use my time… for myself. Instead of blindly giving it away, I think about what else I could be doing that will make me happy. I don’t want to rush anymore. I don’t want to look at my days and think Yeah, I made it through. I want to look back on my days and say it was a great day not just because it was productive, but because it was fun. 

In America, we are looked at as the worker-bee nation, which has made us into a superpower… but has also made us super worked. For the first time, I’m wondering how great of a thing this actually is.


Il Dolce Far Niente

I remember my final days in Florence. I remember how as the weeks added up, how I missed more and more having responsibilities, jobs, basically just being accountable for more than just getting on a plane on time. I missed being important to someone, to something.

Well now, here I am. It’s 4:45 on a Tuesday and I have been up since 7:30 am, and after this too-short hour I have off, I will work until 9:00 pm (then I’ll probably go to the bar, which is besides the point).

I miss the days when if I felt like it, I could linger in a cafe for an hour. I miss when I could walk into a museum, just because. I miss when I could meet a stranger and just chat with them for a little, not trying to occupy my mind with what else I had to do that day. At the time, I missed serving a purpose. Now here I am, trying to fit in when the hell I can possibly eat breakfast (which usually ends up being a piece of fruit I eat while I’m sitting at the traffic light on Ocean Ave).

What the hell was I thinking? Yes, having things to do is great. I’m not saying I want to be unemployed, or the worst sin of them all, bored. But with more longing than I have ever felt for any person, I miss being able to be. I miss thinking about the taste of the food that I am eating and thinking about the conversation I am having. I miss the sweetness of doing nothing. Il dolce far niente. 

In America, we hustle, hustle, hustle. We work three jobs and we try to get the kids to soccer, lacrosse, and track and we get to the gym at 6:30 am and we eat lunch at the drive-thru and we take long hours because we really need the money but what is it for, really? What are we working for, honestly? When is the payoff going to come?

You let me know when you find out. In the meantime, I’ll be looking up one-way flights back to Italy.