Getting back on track

On my mind

I wish I had something profound to share with you this week, but all I can express is relief. Relief, because I made it through three months of hell while my metro station was closed for construction. I SURVIVED.

My commute to work went from 30-35 minutes to more than hour, because instead of taking one smooth line, I was taking a jumble of buses and shuttles to another metro station. Valuable sleep time, breakfast time, brain processing time, making dinner time, chores time—gone. I was reduced to rushing into the office when I had early morning shifts running our social media accounts or our homepage because of being caught in traffic and coming home exhausted at the end of the night after waiting around for a bus to show up for me. It was not pretty. My anxiety did not appreciate it.

Despite the stress and unexpected delays, I love living in a city that has public transportation. I did not grow up with that reality. Arizona is a car state. You have to drive everywhere. If you are taking the bus, it’s because you have no other option. If you are walking, it’s because you have no other option. This was before the era of ordering strangers to pick you up with your phone. My parents did not let my friends give me rides when we were of driving age, because they didn’t trust anyone. That left me at my parents’ mercy to take me everywhere, which for some reason they did not mind? I would literally argue that me getting my license in high school would help us all out tremendously, but they did not find that argument compelling.

I eventually got my license at 18 and a car at 20, which ushered me into a new era of independence and made my college reporting assignments much easier. Although Phoenix installed a light rail line during my freshman year, it literally only took you from Phoenix to Tempe. One line. That’s it. After the novelty wore off, I stopped using the light rail and just drove around or took our free, Wifi-equipped campus shuttles.

The Bay Area was my first introduction to real public transportation with the humble BART system. I began using it when I moved to Berkeley after college and worked in San Francisco’s Mission District, thus becoming a commuter. I was so nervous about getting on the wrong line (which I did a lot) and getting off at the wrong stop (which I did a lot). Once I figured it out though, I was converted to a public transit fan. I loved avoiding traffic or not paying for gas. I shook my head when I saw my coworkers dash outside to refill the meter or move their car during the work day. Plus I got entertained by a quirky cast of talented locals and got more reading and writing time.

The D.C. metro took my commuting experience to the next level, because it had a much more extensive reach than the BART. When the metro worked, it was great. When it didn’t, it was literally on fire. I learned to check Twitter for anything going on with the metro so I could commiserate with others about our lines being delayed or crowded platforms and try and make alternative plans. I didn’t have my car here initially so I was forced to suck it up and deal with metro’s incompetence. I told myself I needed to check my privilege and be happy I even had access to this option. But since I was once again living in the suburbs, I eventually caved and brought my car over so I could get to American University’s campus more easily. That hour and a half metro ride was reduced to a beautiful 20 minute drive. It has helped to have my car for errands, going out of town or accessing places far from the metro, but I still don’t drive to work because it’s expensive and takes way longer.

Although the D.C. metro has tested my patience to no end this summer, I’m glad it’s back. I know the construction and improvements were all to provide us better service in the long run (I hope). It was just painful and humbling to endure. Being a public transit rider has now become a part of my identity for better or for worse. I think of young Nesima who always wanted to build a relationship with a city and the community around her, but couldn’t because we were all stuck in little vehicles, headed towards our own destinations without speaking to or acknowledging each other. I’m grateful the metro has given me those much-needed moments with friends and strangers, encouraged me to visit new areas and neighborhoods, and helped me avoid parallel parking.

I’m just really looking forward to a more well-rested version of myself.

What I’m noting

  • Hasan Minhaj Rails Against Student-Loan Debt Crisis in Congressional Testimony // When you’ve got comedians testifying before Congress, you know we’re in trouble. Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have done it, so it was only matter of time that Hasan Minhaj did too. Hasan’s Netflix show, Patriot Act, is smart and witty, and he brought that energy into the critical issue of student loan debt on the show and in front of the House Financial Services Committee.

  • How Black Americans Were Robbed Of Their Land // A short documentary on The Atlantic’s fantastic September magazine cover story on the mass land dispossession of black farmers because of racist federal policies.

  • Epic Twitter thread on Abaco, the island in the Bahamas hit hardest by hurricane Dorian // I live for dramatic stories told through Twitter. This was a Drunk History-level thread on Abaco, The Bahamas and a successful slave revolt.

  • Homelessness and Housing Security in U.S. Pop Culture // A report from the Center for Media and Social Impact at American University that explores whether housing-related topics were covered in American news and entertainment and if so, how are those issues framed, who is represented and who gets to speak?

  • gOD-talk: Black Millennials and Faith // This is a multi-city project by the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s Center for the Study of African American Religious Life and the Pew Research Center focused on how millennials interact with religion. While the data shows American millennials are less likely to be religious in a traditional sense, they still seek out spirituality and find community in their own way. Check out this conversation last week between millennial voices from different faith traditions in Chicago. (Shoutout to Makkah, co-host of Identity Politics, for being on the panel!)

  • Spiced Nice // I’m guilty of following so many cooking shows and social media pages and saving recipes I will not make for months, however I love this Instagram account that posts super approachable and delicious recipes and the photography is ridiculously good. I’ve already made a few and can’t wait to make more!

    Roasted Chimichurri Potatoes. So simple and so so delicious 😋 These potatoes are so crispy yet still so soft and buttery on the inside. They’re just tossed and roasted in my Chimichurri sauce recipe - so quick & easy 🙌🏼 Find the full recipe for these + the Chimichurri in my highlights! #spicednice
    July 1, 2019

  • Sad Lunch Break // I’m trying to break my habit of eating lunch at my desk if I don’t have pressing work to do. But if for some reason you have no one to eat with or just want to be alone, this site might keep you company.

I had a ton of fun performing last Saturday in the Good Fun Muslim Friends Club at The Kennedy Center’s REACH festival. If you’re in D.C., you really need to visit the new complex and go to one of The Kennedy Center’s free events over the next week. Seeing the National Symphony Orchestra perform some of Alan Menken’s greatest hits from my favorite Disney movies and musicals along with Broadway stars was the highlight of my week.

Please keep sharing your thoughts and stories with me! I loved hearing about the furniture you’ve procrastinated on getting in your homes and am happy I’m not alone lol.

That’s it for me. Have a good weekend!

— Nesima