a journal entry by suha
art by Fiza Mohsin @fizuiyo
Of everything that disappeared, the bus rides to school were probably what I missed the most. The first time I articulated this thought out loud, people thought I must have been joking. Afterall, the pandemic had changed a lot of things and the bus rides to and from school were one of the things I had always complained about the most - the long rides that turned a twenty minute trip to an hour long journey at best, the uncomfortable seats, the chaos of sharing a vehicle with way too many people. It was only after that experience blended into the past that I appreciated it for what it really was. It dawned on me that the time I spent riding the bus, that I always regarded as a waste of two hours of my day, was the freest I could be.
Getting all of my work done at home this year instead of going to school was challenging; I am prone to distractions and generally find it difficult to stay focused without people around me motivating me to get through my tasks. I was used to the hectic hustle and bustle of school life. I went from scrambling to meet deadlines, rushing from one building to another and barely balancing academics with extra-curriculars to spending my day alone, desperately trying to get myself out of bed to sit at my desk and prepare for myself for exams that I still wasn’t sure would not be cancelled. My time was entirely my own. There was no schedule to dictate the timings of the classes that had once taken over my entire day. There were no deadlines to meet every month. No events, no tests and quizzes, no one worrying about whether or not I would complete my syllabus content on time. Every decision there was to make was completely my own, and that terrified me.
With no one telling me what to do, there was little certainty in my mind about whether I was on the right track or not. I was constantly aware of how I was wasting my time. Committing to a task and seeing it through was no easy feat as every task I started was accompanied with doubt about it being the best use of my time. The anxiety and self-doubt that clouded my mind hindered my ability to make decisions and I found myself going to bed every night feeling guilty, unproductive and anxious about the future that the accumulation of days like this would soon lead to.
It was a couple of months into this messy arrangement that I realized how much I missed riding the school bus. I remembered being behind on homework in school and hastily doing it on the way, the conversations I’d have with my friends when I hadn’t seen them much throughout the day, the amount of books I was able to read with all the time I spent commuting, and the naps I would take with my head against the window on long days that left me spent. In truth, there was practically nothing I had done sitting in that bus that I couldn’t have done at any other point in the day, so why did I miss it so much?
Of course, it wasn’t the actual bus ride that had me feeling so nostalgic, but it was the fact that every day, there were two hours of my day that I had absolutely no control over. During the time I spent on my commute, there was nothing expected of me. All I had to do was sit there and wait. It was time spent in limbo. A small yet untouchable bubble where nothing really mattered. Any activity I chose to take on while waiting for the bus to drop me off at my stop was done completely guilt-free. Anything I chose to do - whether it was catching up on sleep, having meaningless conversations, or reading - would not be a waste of time, but simply a way to make the most out of a long wait. It was this thought that made me realize how much freedom there actually is in not having control. Freedom was not being able to choose how every hour of my day was spent, freedom was being able to spend my time doing whatever without worrying about the consequences of ‘wasted’ or unproductive time.
In reality, actions will always have consequences. Although not all wasted time is treated equally, living with no concern over consequences won’t exactly be fruitful. However, this short mental journey did open my eyes to the fears I had been experiencing but not fully acknowledging. I was yearning for the freedom from having to be responsible for myself and only having myself to blame for what doesn’t work out. I was afraid that the decisions I made today would be my downfall tomorrow. I was afraid of failing, but more importantly, I was afraid of it being my own fault. I needed to learn to trust my own judgement more and I needed to be okay with things not working out exactly as I’d hoped.
But the biggest takeaway from this for me, was that the illusion of having control being the same as freedom was broken. Being able to make decisions for yourself and having control over your life is a blessing in a lot of ways, but it is more than okay to relinquish this control sometimes. There is peace in knowing that you are not responsible for everything. A lot of us tend to forget that and we try to take as much as we can into our own hands to try to make everything go our way and stress out too much when things are taken out of our control. Sometimes, we just need to sit back and enjoy the ride in a bus that someone else is driving with a little faith that things will eventually work out, and that everything will be okay if they don’t.