You have permission to press pause

One year and 30-ish trips later, I’ve learned some things about commuting to NYC:

  1. How to get up at 4am every other Tuesday
  2. How to not get trampled in Penn Station
  3. How to avoid permanent shoulder damage by not carrying everything I own in an overnight bag

Unwritten lessons include: taking the 2/3 instead of the 1 train, getting a Medicine Ball to go from the upstairs Starbucks to avoid feeling like garbage on the ride home, and investing in noise-cancelling headphones to drown out the very loud evening conductor who never fails to point out that NORTH PHILADELPHIA IS NOT 30TH STREET STATION I REPEAT NORTH PHILADELPHIA IS NOT NOTNOTNOT NOOOOOOT 30TH STREET STATION AKA THE MAIN PHILADELPHIA STATION DO NOT GET OFF AT NORTH PHILADELPHIA IF YOU ARE TRYING TO GO TO REGULAR PHILADELPHIA.

Every time, evening conductor. Every. Time.

I also had high hopes of learning how to optimize a 7-hour train ride so that I could have a full-time writing job and still write on the side. And that happened! Sort of.

Making the commitment to write on the train forced me to write on many nights when I 1,000% did not want to. Which was basically all of them, including this one. I’m really proud of the fact that I didn’t stop showing up here, even if it wasn’t every single week and even if what I offered was the sad store brand version of an actual product. I did my best to keep my own writing alive while managing a very full plate of other writing responsibilities, and that feels like a win—for the most part.

There’s a semi-frantic part of me that is convinced I should have done more to produce better writing on the side this year, perhaps due to our cultural expectation that anything is possible if you’re willing to work hard enough. And maybe it is! Every person with a side hustle would say that you have to be willing to make sacrifices and work twice as hard as everyone else and be extra committed to getting up early and staying up late and doing alllllllllll of the things.

But you know what? I don’t want that life. I really don’t.

The hustle makes me tired. I’m not opposed to hard work. I like hard work. But I want more for my life than hard work.

I want to go to the gym in the morning and then have coffee with Jenny and later, I want to watch Jeopardy! and This Is Us. I want to spend the weekend going on small adventures and also doing super practical things like cutting up carrot sticks and cleaning out the refrigerator. If there is extra time to be spent, I want to spend it with humans. My laptop already gets the majority of my waking hours. That’s more than enough.

Collectively, this means that my bi-weekly commute is 90-to-100% of the time I’m willing to give to personal writing right now, and that is not enough time to craft a meaningful narrative about anything other than trains, apparently. This could change in the future, but at the moment, it means I’m not trying to do both types of writing and do them well. I’m pressing pause on one dream for my life—the one that would require me to spend more than a handful of hours every other week on personal writing—to live fully in a different season with a different dream.

Here is your coupon to apply to your own life: You also have permission to press pause on something you want so you can have something you need.

It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t mean you don’t really want whatever it is that you really want. It just means that you’re a human. And humans can’t do all of the things, all of the time.

I’m extremely grateful for the work and opportunities I have right now. I feel strongly that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. And while I do plan to keep squeezing personal writing into this season, I’m not going to be a hero about it. There will be a time when writing like this, as myself, will be my full-time reality. This is not that time.

Accepting that—not fighting it, pretending it isn’t true, or finding a way to work around it—feels like the best way to live a whole, reasonable life within my current circumstances.

Those circumstances also mean publishing this post as-is without much editing because it’s after 10pm and I have to get off the train now and I’m already very tired so I’m not going to stay up late or wake up early to smooth out the rough edges here. As the cast of The Greatest Showman would say: This is me.

We’re all doing our best, you guys. In so many ways. Let’s let that be enough.

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