This post is really about what the value of time has come to mean to me. So, here’s my background so you can understand how I got to this point. I lived in Sangre Grande for most of my life (from the ages of five to twenty eight). I went to primary school in the area so that first five/six years was good, but from the age of eleven to present, I’ve had to deal with long commutes. High school was St. Joseph’s Convent, Port-of-Spain (Convent girl and proud), so from the tender age of eleven I was exposed to ridiculous traffic. On a good day, this meant an hour to and an hour from home to school. Honestly, during school days, while it was far, the traffic was bad sometimes, but overall it wasn’t unbearable (I don’t think. Maybe, the passing of time has blurred the true torture). I got dropped off to school, and when I did have to travel on afternoons because it was out of peak traffic hours, it was okay. Also, it was an adventure to meet friends from other schools, etc., and let’s be honest, it was a form of socialising, and in your teenage years, that’s all plus. When high school was over though, and I had to enter the working environment, I was also making the Grande to Port-of-Spain trek. However, the hours weren’t as pleasant. Also, the traffic situation had gotten considerably worse at that point.
So what was the traveling to and from Grande like with public transport?
It meant many, many instances of standing and waiting for hours…yes HOURS, in heels with a laptop bag on my shoulder at City Gate before I could get even get a maxi that would then take over an hour to get to Sangre Grande. This was of course assuming I got a direct maxi. Most times, I’d have to wait on the Arima stand, get a maxi to there, and then wait again to get one to Sangre Grande, so much more than an hour if the latter was the case. Drinking sufficient water in those days was not an option, because that would mean holding it for three plus hours on average.
It also meant pushing to get into maxis like animals in a cage fighting to get out. Anyone who has experienced this knows it’s not an exaggeration. It’s a mixture of well-dressed professionals in suits, construction guys, school children, and the regular travelling public who need to put aside their claustrophobia, their idea of personal space, their ethics about respecting your elders because pushing an elder out of the way isn’t uncommon, and your views on violence because there will be actual shoving and elbowing involved. That was a regular daily afternoon (and sometimes morning) experience for me. On mornings, you had the option of getting up super early to ensure you got one of the few maxis, but if you snoozed for an extra five minutes, you’d be rewarded with some early morning standing and shoving cardio. After many of those days, I would just walk into my house, drop my bags on the floor, and burst into tears. I remember one Valentine’s Day, it was raining and of course in this sweet country of ours, it was flooded, so that made it even worse. I got home after ten that night. So that means I would have been in City Gate from about 4.30-5pm to after 8pm at night. Fun right? I did this for about three years before I bought my own car.
What was it like driving to and from Grande?
Upgrade to a car, so no more circus behaviour to endure right? Well, the acts just changed. It went from physically having to battle for transport, to daily tests of endurance in controlling the road rage from dealing with idiotic drivers to bladder control to just maintaining a semblance of sanity. I still walked into my house many days in tears. The difference? The tears probably started in the privacy of my car where it didn’t matter too much if random drivers noticed. I suffer from migraines and they were constant. They were just so frequent, and so bad, that eventually I couldn’t do it anymore.
It meant being always tired, always drained, always in a state of stress because I would be dreading the next commute, be it morning or evening. It got so bad that I reached the point where I just resigned to stay home for a bit, and regain my sanity. I resigned without a new job prospect. I was home unemployed for longer than anticipated, because I only considered jobs located an hour-ish away (up to maybe San Juan). I don’t regret these jobs, as they were excellent experience, but only accepting jobs within a tolerable distance of Grande was substantially limiting my job prospects, so I had to head back to the West for the better opportunities. I lasted eleven months, and then one week (when I was in tears in traffic with a migraine) I just said I’m done with this shit, and started looking for apartments, and two weeks later I was officially renting. That was a year and a half ago.
Why did I take so long to move out?
I’ve wondered that awhile, and it’s a couple of reasons. The main one is that I was always around people who kept telling me it didn't make sense, and that rent was ‘dead money’ in that it’s money you put out that doesn’t benefit you in the long run in any way, and when you think about it in the long term it does add up. If your rent is $3k a month, that’s $36k a year, $100k in 3 yrs, etc. and this was always my deterrent. But truthfully, it’s not like I was actually using the money I wasn’t spending on rent in any productive way. It was most probably just spent on food, clothes, and other forms of entertainment. From the time I started renting, I knew I needed to ensure that rent, utilities, food, etc were covered before anything else, so budgeting in some form became a priority. I’ve finally been able to curb the online shopping, and random mall trips for retail therapy because I was in a bad mood. If I’m honest, I was always a little bit scared of moving out. It wasn’t like I was moving in with someone. I was moving out to be on my own, and I was pretty spoilt at home. I didn’t have to pay for anything, and there was always home-cooked food, etc. I’ve come to realise that everything happens when it’s meant to, and in the right time, and maybe it just took me this long to become a proper-ish adult. And that’s ok. Everyone travels his path at his own pace, so I've learnt to not judge my journey based on anyone else’s. The goal is just be true to yourself, and do what you need to do to make your soul happy.
