All of those in the workforce are frequently warned by others of the perils of a long commute. Many say that lengthy commutes can affect both your mental and physical health. It is something which frequently leads to declined job offers and employee resignation. A 5-10 minute commute is often touted as an American worker’s dream. Yet, unfortunately, sometimes workers are placed into situations with extreme daily commutes, through no fault of their own. Things like this can just happen due to circumstance, unfortunately. As someone who ended up in such a situation, here is how it happened and how I learned to cope.
I am someone who has just went from having a 50-mile commute at my previous job, to someone who is now working from home. Working from home has it’s perks. You can dress the way you want, set your own hours, and do your tasks within your own time. Of course, another one of these advantages is no commute. The only semblance of a commute you have to do is walk to the computer. With these drastically different perspectives, I can say that the 50-mile commute wasn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I know, it sounds crazy. Don’t get me wrong, if you asked me to choose, I definitely prefer working from home. But hear me out! There are ways to make a lengthy commute more bearable.
All throughout most of the month of March, I was working in the call center I had previously written about. I drove half an hour in the morning to get there and around an hour in the evening to get home. I won’t disclose specific locations here, but I will say that my coworkers thought I was insane for taking a job so far away. Whenever I told my coworkers where I lived, they would look at me with disbelief and wondered how I did it. I never felt it was that bad of a commute, but I suppose I didn’t have much to compare it to.
While I do believe that working in a call center was imperative to my personal growth, I was dealing with micromanagement and low pay. The job was rewarding and fun, but there were definitely issues that made me want to leave as fast as I could. I was desperate to get out, so while I worked there, I feverishly applied for jobs online. What would happen next would be the ultimate test to my determination.
One day, while I was at work, I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I answered and it was a woman from HR at a large company. She requested that I email a few of my writing samples to her and I obliged. She emailed me a few hours later requesting a phone interview the following day. We set up a time to discuss. The next day, she called me when I was on break. Fortunately, my previous history in telephone sales allowed me to sell myself confidently over the phone. She seemed keen and requested that I come in for an interview. I agreed and we scheduled a time. She then interjected and pointed out where I live. She named the town the job would be in and asked if that would be okay. I am a complete newbie to Los Angeles, and do not know much of the surrounding areas. So I said yes, not completely understanding just how far away it would be.
The next day, I put on my business suit and I drove an hour and a half to get to the interview. The interview went swell, but I worried about the distance. I got a second interview two days later and was offered the job around three hours after my second interview. I immediately accepted, desperate to get away from my phone sales job. The pay was good, the people seemed nice, but I was feeling conflicted about the commute.
There was another company that was a 10-minute drive away from me that requested I come in for an interview. To be quite frank, I was so excited about getting a job offer that I declined. Also, when I had checked the company’s Glassdoor reviews, there were complaints of management knocking over tables and screaming at employees. Damn. What is worse for one’s mental health? An environment where management loses their temper like that? Or a 50-mile commute?
I quit my job a few days later. I experienced much cognitive dissonance about my commute. “Oh everyone in Los Angeles has a horrific commute, it’s normal, it can’t be that terrible”. I tried everything in my power to justify such a decision in my mind. I proceeded to come into work the following Monday for training and orientation.
The morning drive was beautiful. There wasn’t much traffic. There were beautiful lush hills on the way there. It was actually quite relaxing. Now, the evening commute was something else.
The evening commute was filled with traffic. My GPS would frequently take me off the crowded highways and on to sketchy streets. It was around a half-hour to an hour longer than the morning commute. I would come home feeling stressed, grouchy, and drained.
I realized that if I was to continue with this commute, that I would need to garner some coping mechanisms. Here are some of the things I did:
- Podcasts. I was never one who enjoyed podcasts or talk radio. It used to grate on me when my mother would play NPR. Many online suggested that podcasts are immensely soothing when undertaking a stressful commute. For a while I listened to music, but it was difficult staying in a car all by myself for around 2-3 hours per day. That’s where podcasts come in. I recalled that a few Youtubers I watched and enjoyed made podcasts. I downloaded a few interesting podcasts related to true crime, as I personally love true crime. That really helped me get through my evening commute.
- Audiobooks. I used a lot of my time in the car as a way to further develop my career knowledge. I listened to many audiobooks pertaining to marketing and management. It allowed me to get in the right frame of mind before arriving at work those days.
- Self-reflection. In the morning, I used much of my time in the car to think about the upcoming work day. During the evening commute, I would reflect on my failures and accomplishments that day. It was a great way for me to realize what I did right and what I could do better in the future.
Overall, I would not say that my lengthy commute was all that great. It stressed me out more than was necessary. But audiobooks and podcasts definitely helped me through it. So if you are facing a long commute due to circumstance, just know that it’s not that bad. I used to say, if my biggest problem was a long commute, then I had a pretty nice life.