“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange.” –Carson McCullers.
I wasn’t used to any long commuting hours since I was a kid as I live near my school where it takes less than 10 minutes walking and 5 minutes running when you’re already late and have to rush all the way to school. As I graduated, I moved into a dormitory for college students where I was able to wake up 20 minutes before the class started and still have 5 minutes to eat my breakfast in the classroom. Not until I start working in a company 20 miles away from home, never had I felt the joy of commuting.
People in big city are often very individual. When I had my first experience commuting by train, I saw people sitting or standing with their phone on their hand while blasting music could be heard from their earphones connected to their phone. Some read books or daily newspapers about politics or celebrity scandals just to make their mind occupied with other things beside the routines. Or maybe they are tired of the human basic job, to socialize and communicate, and don’t want to be disturbed while contemplating on their whole life during that 30 minutes of ride.
To me, commuting is an escape from reality and from pain; a method of healing by adding routine activity to your life, the only routine where you have the freedom in your mind. It is an escape from a boring behind-desk job, never-ending house chores, debts to be paid, and stagnant relationship. It is a therapy session with the atmosphere of the train as candles with scents, the strangers as a voice from your psychologist, and the scenery outside the window as a way to hypnotize you during the session. It is a whole new world, new perspective that pulls you out from depression for at least 30 minutes of ride.
Commuting takes you away from depression, pain, and self-loathing. Sure, it will take more commuting to forget a memory marked deep inside your brain, the familiar faces you think you saw during the journey like déjà vu that leave you with tears. You will find yourself crying over little things, a love message sent to a high school girl sit next to you or a love song from television inside the train. You have failed to enjoy the ride, some of the first therapy sessions which instead drown you to the depth of despair. But you have made through several steps of healing, confronting the feeling instead of hiding from it.
In another 30 minutes journey from one place to another, you begin to enjoy the present, children laughing, teenage girls gossiping, strangers with warm smile, and new catchy song from the television. It is when the scenery outside the train becomes real, trees lining up in front of the skyscrapers, people walking in a rush on the pavement, and clear evening sky dominated with the color orange from the sun. Your heart becomes light like a feather for 30 minutes of commuting.
When reaching the destination, I drag the weight of myself out of the train, thinking I am ready to spend the next hours facing reality and hiding back my pain. I would spend the next hours working behind the desk, queuing up in the bank to pay debts, or finish the house chores but never continue the relationship. I silently wait for another commuting when I could begin another session of healing therapy, coping with depression and self-loathing from a failed relationship, during those 30 minutes of ride.