The real world, well, almost

My father commuted to downtown Chicago from our home in Woodstock for nearly fifteen years. While we would wake up at the same time – 6 in the morning – a couple days a week, he would drop me off at school for my early morning class and then proceed to the train station. I could never imagine what his life was like and I didn’t give much thought to the trip he took every day.

Now that I’ve begun my internship this semester and am making a slightly shorter trip three days a week, I’m finally beginning to understand. The world of work is very different from academia. And it’s exhausting.

In my humble opinion, college students shouldn’t have to wake up at 6 a.m. No one should really. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my fair share of experiences with that hour, but in the last four years, it has been my bedtime, not my wake-up call. It’s an odd and solitary experience to get up while the sun is below the horizon and go about my normal morning routine in compete darkness, encountering no one in my dorm.

Not having a car, I’ve had a whole new experience with the frigid cold air. On the morning trek to the train station, the wind slaps at my face to awaken me. An hour on the Metra gets me downtown, if the train is on time and if it isn’t plagued by one of the many mechanical problems that siphons the time out of the system’s speediness nowadays.

Then I sit in an office for the day. This is a marked contrast from my time at school. In college, I float from class to class, meeting to meeting, never staying in one spot. In the office, I’m stationed at my desk. That is where I do my work and that is where I’m expected to be. I might even get more work done at school in a given day, but it doesn’t seem like it because I move around so much. At the office, it’s difficult to decide I want a change of scenery, especially when I’m 64 floors up. When I’m done, once again I brave the bone-crushing cold and make my way home. By home, of course, I mean school.

The entire cycle is grueling, and I’ve learned this from only two days experience. At school, I may spend more time outside, but it’s not as intense. I’m outside only to go from building to building in Lake Forest’s wide-open campus. In the city, I’m walking full speed in the throngs of people, dodging others who want money or want to tell me how I’ve sinned, all while wearing shoes that, literally, make my feet bleed. In those moments, the only sins I’m concerned about are that I didn’t wear long underwear and I chose the wrong shoes.

When I’m on campus and start to think I’ll miss school in this new, real world, I hear someone shout across the quad to a man and woman holding hands, “There goes the ugliest couple I’ve ever seen!” and I realize I probably won’t miss college life that much after all.

It’s going to be tiresome to commute every day and, from watching my dad, it will probably be tiresome for the next fifteen years. But everyone has to grow up sometime… and start somewhere.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s almost 7 o’clock. I have a lot to do before my 10 o’clock bedtime, which is fast approaching.

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