Farewell, Commute

This is my last week working at Eddie Bauer in Bellevue, as I'm pumped to start social media marketing at MultiCare in Tacoma (253!) in August. I'm changing my buzz phrases from "social commerce" to "social good." Running social media from the ground up at a major retail brand seemed to be the ideal -- in most ways it was -- but it was also a serious commute. Another long commute.

My first long commute was in high school. I had finished junior high at my parochial school in grade 8. However, the local Federal Way schools, where we lived, were three year high schools. In the interest of the fewest transitions, I took on more bus transfers and commuted from Federal Way to Stadium High School in Tacoma. I never had a regret. I caught a ride with Dad out in the morning and bussed it 90 minutes home. Many high schools were closer, but I took the three buses and crossed county lines every day to go to Stadium. Scott had a similar commute and took the bus, though always earlier, so at least I had a teammate in travel. When I started cooking at the restaurant Wednesday thru Friday nights, I was gone 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. with soccer practice in between in the spring. I grew my work ethic and an early tolerance for commuting.

To boot, I took rotations and drove Sergio to Mountlake Terrace for soccer practice and Nina to South Hill Puyallup for dance class. I put in the mileage when I got my license.

Through college and after, I never had a commute like that again. However, when I began considering the offer to work at Eddie Bauer, to commute from Tacoma to Bellevue, it didn't make for an easy decision and didn't make for an easy transition. At first it was fun, even those days of standing on the bus across Lake Washington, but the scenery grew old and the repetitive cycle of travel lost its luster. Being the good wife, Amanda made a change and took work north in Seattle. We have worked on opposite sides of the lake, but at least I had a teammate in travel again. We drove 90 minutes each way and had an adventure from time to time to pass the time, and of course there was #snOMG.

Even with the wife's company and the "commution solution" dialed, I couldn't help but feel like we were missing out on an easier lifestyle. To demonstrate my perspective, here's the Parable of the Mexican Fisherman that I first read in The 4-Hour Workweek (Recommended!).

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Mexican.

"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs ... I have a full life."

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you!  You should start by fishing longer every day.  You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.

"And after that?" asked the Mexican.

With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.

"Twenty, perhaps 25 years," replied the American.

"And after that?" the Mexican asked.

"Afterwards? That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?"

"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."

 

Most people work for a lifetime to give themselves time and options in the future, often late in life. I've made the decision and have the opportunity to make that time for myself now, simply by continuing to do what I enjoy and know best, what I got my master's for, and closer to home. Easy as that. I made a big bet to buy a house in Tacoma a few years back, and the value of that decision just grows with this change.

I wouldn't trade what I've been able to do at Eddie Bauer over the past year, including many great trips (Alta/Jackson, Squaw Valley, Vail) and frequent successes in growing the brand primarily on Facebook. I will miss my colleagues and the good ladies of marketing who are equal parts, productivity, humor and entertainment. I was proud to be affiliated with a well-known brand and, being far too vain, I have enjoyed the perks of affiliation, especially by acquaintance. You get a lot of acquaintances, names and avatars, in my line of work. However, I think I'd rather measure life by the time I spend with those I love than the perceptions of those I know little of.

I like the idea of being home more and getting back those 15 hours a week that I commit to commuting -- not working, but commuting to and from the office. I like the idea of not having to choose between working out and dinner, blogging or breakfast. I like the idea of having time for getting a dog if I want one, which I do, or someday being a not-always-working dad, and just 5 minutes away from home or school.

I will miss parts of the commute, the bus culture and the views of the cities.

I will miss most those one-on-one, long talks in the car with my wife, the only person in the world who could tolerate/understand that the most significant time I've shared my love for her on this blog to date is buried at the bottom of a post about commuting. I love you and will miss this era of our lives almost as much as I'm excited about the next.