Thank You Notes: For Time Gained

by Jackie D on November 26, 2014

grand central station“The way we spend our days is, of course, the way we spend our lives.” -Annie Dillard

If there’s one thing my awful work commute has done for me, it’s made me grateful. Being grateful is the only way I have been able to mentally survive that commute everyday. My roommates will probably read that sentence and find it hilarious because I hardly seem grateful when I’m talking about it — and yes, they have served as my primary audience when I’ve needed to rant about it at the end of the day, which is often. I love ranting.

Some days I am so tired and the commute is so awful that I almost can’t even stand to open my book. This has happened two or three times. It’s always a combination of things — the weather is bad, people are being loud and obnoxious, one of my connections is delayed, I don’t feel well, there are no seats, the train cars smell — and during those times I literally have to force myself to repeat over and over again the things I am grateful for — the reasons I am making this commute: I am thankful for a job that I love, I tell myself. I am grateful for a paycheck. I am grateful for a wonderful apartment. I am grateful for wonderful roommates. I am grateful for hot showers. For bathmats. For soup. For calendars. For good books. For long weekends. I always think I will run out of things, but I never seem to.

I’ve met so many new people since moving to New York last June and when I mention to them what my job is, they go, “That’s awesome!” and I say, “Yes it is!” and then when they hear about the commute I have to endure everyday they go, “That’s awful!” and I say, “Incorrect!” Well, for the first couple months I would actually agree with them and there would probably be a swear word or two involved. Now I see it differently.

I think the issue is that when we think about how long we spend on our daily commutes, we automatically classify it as time being wasted. I’ve never really heard anyone say, “Oh good! My hour-long commute gives me more time each day to get some reading done.” More time. Time being gained, not time being lost.

I try to think of it like that now. Time gained. I have 1.5 hours to spend on my commute each way — that’s 3 hours per day. 15 hours per week. 15 hours per week that I spent on a train getting from place to place (technically, it’s one train and two subway lines). Some days it’s longer than that — 3 hours is how long it takes if there are no delays, accidents, or acts of God (that’s how I refer to weather now).

I only get a seat on the subways about half the time. I have a seat on the train every morning, but not every evening. This means that sometimes I am able to read, or even work on my laptop, but sometimes it’s so crowded and I’m shoved between so many people that I don’t want to bother trying to balance a book somewhere, so I can only listen to something with my headphones. This means that I am constantly carrying my laptop, a book, a magazine or two, headphones, and whatever else I need on a daily basis between 7am and 7pm — extra clothing, my coffee mug, food, you name it. My back will never be the same.

This time spent in transit has become a sort of personal challenge for me, a chance to see how much I can accomplish with this specific amount of time and these imperfect conditions that I don’t have any choice but to deal with.

So far since making this commute for 5 months I have read over 20 books, dozens and dozens of magazines, and who knows how many blog posts. I’ve written handfuls of guest posts or freelance articles. I’ve written most of the recent posts for this blog on the train. I’ve made doctor’s appointments, paid bills, written thank you notes, written postcards, written birthday cards, shopped for snow boots, compiled grocery lists, talked on the phone to friends, caught up with work, caught up with sleep, researched weekend plans, looked up recipes, drafted e-mails, organized the photos on my phone, taken two e-courses, put books on hold at the library, ordered dinner for delivery, tried to figure out my credit card bill… I’ve even made a friend! (rare for me)

Basically, I have tried not to let this time go to waste. If it’s true that the way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives, and if it’s true that the way I’ll be spending my days for the foreseeable future is commuting for hours on a train each week, then whatever I choose to do during those 780 hours per year is a crucial indicator of the type of life I’m going to have.

I am writing this on the train right now, and it just started to snow for the first time this year and I forgot to wear a hat, scarf, gloves, or waterproof shoes. The person sitting behind me is listening to music on her headphones so loudly that I can’t ignore it, and she keeps kicking my seat every few minutes. I am grateful for a seat on the train today, I keep telling myself. I am grateful for wool tights lined with fleece. I am grateful for dinner, especially the delicious dinner that my roommate is going to make for us tonight, just because she wants to do something nice. I am grateful.

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Snapshots from a Business Trip in Canada

by Jackie D on November 23, 2014

10818908_10103143371999143_1741040674_nI’ve mentioned before that I think business travel is pretty strange – the ultimate work hard/play hard balance – and this month I got another dose of it. I traveled with my company to Montreal and Toronto for two events we were hosting and it was a whirlwind trip: I was in Montreal for about 24 hours, in Toronto for a little less than 48.

There were glamorous parts — experiencing literally the best meal of my life at a restaurant called Byblos in Toronto, speaking to a room full of journalists from super important publications (and handing them my business cards. So legit right now, guys) — but there were also unglamorous parts, mostly the fact that I got almost zero sleep and spent any free moment trying to keep up with answering e-mails and managing all of my usual day to day work tasks.

I imagine that this is pretty much just the usual drill with business trips.
10807794_10103143371979183_595652370_nAs far as my free time in each city went — I tried to make the most of it. I’d already traveled to Toronto for TBEX in May 2013, so I didn’t make much of an effort to see the city again this time around since I had so little time there (I went on a work e-mail marathon though – Canada is so generous with its free WiFi) but this was my first time in Montreal and I wanted to see at least a little bit of the city.

