Published in the Tacoma News Tribune
March 5, 2012

LIFE CHOICES

After twenty years working in the corporate world, I made what I now call, a “life choice decision”. I quit my job. While I miss the people I worked with, I do not miss the three to four hours’ bus commute each day.  And while I do miss the consistency of bi-monthly paychecks, I have been given a more precious gift — time.

I look back, over the past six months and realize I haven’t completely decompressed; I have merely extended my corporate skills to include the running of my daily life.

In the job world, I had to excel in streamlining, efficiency, and multi-tasking. In my personal life, I had to become very efficient in order to survive running a household, family, managing pets, and somehow keeping a marriage together.  I mentally scheduled every chore.  In one fell swoop, I could go through the bank and post office drive-throughs, pay the additional two cents difference in gas because the station is close, stop at the grocery store for immediate provisions, pick up burgers at the drive-in window, swing by the dry cleaners, and still make it home within the hour. That pent-up urgency does not disappear easily. 

For twenty years, I commuted on the six a.m. Tacoma to Seattle bus. For twenty years, I watched the changes in my city from a bus window as downtown Tacoma nearly died of boredom, only to be given fresh life by the University of Washington, the Museum of Glass, Union Station, and the Tacoma Art Museum. I vowed to get downtown and look around, but never had time.

I watched as Hilltop became a thriving neighborhood instead of a place I was afraid to drive through.  I heard the downtown corridor has light rail and there’re new restaurants on every block. I vowed to try the restaurants, but was always too tired when I got home. 

I read that art and culture are flourishing with the Center for the Performing Arts, the Pantages and Rialto Theatres, and other Broadway venues. Jazz nightclubs, new retail shops and eateries stand side by side on Sixth Avenue. I always wanted to visit, if even to just wander through, but never quite made it. Time always ran out. It was a life choice then, but it isn’t now.

Instead of my weekly trip to the neighborhood grocery store where I shop shoulder- to- shoulder with other list carrying shoppers, I decided to detour to a local farmers market. The moment I got out of the car, the air felt cleaner. I could almost smell the moist dirt the produce was pulled from. The tomatoes were still warm and smelled sweet and rich.  The deep green of the lettuce spilling out of the bins reflected fresh and damp against the wooden crates. Apples abounded, un-waxed and void of stickers. I closed my eyes for a moment and took in the scent of fresh dill. The memory took me back to my childhood when my mother used to put up dill pickles every fall. The memory made me smile and I took a deep breath. Being able to take that deep breath is the life choice I made.

There’s so much I’ve missed — so many places I want to see and yet never had time. As I was leaving the farmers market, I caught the reflection of my eyes in a mirror hanging over the produce stand. I thought about all the places I’d never been — places within arm’s reach of my own home. And then I thought about all the time that I will never get back again. The reflection in the mirror smiled back and said to me, “What in the world are you waiting for?”

Glenda Cooper has recently published her
first novel, The Road to Lost and Found.
She lives in Tacoma  with her  husband Jim
and their Old English sheepdog Reilly.

Tacoma Web Designers at Intra-Designs