December 21, 2012

My Down Payment on Life is Riding the Bus to See My Family. ~ Brian Schwartz

“Holidaze” are here again!

I tend to wear that type of jeans that chafe against your legs on a long bus ride. Maybe there’s no other type. But I ride the bus for the obvious reason that people ride the bus: cost.

Like any normal rider, I get slightly nauseous. Woozy. I much prefer being near a window, so my soul’s fingernails can imagine that they’re clutching at the smudged plexiglass window barely separating me from a fall onto the highway below the tires of that SUV about to hit us.

As I blink at the laptop screen and reduce its brightness, then adjust my second edition iPod with my left hand before checking my Google calendar on my iPhone with my right, I am suddenly overwhelmed by a fluorescent visual boom, and have to dim all three devices. The bus goes dark.

I hadn’t noticed that everyone around me was asleep—or at least trying to. No one has their overhead light on in my area, and some of the squinting I hadn’t noticed in reaction to my laptop’s blinding blast eases on my neighbors’ faces.

Someone begins to snore.

Who are these people? Why did we all choose to be scrunched together for seven hours? Couldn’t we have stayed home? Maybe it’s just that time of year. The holidays are filled with obligations: seeing family, buying presents, even eating a large meal. I know I feel guilty if I don’t do all three. And honestly, a crowded, bumpy, nausea-inducing bus ride is better than spending the weekend thinking, “I wish I spent more time with my family.”

The discomfort of a long bus ride parallels the discomfort many of us (can) feel in everyday life. We often want to nap. There seems to be no end to the journey. Despite being surrounded by humanity, no one wants to talk to us. Our necks hurt. We get stiff. Beyond the physical and external, our stomach compass spins.

Where are we going, anyway? Why don’t we have enough money, or time, to fly? Why don’t we work for a company that will pay for our trips? Why doesn’t the world recognize our amazingness? What’s wrong with us, anyway?

We forget that riding the bus is a choice.


Choice equals power. When we have a choice, we have two options: make a different choice, or accept and appreciate our choice.


Sure, we can keep plunging into the pessimistic quicksand of self-defeatism. Why not? It’s familiar, and then everything is everyone else’s fault (“This damn driver can’t drive.” “More people should take public transportation so there would be less traffic.” “Why didn’t the family come to my place this year?!”).

Or we can notice that hawk, soaring along outside the bus, surveying the landscape, perhaps traveling to see her family, too. After all, that’s what the holidays are: time we get to spend with our family.

Yes, they can be hectic—lots of priorities intersecting, great distances to travel, but ultimately they remind us who we are, where we came from and why we exist. Also, they can be unpredictable and exceed our expectations, if we let them. Plus, sometimes the holidays help us make new family when we eat with friends because we can’t make it home, are fighting with our family or have no one to go see.

Eighty-four dollars. That’s how much I spent to make it home and back on the last bus trip to see my family. No gas. No flight delays. No Amtrak power failure, as in years past. The bus isn’t ideal. Yet riding it, I feel bonded to my fellow passengers, because we all coughed up enough cash to make a down payment on life. When there is somewhere to go, we can’t pretend we’re alone or isolated on the planet and get away with it. The bus’s shadow on the solid yellow and white dotted lines reminds us that we have a destiny—at least for a few days. Next time, when I keep moving around in my chair without ever feeling comfortable, I hope I remember to take a deep breath of gratitude.


Brian Daniel Schwartz is a life coach and writer who lives in Washington, DC. He loves to sing and laugh and does neither nearly enough. He can still feel Metabolic Effect classes three to four days later. He can be reached at [email protected]







Ed: Kevin Macku

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