Our event in Montreal began at 8:30am (I was there at 7:00am to help prep), lasted until about 10:30, then I answered e-mails and did a bit of work until 11:45, then caught a cab to the Plateau Mont-Royal neighborhood, then literally just ran around as much as I could until we had to leave for the airport at 1:30. I also got to meet a fellow blogger in real life — Marie-Eve is lovely and her Instagram feed is pretty much just a winter wonderland of Montreal right now.

(It’s also worth noting that when my coworker asked the hotel concierges what she should see with her one hour of free time, they suggested the church where Celine Dion got married. They didn’t even skip a beat. I think I have found my people.)

Montreal is so beautiful (from the little I managed to see) and the people are so sassy and so kind, which is exactly my style of people. Also, Celine Dion. I really want to visit again.
10822330_10103143372034073_1670985169_nIn Toronto I met up with a blogging friend, Sarah, for two hours of beer, poutine, and all of the friendship. Sarah and I have been Internet friends for several years and this was the first time we got to meet in real life! From the moment she leapt (literally leapt, it was pretty athletic) into the bar and we said hello in person for the first time (cracking up as we did so), I was so comforted by how much it felt like we were meeting up for the 10th or 20th or 100th time.

Since my return to New York Sarah and I have been texting each other photos of particularly strange finds on Tinder, so – needless to say, this friendship (and, I guess, our love lives) are progressing right on track.

(PS: since I’ve started these “Snapshots” post, literally every single time I accidentally type “Snapchats from..” instead of “snapshots.” Social media is winning this fight.)
10822219_10103143371974193_512983665_n
More Snapshots:
Snapshots the Cliffs of Moher
Snapshots from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Job Perks: Sex And the City Tour

by Jackie D on November 8, 2014

sex and the city tour
So I’m basically a TV show fangirl, and one of my favorite shows is Sex and the City. Another of my favorite shows is Breaking Bad, and another is The X-Files — I’m telling you this so that you can appreciate the variety and sophistication of my taste in television before we continue with this post.

With that settled, let’s talk about the tour. It was a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon, and I was accompanied by one of my dear friends from college (and fellow SATC expert). My favorite part of the tour was learning so many fun facts about the different neighborhoods of New York City (especially since I still haven’t lived here that long and still have so much to learn. Basically soaking up all of the NYC trivia I can get at this point).

I’m going to give you a sampling of some of these facts, but I don’t want to give away all of the tour’s secrets so I’ll just start with 7. The tour is about 3.5 hours long, so you can imagine how much more delicious NYC and SATC trivia comes along with it (speaking of delicious: cupcakes and cosmopolitans also make an appearance).
sex and the city tour7. Friends, Mad Men, How I Met Your Mother, Don’t Trust the B**** In Apartment 23 — all of these were set in NYC, but none were actually filmed here (the tour guides can name even more shows — Staci, my tour guide, rattled off at least a dozen). Sex and the City was unique in that it was actually filmed on the streets of New York. Since I’ve learned this I’ve been closely examining anything I watch that’s set in New York to see if I can tell the difference. Getting pretty good at it.

*Fun fact: Law & Order SVU is also filmed on the streets of New York, because obviously Mariska Hargitay can do no wrong. In Mariska we trust.

6. The brown street signs in Greenwich Village signify that a particular street is historically significant and therefore protected from development. That’s why everything in Greenwich Village is made of brick, isn’t very tall, and looks adorable.
nyc2 (1 of 1)-25. Bergdorf Goodman in NYC is the only Bergdorf Goodman in the world. Somehow this really really impressed me, even though when you think about it, it’s normal to have things that are the only one in the world: The Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty, the World’s Largest Bottle of Ketchup (Collinsville, Illinois). Some of the sales associates at this department store have been working there so long and make so many sales that they make six figures a year in commission alone. Why isn’t there a Devil Wears Prada-esque movie about this yet? Meryl?

4. Diane von Furstenburg lives above her store in the Meatpacking District. Diane von Furstenburg: I have found you.

3. So you know how you can buy a strap-on? You can also buy other parts of male anatomy to, you know, attach places. The Pleasure Chest has an excellent array of options if that’s your thing or if you want to start your Christmas shopping. (It’s also where you can find the infamous “Rabbit” vibrator. Merry Christmas to us all!)
sex and the city tour2. I’m really good at SATC trivia. I answered one of the hardest questions at the end of the tour and everyone was really impressed (I assume). I could also quote every scene they played on the little TVs inside the bus as we were driving from location to location.

1. The tour gives an excellent overview of some of NYC’s most popular and photogenic neighborhoods — Greenwich Village, SoHo, and the Meatpacking District, for starters. The city really is the star of this show and you have to admit — whether or not you love Carrie Bradshaw — it’s difficult not to get caught up in the passion she feels for the city, the coziness of her little apartment that she would in no way be able to realistically afford, and all of those “perfect New York nights” you can imagine yourself having with your girlfriends.

You can find out more about the Sex and the City tour here. Thanks to On Locations for the complimentary tour & delicious cupcake, and thanks to my friend Caroline for the recommendation! 

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