Ruiz: Life as a commuter – Rowan, work, bed, repeat


Up until last week, my life was set in 30-minute increments. Work, school, eat, try to sleep, repeat. Sounds easy enough, right?

Wrong. I’m a full-time student who commutes from Philadelphia, who works full-time, all while trying to pursue my dream of being the next Oprah Winfrey.

The truth is, on paper the schedule of a working student doesn’t seem that hectic. However, to all the students living it, may the odds be ever in your favor.

At 5 a.m. my alarm (and soul) starts screaming. With my eyes still closed, I make a pot of coffee. Yes, young grasshoppers, I have mastered this technique. The next 30 minutes consist of sliding my body against the walls to navigate my way through my morning routine.

I brush my teeth on the toilet, casually cry in the shower and inhale my mug of black coffee. Cream? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

I throw on my shackles, ahem, I mean my work uniform, and I scramble for the door. I have to be on the road before 5:30 a.m. or I’ll hit the infamous – dun, dun, dun – I-95 traffic. But of course, in typical me fashion, I walk down the block only to realize that I forgot my keys. Mumbling a series of curse words, I run around like Jason Bourne trying to retrace my steps. With my keys finally in hand, my day begins.

I screech into the Dunkin Donuts pileup drive-thru. I explain to the worker, once again, the injustice of charging me extra for almond milk. Unfortunately, crime-fighting is time-consuming, but I’ll sit in traffic as a hero.

I burst into my job at 7:30 a.m. By 7:31 a.m., I’m surrounded by smiling boogie faced kids with sticky hands. As the assistant teacher, I have to herd these children through the school day. By 4:30 p.m. I’m wearing paint, pasta sauce and sometimes poop. Yeah, it gets real.

I reach my mom’s apartment at 5 p.m. I’m told I look tired during the “what did you have for lunch” interrogation. I shower, throw on my extra clothes, and I’m out the door by 5:30. If my bank account isn’t pleading, “No, please, stop,” then I stop by Chipotle.

I order a burrito and battle the light-handed server that’s drizzling a few grains of rice onto my tortilla. I defend my right as an American to have my burrito be grotesquely oversized. I stop the employee from placing my burrito in a bag. It’s not their fault; they don’t know what’s about to happen.

I’m not in any clubs, I haven’t gone to a single party, and I think I’m more acquainted with the Chipotle staff than I am with anyone at Rowan.

I close my car door for some privacy. I undo that lovely little tinfoil dress, and I take advantage of the burrito while I drive. Two dollar guac drips down my face as I make eye contact with the person next to me. What he has witnessed can’t be unseen.

It’s 6 p.m. and I do my best not to hit all of you while trying to find parking. I park so far that by 6:15 I have to run to class. The brick-sized burrito in my stomach slows me down.  Freedom rings at 9:30 p.m. I drive back to Philly, and by 10:30 p.m. I’m falling through the front door. I do homework until I black out on my laptop.

When 5 a.m. hits, repeat.

Today, I’m in sweats and having a cup of coffee while writing. I quit my job (relax, I have a new one) because, although I was somewhat functioning, I wasn’t happy. I’ve been working to put myself through college without ever actually experiencing what it’s like to be in college.

I’m not in any clubs, I haven’t gone to a single party, and I think I’m more acquainted with the Chipotle staff than I am with anyone at Rowan. Ironically, our routine often hinders our growth, and we become stuck. The funny thing is, the whole point of college is that we’re all here to unstick ourselves. The sucky jobs we have now, the clunkers we drive and the empty wallets we currently carry are all just stepping stones. Who we are today will change, and change is good.

When we focus on the finish line, we forget how important the journey is. College is the time to make friends, discover our passions, break out of our shells, and mess up because messing up is alright.  

I mean hey, we’re all drowning ourselves in student loans anyway; might as well go down in a blaze of glory.

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