It’s 4:42 a.m. I have three minutes before I absolutely have to open my eyes, pull myself out of bed, and start my morning weekday routine. Ugh, mornings. If I leave the house by 5:28, I can make it to the train just in time.
I’m not a morning person. I used to roll out of bed at 7:30 to get to work by 8:15, and part of me misses those days. But for the last three months, I’ve been commuting from Indiana to the Loop for work. Three months—and it’s finally starting to feel normal, almost easy.
Thousands of people commute from the suburbs to Chicago every day. It’s so popular for workers to commute from Indiana that in 2015, the South Shore Line added a once-per- day express service.
By begrudgingly rising before the sun, I save more than an hour every day in commute time. And I’m even luckier to have a fantastic boss who lets me leave the office at 3:35 to catch the express train home, too. Even so, I spend 12+ hours away from home on work days.
Is commuting really worth it?
Before I started commuting, my work schedule was much shorter. Now, I commute 3 hours per day, and I go to bed at 9:30 pm. That means I have roughly 3 hours each weeknight to live my life: make dinner, take care of my dogs, spend time with my husband and friends, catch up on my favorite shows, and all of those “fun” adult things like clean the house, do laundry (ha ha, laundry), and run errands.
Commuting to work can certainly take a toll:
Look at my face traveling to work Monday morning (on the left) versus my afternoon commute at the end of the week (on the right). Yikes. I’m 26. Those frown lines should not be there just yet. Personally, I moved out of the city to change settings, to feel more relaxed, to get away from the hustle and bustle. My home is now quieter and void of the constant hum of Chicago.
How could my face do this in the course of a week? It hasn’t stayed that way, thank goodness. I recoup over the weekend and start over fresh by the following Monday. But I’ve come to the conclusion that commuting, along with the drastic change in my sleep schedule, has started the process of creating a permanent grumpy cat face several years too early.
But it’s not all bad.
But don’t take that to mean I’m against commuting; there are plenty of benefits, and commuting 3 hours a day isn’t all bad. I use my time on the train to catch up on everything: sleep, paying bills, personal projects, emails, shopping, planning my grocery list, writing this blog. I try to get the most out of it in one form or another I, like so many others, have traded a short commute for the opportunity, for career growth. Though living in Chicago isn’t for everyone, it has so much to offer workers.
Companies are drawn to this city, where talent thrives and the central location can’t be beaten. Many of the people I see on the train every day have been commuting for the bulk of their professional lives. I work with one woman who has traveled from Indiana to Chicago for almost 30 years. She often says to me, “Commuting isn’t so bad, huh?”
And I have to admit: I’m not quite there yet. It’s getting easier, but it might take a little more time to get used to all of the travel. And I’m certainly thankful for the train. (I can’t imagine driving into Chicago every day; that’s a different topic for someone else to explore.)
So where does that leave us?
Commuting is a worthwhile sacrifice for so many people in Chicago. We spend extra time away from home to pursue a career or to support our families. And perhaps it wears on some of us more than others.
Do I think I can do this for the next 30 years? Probably not. But until I see those awful frown lines start to take permanent hold of my face, I’m up for the challenge.
Kate Allison works in Chicago and calls Northwest Indiana home. She is a marketing-communications professional by day, and a dog lover-cook-Gilmore Girls fan by night.