Daily Commutes Can Provide Restorative Solitude

There are many reasons that one would love living in London. The city is full of amazing museums, innovative restaurants and more parks named after royals than anyone could dream of. However, I think the one thing that I will miss most about my time here is something quite banal: my commute to work. 

When I found out my internship was almost an hour away from my flat in London, I was pretty peeved. The prospect of waking up early in the morning just to get on a crowded train for an hour was not very enticing. After my first two weeks of commuting, however, I began to adapt to the bustling tube stations and established enough confidence to push through the crowds when switching lines. 

I was always somewhat confused when people talked about the phenomenon of feeling lonely in New York City, as it is one of the most densely populated places in the world. Commuting in London allowed me to understand the truth to this — you sit on the same train, walk the same streets and use the same underground stations as so many other commuters and rarely, if ever, see the same people. It’s a strange feeling, being surrounded by so many other humans yet feeling so alone. For me, this has actually been much more of a positive than a negative. My commute ultimately translates to two hours of the day that I have completely to myself. 

At first, I only listened to music on the tube (as a result of not exactly knowing where I was going and not wanting to be distracted enough to miss my stop). I shuffled between calm music when sitting on the train, and would then switch to rock or rap when hustling through the station. Now, I can basically go on autopilot once I walk out of the door, which allows me to listen to long podcasts religiously, read and finish books for pleasure, write in my notebook or just stare at my reflection in the train window. 

I truly cherish that this time was carved out for me, because I now realize that I would have never done it for myself. Of course, I spend time doing these things. However, activities like reading for pleasure have always been much more sporadic for me — it has never been a part of my schedule, or something that I am conscious about including in my day-to-day routine. 

As my return back to campus is rapidly approaching, I know that I need to find a way to translate my commute into something similar at Wake Forest. Whether this means reading before bed as much as I can or waking up early to listen to a podcast before class, I have found the value in integrating these activities into a schedule. Although the age-old question of how to balance school work, sleep and a social life is something that I still struggle to answer, the one thing I have decided is that it is necessary to add another category to the equation: time for yourself. While this may deepen the challenge of balancing a college lifestyle even more, I think it is necessary in order to transition into a post-college life; adulthood will be defined by solitude in a way that we college students have never experienced before, so it is necessary to make that time positive and personally productive.