How I Got Un-grumpy
For nearly two years, I was perpetually grumpy.
The reason: Commuting was taking years off my life.
At the time, I lived in Columbia Heights, a neighborhood in northwest Washington, D.C., and I worked in Ballston, a neighborhood in Arlington, Virg. My daily commute was entirely inside the Beltway and only took me about seven miles from home, as the crow flies, but it took 45 minutes to an hour each way on the subway.
Don’t get me wrong. D.C.’s Metro system is a wonderful specimen of inner-city transit and often a pleasure to use. Relative to other city’s systems, it’s simple, efficient, and incredibly clean. Still, at nearly two hours a day, I was spending 730 hours in its confines each year. If I lived to be 80 (and maintained the same commute route), I’d have racked up 38,690 hours of Metro time. That’s 1,612 days underground!
Can you see why I was grumpy?
I’d get up feeling anxious, as I hurried to try to avoid the post-7:30 a.m. crowds on the train. I’d leave work in a rush, hungry for dinner and anxious to be home and relaxed already. I’d count the stops and the minutes to arrival, both coming and going. The trains and the stations became so familiar to me that I saw them as sort of a second home—but this was no vacation lake house.
I decided that I needed to improve my quality of life somehow. So I bought a new bike, a nice one that was comfortable and fun to ride, and I began commuting by bike.
Suddenly, I was a lot less grumpy.
Biking was more fun than Metro-ing, and it turned out to be quicker too, believe it or not. I could now make the one-way trip in 35-40 mintues. Not only that, but with my commute and my workout combined into one, I had an additional free hour each day.
With the extra time, I could prepare a whole-foods dinner and eat it before it got so late that I lost my appetite. I could watch a movie on a weeknight or go to bed early enough to read for a bit without falling asleep two pages in.
Also, when needed I could use the Metro and not feel like I was in prison. Add to that the fact that the exercise of biking is a stress-reliever, and I was like a new person. Now, when I woke up, I felt excited to get on my bike instead of the treadmill. After a hard day at work, I felt re-charged, as I pedaled around the traffic mess on M Street.
This is not to say that there were no days when my commute was less than happy. There was bad weather, there were jerky car-drivers, there were days when I was tired or just didn’t feel like biking.
Nevertheless, I give bike-commuting a large portion of the credit for my happy final year in our nation’s capitol.
What about you? What have you done lately to improve your quality of life? It doesn’t have to be related to commuting or being car-free.
Tell us what you did you make yourself less grumpy.