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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Shopping for Truth: Memoirs of a commuter

Published: October 24, 2008
Section: Opinions

“So where do you live?” she asks.

“Off campus,” I reply.

“Oh, you mean in an apartment? Moody? That’s cool.”

“No, actually I live at home,” I clarify.

“Ohhh,” she says, and I see her face contort into a “How is that?”

“Don’t you feel like you’re missing out on the college experience?” the guy next to her asks.

Calmly, I sigh and go over the spiel that by now rolls off my tongue as naturally as my own name.

Such is a normal day in my life as a commuter student. I swear I feel like a politician sometimes, giving my rehearsed speech. What most people take as an easy question, ‘So where do you live?’ is never so in my case.

With each new person I meet, the explanation starts all over again. Sometimes lying and saying I live in East or Rosenthal seems like it would be a lot easier and a lot less aggravating, but then I remember that, like the Bon Jovi song says, “It’s my life.” And if there’s anything that commuting has taught me, it’s that I’m going to live it the way I want to.

I know for some people it’s just genuine curiosity and they simply wonder why commuters commute, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying when you have to explain your decision to do so to every person you meet. But I’m not some endangered species. I don’t live in isolation and there are other commuters out there who I’m sure could tell you they feel the same way.

How do people think it would feel if everyone went around asking residents, ‘Don’t you think you should live at home?’

There’s nothing wrong with living on campus. As a commuter, I don’t judge residents for where they choose to live and I think commuters should be shown the same respect.

Life as a commuter isn’t easy, I’m not gonna lie. For starters, some days I wake up at 7 a.m. to get to work by 9 a.m. Some nights my 25 minute commute turns into an hour because I run into rush hour traffic. I have to come to campus to view a movie on LATTE and can’t spontaneously chill in my room with 10 friends whenever I feel like it.

Many people could make the case that I am somehow less independent than some since I live at home. I can see this point, but it doesn’t mean I agree with it.

Unlike students who live on campus, I can’t roll out of bed, throw on whatever’s lying around and run up to Rabb to catch my class all in under 10 minutes. I have to get up at least an hour, if not more, before arriving at school.

No, I’m not a masochist, and I don’t choose to sit in an hour of rush hour traffic. Do adults in the workplace choose to do so? No, I don’t like paying so much money for gas. No, I don’t like having to wake up extra early just to make it on time. And no, I don’t like driving home alone late at night.

So why commute if it’s sometimes such a burden? Well, there are many reasons and I couldn’t possibly hope to explain them all in this column, but here’s the abbreviated version. For one thing, I value my alone time, something the dorm environment hardly affords its residents. Living in a dorm, after all, isn’t all it’s said to be, as many of my friends have told me. And I get so much more work done at home than I could if I lived at school.

As a commuter, I can live in my own home, in my own room and eat whatever I want. I can also see my family when I want to. But honestly, I spend so much time at school that it’s not like I’m sitting at home. But having the option of going home at the end of a tiring or tough day and escaping everything makes all of the annoying aspects of commuting completely gratifying.

I have a perfectly balanced life and I like it that way. I can come and go as I please and don’t have to deal with a lot of drama that comes with living on campus. If valuing my relationship with my family and my alone time makes me crazy, then ok, I guess I am.

Being a commuter has taught me just as much, if not more than my academic studies have thus far at Brandeis. I like to think that college is a preparation for the real world in many ways. You learn a lot academically but you also learn how to deal with a diverse group of other human beings.

So if this is true, how is living in a dorm with 50 of your friends preparation for real life? Sure maybe you’ll live in an apartment with some of your buddies when you graduate, but you won’t have everyone at your fingertips in the real world. Sure, I wish I were able to walk down the hall and say hi to friends any time I want, but I can’t, and I wouldn’t change my life if I could, so please stop asking me to.

Commuting has taught me to genuinely value my friendships, manage my time and to put it bluntly, be real. For example, I don’t feel the need to manufacture processed friendships just to have someone to walk over to Usdan and eat dinner with. Being a commuter, I value my friendships that much more and not living down the hall means I have to make more of an effort to nurture my friendships.

Having to account for a commute to and from school means I manage my time more efficiently because I know I have a limited time frame during which to accomplish whatever I need to do during a given day on campus.

Then there are the ‘friends’ you ‘gain’ because they’re actually only interested in your car and the places it could take them, and not you. You may not think I know what you’re trying to do, but I do. I’m not a taxi cab; that’s what the Branvan’s for.

“Don’t you ever miss not living at school?” “Don’t you feel like you’re missing out on the college experience?” Two of my least favorite questions.

Well if you mean am I jealous of your cramped dorm room, your fire alarms going off in the middle of the night, your lack of privacy and your cranky roommate, then yeah I really wish I weren’t a commuter.

Of course, there are the rare moments when someone respects my decision; in fact they tell me they wish they too could commute. These are some of the moments when I am most thankful for being a commuter and realize that not everyone is judgmental.

This might seem like a rant to some of you, but I like to see it as a lesson in Commuting 101. Rather than judging others for their lifestyle, aren’t we supposed to embrace diversity?

If there is one thing you take away from this column, realize that your facial expressions, your choice of words don’t go unnoticed. I know some people judge me because I commute. But you know what? I could care less! That’s the number one most rewarding aspect of commuting.