On train days and time management

Tuesdays are now train days.

In this new life, I take the first train out of Harrisburg at 5am on Tuesday mornings. I regret this decision when my alarm goes off at 4am in the very dark darkness of pre-morning. I regret it again at 4:03am when it is still dark outside and my alarm rings a second time. But once I’m actually out of bed, I’m much less angsty. Taking the train to work in New York City is a pretty wonderful adventure for any time of day, even if that time is two hours before the sun rises.

Side note: a great way to not have a seat mate on the train is to a) be mildly under the weather and b) eat cut up pieces of grapefruit out of a plastic container. Your germs and the fact that you appear to be eating either sushi or raw chicken are surefire scare tactics. I know this from recent experience.

Seat mate or not, the train is a magical place. Do you guys think so? I think so. Three and a half hours after leaving Harrisburg, without having to drive or park or road rage over people who can’t merge, I step out of the train and into the city. It’s so nice.

From Penn Station, I take the subway to the office. The fact that I can now do this seamlessly makes me feel like a native New Yorker even though I’ve done it approximately four times. Also, I think I have a thing for the subway. It’s a different kind of love than the love I have for Amtrak—probably closer to the honeymoon phase. And I’m very aware that I’m the only person looking at the subway with heart eyes because everyone else on the subway is looking at it with reality eyes. But I love the clarinet guy who just gets on for one stop to play for tips! And the driver whose announcement of stops sounds like a Caribbean version of Charlie Brown’s teacher!

Much more contentedly than most, I exit the subway and walk a few blocks to the office.

And then, at the end of the work day, I start retracing my steps: Subway to Penn Station, Penn Station to Harrisburg. 7ish hours in the office, 7ish hours on the train.

I love all of it.

Here’s the thing I want to point out: one of my hesitations in taking a full-time job was not having enough time to write on my own—even though I was only spending 5-10 hours writing each week, at most. #timemanagementfail and also #reallife because freelancing, even if only “part-time-ish,” is still a lot of work.

So for now, while I have this pocket of uninterrupted time every Tuesday, I’m making train days writing days. That’s seven whole hours. There’s plenty of writing that can be done in that window. There’s also room for tending to bits of work and looking up video tutorials on how to grow honeysuckle and, you know, sleeping. I’m a human, not a robot. But the goal is to have 500(ish) almost-ready-to-be-published words in hand by the time I arrive in Harrisburg every Tuesday night. They may not be life-changing, best-seller words, but they will be the kind of words that keep me consistently showing up in this space I love so much.

There will be other times when I squeeze writing in—earlier mornings, later nights, time on the weekends. Right now, at 10pm on a Thursday. But primarily, I know that when I’m not working, I’m going to want to be in the world outside of my laptop—spending time with people, cooking, trying to be a gardener, watching The Good Place. So the train really is the most realistic writing space I’ll have every week.

All of that to say: I’ve never met a constraint I didn’t initially side-eye but ultimately come to appreciate. Sometimes the things I fear will be the most limiting turn out to be the best motivation (and the most fun).

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