Jessica SieffThe other day I drove myself to the train station and hopped on the South Shore Line, which pulled away from the platform at the South Bend Regional Airport headed for Chicago.

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Jessica Sieff: Embrace time, don’t chase it

Published 5:32pm Thursday, August 5, 2010

About as soon as I had my ear buds in my ears, listening to the New York Times Front Page podcast (which I highly recommend, by the way) my brain drifted to those quirky little thoughts that appear from time to time like in-laws on a seasonal vacation.

You know, like… I suddenly realized how people can look frighteningly similar to vegetables — if vegetables were life-size and wore striped socks and T-shirts with big logos on them.

Think about it. The next time you walk down the street you’ll see the similarities between the person in front of you and a butternut squash. Trust me.

Women in polka-dotted pants and faux-fancy jewelry looked like walking eggplants, and I swear one guy bore a striking resemblance to a stalk of asparagus, thin but not lanky, slender but ruffled at the top.

But as the train began to move, I realized there was no way it would outrun my mind. Which is exactly what I was trying to do.

It can be kind of hard, in this line of work, to ever really put the work down. Because even when you’re not at the desk, typing furiously, fueled by caffeine and fiber-filled nutri-bars, you’re thinking about things.

You hear of someone going to school to study medicine and you wonder just how hard it is for students these days to get to college, pay for college and what life is like when they’re out of college.

You hear of someone’s troubles, a victim of abuse or of criminal actions and you want to dig deeper into their wounds, put their hurt into words and find those doorways to healing in case anyone anywhere else might need a point in the right direction.

You have a deadline to get it done right now, but what you want is the time to get it done just right.

And so begins the battle.

You see why envisioning the world as inhabited by large vegetables might be sort of comforting.

Stepping off the train, I broke free from the herd of lifelike produce moving slowly toward the fluorescent lights from inside Millennium station, and it wasn’t long before I was battling time once again.

I had a list of things I vaguely wanted to do, not a very well constructed plan for which to do it and so before I knew it, my legs were moving through the streets as furious as fingers against a keyboard.

What I was walking so fast for, I couldn’t tell you. I needed to get somewhere, I needed to get somewhere and that’s all I knew. And then I got there and I didn’t want to do a thing. I didn’t go inside any stores, didn’t spend any money and didn’t do a lot of window shopping.

I just got there, took a minute, smiled as my music streamed through my ears and then turned around and headed back to the other side of the city where I was in the first place.

When you’re at work, it’s easy to get lost in time. Lost in deadlines, lost in break times and lunch times and how much time before you get to go home and how much work can get done in however much time is left.

When you get home, it’s easy to get lost in more time.

Time you want for doing the things you like to do, time you wish you had for the things you’d like to do more often and the time that’s not left for anything.

Time spent doing what you wish you had gotten done earlier in the day when you didn’t have enough time for that.

When we’re scared, we want more time to prepare ourselves for what the fear is all about.

When we’re in the midst of losing something or someone, we want more time to hang on before it’s time to let go.

Some of us try to fill time as if every second were a hold in a big wooden boat and if we don’t fill them, then we’ll be sunk for sure.

When the day was done and I stepped back on the train, I realized something.

The best part of my trip was as the train was moving and I was sitting still — one of the reasons I love the art of travel so much.

That moment between here and there, where there is nothing to do but just be.

During that time, I was at my most content. During that time, I sat calmly and read a book.

So that’s what I did on the way home and as I started to worry once again. And while the vegetables all loaded up into the cart, I read the following: “Time — when pursued like a bandit — will behave like one…”

Maybe we can’t always chase time, or make time or get any time back. But we can embrace it. And while I’m at it, for the time you’ve spent reading this: much appreciated.

Jessica Sieff is a reporter for the Niles Daily Star. Reach her at jes sica.sieff@leaderpub.com.

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