I have a pretty great commute to and from work every day. It involves a ten minute walk from my apartment to the metro, a fifteen minute metro ride, and a five minute walk from the metro to my office. On the way back, if it’s nice, it involves a five minute walk from my office to the metro, a five minute metro ride, and a twenty minute walk.
I live in the heart of DC and my office is in Rosslyn, VA, just across the Potomac River from Georgetown. Getting from one place to the other includes a lot of amazing views, cool buildings, crowded streets, and every type of person you can imagine, from the runner who dances his way through all four crosswalks at the intersection of H and 7th every morning at 8am, to the lawyers in their five-thousand-dollar-suits, to the students of Georgetown and GW carrying backpacks and hangovers, to the groups of moms out walking with strollers, water bottles, and a the newest style of sunglasses.
Sounds like a lot to take in, right?
Well…you are right (or I guess in this case, I’m right). There is so much to be seen every morning and afternoon while travelling to and from work. So much to look at, listen to, and experience. There was a street show being put on outside the Chinatown metro station last week when I was coming home from work and I stopped to see what was going on. I ended up staying there for over 20 minutes watching the performers, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that some of the things they were doing actually made my jaw drop.
One guy flipped over nine pedestrians lined up on their hands and knees. Nine.
Now I don’t stop and watch every single time something like that happens, but I did that time. And I definitely didn’t regret it.
A lot (read: all) of my friends listen to music when they’re going to and from work, and I get why: sometimes music gives you that pick-me-up when it’s early and you’re tired, or it’s late and you need to unwind. I’m all for music – one of my first posts on this blog was about the magic of music when it comes to being creative – but even though you aren’t wearing a blindfold, putting in headphones can cut you off from the rest of the world. You just don’t see as much. Or connect with as much.
There is a lot to see out in the world, and you never know when you might see something that sparks your interest, or ignites your creativity. And on a completely unrelated-to-writing note, sometimes it’s just nice to connect with the thousands upon thousands of people that are all around you all of the time, just an inch or hello or smile away.
It reminds me of one of my favorite words, “sonder” (which you can find here on The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, which is a compendium of invented words written by John Koenig – I highly recommend checking it out).
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
So next time you’re on your way to work or walking in a crowd take out your headphones, take your eyes off the pavement, look around, listen, try to find something cool, interesting, or funny – maybe even try to find something that can make your day.
What about you? What do you love about your commute to work? What is your favorite thing to do in your area? (Mine is to watch that runner dance around the crosswalks, it makes me grin every single time). How do you feel about the word above, Sonder? Was this post too head-in-the-clouds optimistic dreamer-esque? Just the right amount?