That’s right, you read correctly. It isn’t a typo. My commute time to work each day has nearly doubled, and I couldn’t be happier about it.
Generally speaking, a longer commute in never a good thing for most people. I’m no different in that regard. I’m not some sort of weirdo who loves riding crowded, dirty public transit for hours on end. I want a short commute just like everybody else. However, like so many things in life, within this unfortunate circumstance there lies a significant opportunity.
In the summer of 2013, just after I graduated college, I booked my first professional acting job at a theater located at the end of Navy Pier in my home-town, Chicago. Now, I’ll be honest, I’m using “home-town” as a pretty loose term. My true home-town is called Lake in the Hills, located nearly 40 miles outside of Chicago’s city limits. A train ride into the city takes over an hour. If you drive, you can reach downtown in just forty minutes. If there is traffic though, and there will be, then you’re out of luck. Your commute could take anywhere between an hour and half and two weeks with a layover in Wisconsin.
Needless to say, I chose the train. And while it was certainly favorable to the car, this meant that for a whole two months I would be sitting on a train for nearly two and half hours. I guess I had plenty of time to learn my lines, but with this being my first gig, I only had seven of them. So about twenty minutes into my first ride to work, I found myself with nothing to do.
I looked around to study the other passengers and found them employing many different strategies for “passing the time”. Some read the newspaper or books, others listened to music, streamed TV shows, and played Angry Birds, sometimes all at once. Then of course there were the sleepers, more specifically the snorers. Do not get me started.
“Two and a half hours,” I thought to myself eerily, “That’s nearly 10% of my day. Almost 15% of my waking hours!” I decided that instead of PASSING the time, I would focus on USING the time. And I did just that.
Many of you probably don’t know this, but it was on that 75 minute train ride every day from Pingree Road to Ogilvee Station that I wrote my first book Authentic Love. I had tried writing this book three times before but could never “find the time” (nice excuse, Jorgenson!) to finish it. All of a sudden though, I had two and a half hours of free daily writing time disguised as a terribly long commute. So now, when most people would be furious about doubling their commute time, I say, “Great! Looks like I’ll be writing another book!”
Opportunity is rarely an obvious happening. It usually comes disguised as something much uglier and harder to swallow. Oftentimes, we have to peel back the layers. When we do, and when we make a commitment to use our time rather than simply pass it, we will find that significant opportunity hiding in the mundane, frustrating, and inconvenient moments of life.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
When life gives you a long train ride to work, write your first book.