Time in the Car, Time to Myself
I grew up 7 miles north of the nearest small town. Describing how to get to my family’s home, we used to say “Go past the elementary school for exactly six miles, then you’ll see a bright blue house and a bright yellow house — looks like you’ve reached Sesame Street — turn right. Drive for one more mile and you’ll arrive.” My road was dead-end and didn’t bear the typical “Street” or “Drive” at the end of the address. We lived in a “coulee” — a term applied to a kind of valley, derived from the French word couler meaning “to flow.”
Those 7 miles would take me barely to the outskirts of my hometown. To get anywhere meaningful was an even longer drive. 20 minutes to get to my elementary school. 12 minutes to get to my high school (I knew exactly how long that drive was). At least 20 minutes to get to any reasonable shopping. At least 30 minutes to get into the larger city of La Crosse, Wisconsin with even more options.
In short, I spent a lot of time in the car growing up. I never knew what it was like to have access to anything only “five minutes away.” Even getting together with friends required coordination and being dropped off somewhere “in town.” My mom wanted to make sure that my siblings and I had access to anything that the other kids did, rather than feeling isolated, so she was always willing to drive us anywhere.
During the first six months of my marriage, I lived in Topeka, Kansas and my husband was still in La Crosse. Every other weekend, I drove 8 hours in each direction to see him, completing four hours on Friday evening after work and stopping in Des Moines to sleep. I would continue the remaining four hours on Saturday morning. This would give us approximately 24 hours together and I would leave Sunday around noon and drive the entire 8 hours back to Kansas.
Then I began work as a remote employee and my husband and I moved to Madison, Wisconsin. Anyone from the area knows that the Beltline is brutal. We first lived on the far West Side, meaning a long drive to the central part of the city and even further to get to the East Side.
After a few years there, we moved to a suburb of Chicago, where we currently live. Chicago suburbs are a never-ending…