In Motion

If I close my eyes I can’t really tell I’m moving. The tracks are smooth, here at least, and the noise of the train in motion is mostly a gentle hum, easily overpowered by the chit-chat of commuters around me. The New York-DC train on a Sunday night is a special thing—a strange mix of business people headed between offices and tourists headed between metropolitan adventures. I’m moving between homes- between lives that feel increasingly separate, in a way that feels scary and exciting.

It was light out when I entered Penn station—late afternoon, after almost 6 hours spent at synagogue, a lot even for me, teaching and learning.  My third graders have learned almost half the alef-bet by now. They recognize words in our prayer books, and it makes me smile when I listen to them attempt to sound them out, syllable by syllable. A bit at a time. My 7th graders brought their parents to school today. We talked, as a grade, about gimulut chasidem, acts of love and kindness. I got to watch the loud boys who always sit up front quietly watch their fathers read torah. I got to watch the shy girls take the microphone and share their thoughts. I got to listen to my kids tell me about the mitzvah projects they are doing to celebrate their b’nai mitzvot. I’ve only known them for a few months, and I only get to see them once a week, but I felt proud. I like to watch them learn, even more so when they don’t realize that they are.

I walked the 11 bocks home in silence. No music, no phone calls, just the thoughts inside my head. I watched businessmen in suits powerwalk down the streets, too important to slow, even for a minute. I watched couples stroll casually, holding hands with smiles. There were babies in strollers and old men with dogs. Messengers on bikes, and taxis speeding past. I walked calmly, not quickly, not not slowly either. I made my way home.

I packed my bags and washed the dishes. Closed up my laptop and let my phone charge a little. I cleaned the floors and found my things. I locked the door behind me.

The cab ride was fine, in the way that cab rides in New York almost always are. Stop and go, much too suddenly. Weaving in and out between lines with no thought to safety or traffic laws. Somehow things like basic driving skills don’t matter in a city where driving down a road feels more like trying to settle down a Tetris piece.

Penn station is there, like it always is, large and imposing, and much less frightening then it used to be. Everything feels like that now—still too big, still too much—but not as scary as it used to be. Not even close.

So I’m on the train now. My phone and my laptop connect to the wi-fi on amtrack automatically now, and I can’t help but to think of how right that that feels. I’m in motion. I’m in transit. Not just physically--as I watch as the cities blur by and the conductor walks down the aisle punching tickets—but through my life. I’m between jobs and between stages. Between feeling bad and feeling kind of ok. Between feeling new and feeling settled and feeling maybe just a little bit comfortable.

I’m maybe half an hour out of New York. About 3 hours away from Maryland. From the train station where my little brother will be waiting. I can’t wait to see him.

If I close my eyes, I can’t really tell that I’m moving, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know.  I don’t need to view out the window or the vibrations under my feet to know that things are changing. I know it. And it’s scary, but I’m less scared then I used to be. And that’s a start. It’s a start and a step—a step in the direction I want to be moving.

The train moves quickly. It covers land quicker than a car, and way quicker than I could on my feet.

I’m excited to arrive. 

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