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Week 5: Giving Up my Car

Aaaaaand, we’re back.

Took a brief (but longer than I’d imagined) hiatus from SansLux, as I had some traveling to do. Once back, I had a strange epiphany (somewhat related to SansLux) that has kept me more in my head than in the world for the last couple of weeks.  I’ve been wondering, all along, what called me to start this project. Activism aside, my reasons for doing this felt bigger than I even understood. For months I’ve been going through heavy RID cycles — giving things away, donating items I don’t use, cleaning out the garage and shed, tying up loose ends that I’ve been procrastinating on for years.  I’ve felt this need to minimize the amount of ‘stuff’ and stress I have in my life. I have turned down holiday and birthday presents with a polite but stubborn vehemence, I have borrowed vs. bought where possible, and I have been, while not downright frugal, at least much more conscious and aware of my spending.  All of this for some unknown reason, even to me. Just an instinct or an urge without an obvious root cause.

But two weeks ago my heart made a decision that my mind and body are still trying to catch up with, and it will mean taking a huge step backwards in comfort (of all kinds).  Sometime in the next year, I will be going back to school to study Visual Anthropology.  I have absolutely no idea how I will afford it, and it may very well, if I am able to get into the program I want, take me to another country away from nearly everyone and everything I know and love.  It will render me completely broke and I will have to give up most of my possessions and more luxurious comforts.  It’s exhilarating and terrifying and it is shedding a bit more light onto what brought this on for me.  While it is, absolutely, an activist exploration — it is also a very personal one.  And many of my future adventures will be further explorations on this theme.

That said — onto “No Car Week.”

I’ve mentioned before that there’s no direct public transit from my house to my job, nor a walking route that doesn’t either take me about a half-mile out of my way or require that I walk through a trail that is creepy, secluded and walked by some fairly sketchy dudes with regularity enough to warrant weekly bulletin board postings at work reminding folks not to walk it alone (especially women).  In addition to taking your chances with assault there are also, more often than not, trains parked along the tracks at the end of the trail — which means you have to clamber over them, not knowing if or when they’ll begin to move. So — it’s either fear/potential dismemberment or taking the long way round in the heavier-than-usual rain. Neither of them are on my top 10 list of ways to spend my day but, as I’ve been reminding myself all week, not everyone has a choice. And what am I whining about anyway — as even the long way to work is just under a mile and a half, even if it is walking in the shoulder of 4-lane roads all the way.

That said, I am actually having a pretty hard time with this week.  I’m pretty out of shape, and I’m pretty overwhelmed/stressed in general – and I admit to a ton of grumbling this week.  I’ve kind of been an epic failure at it, really.  Mostly I’ve chosen to either stay home or get rides from friends.  I’ve yet to set foot on public transit and I’ve only walked to work once.  And, most disappointingly, I actually drove to work and back this morning.

To be fair, the only reason I did that was because my alarm clock failed to wake me and I was half an hour late to work, even with driving.  But I made the choice to sacrifice the project to save face at work because I could.  If I was being true to the project, I would have just been that much later and faced the consequences since that is what someone who didn’t have a car would have had to do.  But in this economy, it’s a little scarier than usual to take chances at the day job.

Tonight I’m going to a concert with a friend, and she’s driving.  We’d planned a bus adventure together, but I got my first ocular migraine at work today and it absolutely sapped me of my energy.  Truth is, I’m being pretty soft on myself this week in terms of SansLux.  But this is part of the process, too.  I’m not going to be amazing at every challenge. If I was, it wouldn’t be a challenge. I’ll have to either extend the week or do some kind of penance for being so lax. Especially as I have decided to make another car exception tomorrow so I can make a doctor’s appointment and not have to take a full 3 hours off of work.

Yep, I’m definitely going to have to extend this week…and make some tougher choices to make up for it. I may have to give someone my keys.

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  1. Posted 12 November, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I’m TOTALLY not getting down on you, I just wanted to say that as a resident of NYC who can only afford to live in Bushwick, just about anywhere I want to go takes 45 min to an hour. I accept this as the way things are, and so do all the employers I’ve had, so it’s expected that a doctors appointment will take 3 hours. You’re at a disadvantage in that way, since there are much different expectations in a car-based community.

  2. Posted 12 November, 2009 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    oh, and I also wanted to say CONGRATULATIONS on deciding to go back to school! That\’s wonderful. Mind telling us which country you’re thinking of going to?

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  • SansLux.com is an exploration of luxury and necessity. Each week I will give up one item or habit & blog about my experience.