I believe in the gifts of inconvenience. I have been without a car for 1 year. My hybrid commute of bus and train is greener but longer, cheaper but sometimes filled with frustration. But everyday, I receive an experience that battles against this imagined claim in American Life: that things are all about me, about my happiness, my comfort, and my agenda. On a daily basis, I cannot leave at the exact second I want to leave or go to the exact place I want to go, nor can I control the temperature, the sounds and smells around me, or even if I get to sit down. I have to relinquish control of this daily routine, but in return, I can practice having qualities that I wish to have, the same way I might practice a skill that I wish to develop. Every time I am gracious towards a late train, I have one more experience that helps me be more gracious to my husband. I am filled with a realization of the blessings in my own life that does not surface unless I am confronted with the face of a different life experience in the seat next to mine. These experiences produce immediate benefits in my life, not just the preservation of fossil fuel.
Of course, there are less philosophical benefits. All the things I used to resolve to do at the beginning of each year–read more, walk more, watch sunrises, interact with different cultures–I can achieve on an early morning 5F route. And one day, on my way to catch the 552 bus in the dark, I shared nearly a block and a half of my walk with a possum. A possum! How many people can say they’ve spent part of their commute with a possum? How many people can say their commute interacts with any part of nature at all?
The bus and train, carpooling and biking, are pitched as free of inconveniences: You can have it all—save money, save time, and be green. But isn’t that the opposite of what being green is? It’s not about benefiting me, but by making choices that, no matter how inconvenient, will make a better life for future generations. The whole lesson should be that I can’t have it all, and maybe I don’t deserve it all, or that I probably don’t even need it all.
I know that a late bus on a drizzly morning is not easier, faster, or more fun. But it is enriching. And while I believe the earth comes out ahead, I truly believe that I benefit most of all.
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