|Scenes from my un-commute|
But that commute from my parents' house was wearing, and when I moved in with a grad school friend downtown, we chose somewhere central that would minimize our travel time. The forty-five minutes I spent in transit--a walk, plus the subway, plus the bus--morning and evening was doable, for a time. But somewhere during that time I decided that one of the things I was absolutely unwilling to do was to become an academic road warrior, piecing together teaching across multiple campuses while I was hunting for a tenure-track job. And when my current partner and I inherited a house in the city (extraordinary, extraordinary privilege, despite the fact that it was only possible because he lost a parent), I made the decision that I was also not going to apply for tenure-track jobs that would require us to sell that house and move across the country, away from my family and his aging father, or that would see him stay in Toronto and me commute home at intervals from wherever I was working. Which meant, in practice, that I wasn't going to apply for tenure-track jobs, because there weren't exactly floods of Canadian literature jobs in the Golden Horseshoe.
|Scenes from my un-commute|
Making that decision was freeing, and taking my first full-time administrative job at York was even more so. But ninety-minutes a day in transit, five days a week, was a lot of time I could have been using to do other things--writing, exercising, spending time with my people--and a hard transition after so many years of a flexible academic schedule. And having made the first big decision not to become a professor, I felt confident in choosing to look for a new job that gave me back that time. So now I have a lovely walk to work, and colleagues that affectionately tease me that I only took the job for the commute. It's no coincidence that I wrote the largest chunk of my dissertation in the year after I settled into this new job, because the absence of a long commute--and the walking and thinking time my un-commute time gives me--turned out to be what I needed to write.
My choices were largely driven my personal preference, and I have enough privilege that I could make those choices. For lots of my people, choices about their commute, or their lack of one, are a matter of necessity--they have to choose jobs, or entire careers, that permit a commute and a schedule that accommodate a sick or disabled child, or their own disability, or their mental illness, or an elderly parent, or a combination of these. And the reality is that for those of us who aren't the lucky ones like Aimée, those kinds of necessities often drive our career choices, and drive us out of an academy that likes to tell us that having preferences about where we work and how we get there are less important than the tenure-track dream.