Have Dental Floss, Will Travel

Mapping the world, one waxy strand at a time…

A New Life in the Real World

Remember that ‘void‘ I wrote about last week as a follow-up to the 2010 Untamed New England?

Well, it was promptly filled – in a big way – bright and early Monday morning, when I headed up the New Jersey turnpike for my first day of new faculty orientation.

It’s a day I’ve been waiting for with great anticipation since the middle of March, when I was first offered the position.

But it’s also a day that brought with it a fair bit of anxiety, as it kicked off a career filled with a round-trip commute that hovers around four hours on a highway known for eating up and chewing out its daily drivers.

As of yesterday, I officially survived my first week of professor-dom in the shadows of the New York skyline, and learned a few tricks to ease me into this new adventure (and, more relevant for this blog, to ease me into the ‘real world’ challenges of training).

For many of you, these revelations probably seem obvious, things that you learned in your first days and weeks in the professional world.  But bear with me – I’ve been in school for a long time, and as they say, it’s hard(er) to teach an old dog new tricks.

(That ‘old’ categorization is relative, I suppose – this week I was reminded of how young I am and how young I look when I went to get my new ID, and had to ask them to reprint it because they labeled me ‘student’ instead of ‘faculty.’)

(1) Train early.

Three of my first four days, I set my alarm at 5:00 AM and got myself to the gym the second the doors opened at 5:30.  I couldn’t do much, with having to be on the road by 7 o’clock, but that hour-plus of biking or running left me feeling awake, energized, and far more capable of dealing with the stress of two hours of rush-hour traffic.  Plus, as I learned the one day I decided to sleep in until 6:30, there’s a pretty good chance that I will be able to convince myself that there’s no harm in skipping that evening’s workout after a full day of teaching, writing, and sitting in the car.

(2) Dance often.

I am an NPR junkie, but in recent months, my car radio has become increasingly scratchy, and 90.9 seems to get the worst of the noise.  I’m getting it fixed when I take my beloved yaris in for inspection this fall, but in the meantime, I’m making do with what I’ve got.  I quickly realized that there are few things worse for the morning drive than static-y talk radio, so I found myself looking for music to keep me busy.  A couple months ago, I entered the smart phone fray with the purchase of a motorola droid, and have discovered that the Pandora app is just about the best thing ever).  The ‘Eddie from Ohio’ station is the bee’s knees, and keeps me dancing in my seat for hours on end (I’m even getting in some good core training!).

(3) Books-on-Tape.  Need I say more?

The summer before my senior year of high school, my mom and I set off on an epic college road trip, visiting dozens of schools up and down the eastern corridor.  Before we left, I received my AP english reading list, so on our way out of town, we stopped by our local library and stocked up on everything from Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice, to Beowulf and Grendel, to The Firm and A Time to Kill (because, really, everybody needs a little John Grisham in their lives).  Books-on-tape have gotten me through dozens of long rides, but once Brent and I started taking trips together, we gradually traded them in for IPod tunes and NPR radio hunts (he’s not a big fan of listening to books – he gets sleepy or his mind drifts and he misses large chunks of the story).  But with my newfound commute, I’m recommitting to a life of books-on-tape (by which they will forever be known, no matter that they’re all recorded on CD now).  I didn’t have a chance to pick up any for my first week, but yesterday afternoon I made a beeline for the library and got hold of a nice array of political and legal thrillers to keep me company. 

(4) A strategically placed peach can do wonders on a dreary afternoon.

On Tuesday morning, I tossed an apple and a peach into my bag before heading out on the road.  I’m rather particular about peaches and apples and wanted to ensure that neither got bruised, so I placed them carefully in a small compartment on the door of my car.  I ate the apple en route to school, but forgot about the peach in the rush to get to my first meeting.  On the drive back that afternoon, I was grumpy from the traffic and the steady rain, and hungry after a day of mediocre veggie options (more on that later this weekend – I promise).  I thought about stopping for something, but I feel pretty strongly that I want to avoid getting into the habit of spending money at highway rest stops.  And then looked down, and there it was.  My beautiful un-bruised peach, just waiting for me.  It made everything better.

So, there you have it – the life- and training-lessons I’ve picked up during my first week in the Real World.  Feel free to share any other tips you might have – looks like I’m here to stay!

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2 responses to “A New Life in the Real World

  1. Nobel4Lit August 29, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    I've been working full-time for all the time I've been in grad school, and let it be known that morning workouts are sometimes the only way to go. I'm thinking of going back to late afternoon workouts soon, but the weather needs to cooperate first.

  2. Denise August 30, 2010 at 7:55 am

    i seriously can not even imagine a 2 hour commute each way. there are days when my 10 minute commute takes 20 and i want to scream. i'm glad you're finding ways to keep yourself entertained!

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