Monday, November 16, 2009

The Acela Express

I recently attended a medical conference in Philadelphia and decided to take the train. It seemed too close to fly, but long enough that I did not feel like road-tripping it. The thought of 3 hours of wasted time, driving, was almost too much to bear. At least I could bring my laptop with me and be productive.

I had to be there in the morning -was presenting in a workshop - but didn't want to spend an extra night away from the family, so I booked the earliest express train I could. The 7 a.m. Acela Express.

The gate was full of business-types in suits and briefcases, heading to Philadelphia or New York. I felt out of place in my purple dress and suitcase. But, what a great ride. It was amazingly fast and smooth. Plus, I got actual work done. When I stepped off onto the platform in Philadelphia, I felt decidedly more comfortable and more than a little disappointed to have booked the plain old regional home.

About a year and a half ago, I wrote about a different train, the slower train that my career was on since finishing residency and having kids. I just read that post again and marvel about how quickly things have changed.

I find myself riding the Acela Express, literally and figuratively. (How I ended up on it, I'm not so sure. It's all kind of a blur.) For the past couple of months, I have looked up to see the scenery flashing by the windows and the stops have become far less frequent. I have blamed the convergence of several deadlines and projects, yet I also wonder if this is the new reality.

I can see why people choose the Acela. It is seductive, this speed. I can get places much faster. It is difficult to get off; the stops are few and far in between.

My problem now is not knowing if I can keep pace with the Acela. I've been more stressed than usual, working much harder, and burning the midnight oil. (And if I wasn't sure if I was stressed or not, I could just ask the sebum-producing glands on my face, or my stomach lining.)

I've talked about this with my husband (who is no stranger to the express train), who reassures me that this is all good. It's all about adapting to a new level of productivity and reaching the balance needed with it. I may feel out of balance now with work>life, but I will learn to adapt, as he has.

I hope this is the case. Because, I have to admit, this express train is kind of exhiliarating.


  1. Interesting that you chose to take the acela only one way, perhaps the old slow train still has some appeal. Maybe the key is making sure you have the choice, picking which train you want to be on for any given "trip." Consider the treadmill, has a manual control, a pause, a quick start button, and an easy off escape hatch. But then again, one doesn't get too far on a treadmill. Maybe a walk in the park with the family! Good luck and enjoy the ride. Congrats on your many successes, more to come...

  2. I'm reading your post while in transit on a Virgin America flight to San Francisco. It's true just when I thought my life in medicine (and I am still in training) was coming to halt, many thing at once have emerged to send me soaring, literally. This plane actually has Wifi access and so here I am reading and working.

    I believe life has seasons and have learned to go with the flow and rhythm. When thing slow down, I rest and reclaim civility, which I bring into the next season.


  3. T: could not justify the expense of the express train back, also it doesn't run on Saturdays! But, yes, I like the idea of having a choice for different trips. Just hoping I can translate that to actual life. And, thank you, as always.

    Katherine: Life has seasons, I do believe that too. And, even with this express train travel, looking forward to a chance to recuperate in the upcoming weeks. Perhaps a forced spa day would be most prudent. Interested to know the reason for your sudden whirlwind adventure.

  4. I'm not sure anyone can tell you whether the Acela or the plain old regional is better. They really aren't better or worse, just better or worse for you. In part from watching my husband on the Acela twice a day every day (figuratively--in reality, sitting on the Beltway, he would LOVE to be on the Acela instead), I made the very conscious decision to give up my ticket and savor the old regional while it lasts. The Acela, or the next shiny, dashing train, will always be there, advertising itself, and there will undoubtedly be throngs lining up to ride, but the old regional has an expiration date. I'm glad to enjoy the slow scenery out the window while it lasts. (Having now sent one off to school and preparing to send another next year, I see that the time will come to buy my Acela ticket again...if I want.) The truth is that I kind of love having days where the goal is nothing more than "teach my kids how to play frisbee and ride without training wheels and read 50 pages of a novel WHILE IT IS LIGHT OUT!!" But, you know, different people and different families have different needs, and what is a perfect fit for one might not be for the other. Sounds like the Acela is a good fit for you, and you just have to come to terms with the cost. The fact that it doesn't run on Saturdays, though, probably contains a lesson for us all. :)

  5. I think Tempeh has some wise words for all of us: Although the ride on the express might be exhilarating, take some time to look around and enjoy those slow(er) Saturdays.



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