You could say that my school isn’t exactly within walking distance. It is in another county across one of New York’s busiest bridges. Last year it took about thirty-five minutes to get to school in the morning and forty-five minutes to get home in the afternoon. This year it takes about fifty minutes to get to school in the morning and one hour and fifteen minutes to get home in the afternoon. This is caused primarily by the alteration of my bus route. Last year I was one of three stops, all of which were close together. However, this year I am one of four stops, one of which is the same as last year but the other two are more spread out. It also doesn’t help that I am the first stop in the morning and the last stop in the afternoon. Because of driver shortages, I have a different driver each afternoon, some of who are confused over the route home. And to add to all of that, traffic has increased since people are commuting to work again.
The longer bus ride presented several problems for me. I had to find ways to tackle them, and some of the solutions worked while others did not. For example, we appealed to the district, but they have not been responsive. We are hoping to update my IEP so that a shorter bus ride is part of my accommodations. There is no guarantee that this will work. Perhaps it will, but there is also a possibility that it won’t go into effect this school year. I will have to accept what those final decisions are, even if I don’t agree with them.
For now, I have learned to adapt to my long bus rides by reframing my thinking. I try to persuade myself that there are benefits to the long bus rides, including more time for me to read and more time to take a nap on the bus. When that doesn’t work on its own, I use a couple of other strategies. I only look out the window on the Tappan Zee Bridge because this tells my brain that the bus is ½ of the way there. I do this instead of constantly checking out my window. The first few days of the bus ride I constantly checked outside of my window. This was not good for me. It added to my stress - I was constantly comparing where we were to the time and perseverating about what time it would be when we got home. Needless to say, I felt less stressed by this long bus ride once I stopped doing this.
Another strategy I use is a distraction. To keep myself from being stressed out, I distract myself with other things. Notably, I read my book. If you are an avid reader of my blogs you’ll remember how this also helps me prepare and unwind from my school day. Now it does double duty because it distracts me from the length of the ride. If I have finished my book and written its review then I have a couple of other options. For example, when I finished my book on Kafka early, I watched a mini-documentary of his life, and before I knew it I was home. I also have on occasion done crossword puzzles and listened to music. What I learned from this process is that problem-solving is ongoing; what works one day might not work the next. It is important to always keep trying.
My predicament is unfortunately one that many people face. I am finally reaching the point in my life where I am taking a stressful commute. I recommend if you find yourself in a similar situation, whether with a long commute or a long wait, that you try these techniques. First, change your thinking. Next, insulate yourself from the situation. Finally, distract yourself. You can apply these steps in other situations. For my Jewish Readers, this is what I tried during Yom Kippur and it worked incredibly well.
I will end with a question to ask yourself; I will do this in subsequent blogs as well. What is one difficult situation that you face and what have you done to overcome it? If you apply the solution that worked for you, I believe you will be ready to face and overcome any challenge that confronts you.