Do I regret moving out?
Hell no. It’s been an adjustment. I eat a lot less home-cooked food, and sometimes I feel like renting has made me lazier. Instead of using the time I would have spent in traffic constructively, it’s mostly spent on just recreational activities. But..binge watching a series on Netflix will always be more productive than spending hours in traffic trying not to go crazy. I have fewer migraines. Even if they’re still more frequent than I like, I have eliminated one of the triggers. I have time. I am so grateful every day (twice at least) that I can get home quickly after a long day at work. I am much less angry. My facebook friends would have been used to weekly traffic rants on my profile. That has disappeared, and I’m just able to be a happier human. I think everyone knows what they need to be comfortable and happy, and to me, that’s the convenience of adequate job opportunities as well as shopping, and liming options. Don’t get me wrong. I love Grande. The place is lovely, and the people even more so, and it’s where my family is located, but until it becomes more convenient it’s a no go for me.
What are my views on the traffic situation getting better, and the government helping to make it so?
Living in the East can be a viable option in the future if the traffic situation is rectified, and businesses become more de-centralised, but for now and the foreseeable future, sadly it’s not. I can do an entire blog post on my thoughts on this, but in short, I think this and past governments have forgotten the people of East Trinidad. They implement solutions for other areas while only giving promises to the people in the East around election time. Governments will try to justify it by saying we got a by-pass road a couple years ago. It's insulting when this one thing is used in an effort to placate us. Yes, it does help, but it is in no way enough being the only thing done in my lifetime. This is a bitter bitter topic for me as I have suffered because of it for most of my life. I hope something is done soon, but as I said before, I have my doubts, as I don’t think the people of the East are considered people enough for the government to truly care about them. Harsh, but true.
How did living in the East affect my social life?
What social life? Ok. That’s not fair, but it felt like it a lot of the times. It’s ok when your significant other is also from the area, so it makes meet-ups and outings convenient, but when they live at least an hour away from you, not so much. I drive so that made it easier than having to be picked up, but after being on the road for five-six hours a day, five days a week, on weekends, I just wanted to vegetate at home most times. And sometimes I just wanted to be picked up, and driven. Hell…I wanted to be the girl, and pampered, but I felt an immense sense of guilt allowing (because to be fair the guys would offer) someone to drive an hour to pick me up, for us to drive an hour to our destination, for him to drive an hour to drop me home, and another hour for him to get back home. Did you get tired just reading that? Because I got tired just remembering it. There weren’t many/any liming spots in the area where I wanted to hang out, unless it was my actual house, so that didn’t help matters. As for spontaneous limes, it wasn’t an option because I needed to know way in advance obviously just to make it. It was very frustrating because most of my friends weren’t from the area.
I also realised living in Grande that maybe a lot of my friends were selfish. This might seem harsh, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but they chose the places to hang out based on where they or the majority lived, which would be the West/Central Trinidad, and so the East was never/very rarely an option. This was eye-opening as well, as they never considered how difficult it was for me, or the others from the East to always have to drive to meet them. I mean they sympathised, but sympathy without action is why the government hasn’t helped the situation to date. Disclaimer, this doesn’t mean that they’re bad people. We all live busy lives and we want to enjoy our limited free time, so I can’t be upset with them for their choices. But, I can hope that we can convert sympathy into action at some point so that we can actually make a change for the better in this country.
So, in summary, living in the East was not very conducive to having a healthy, social life to me.
How did living in the East affect my career?
I’ve already discussed earlier that unless I wanted to endure the traffic to Port-of-Spain, in my career, as an Accounting professional, my options were limited. Yes, there are businesses in the East but honestly, they are more manufacturing companies and the salary ranges for these are much lower than other companies (banks, insurance, auditing/accounting firms, advertising, etc.) that can be found in the West/Southern parts of the country.
Additionally, living in the East may be viable if your employer allows flexi-time, such as allowing you to arrive early, (which you have to anyways) and leaving earlier. However, for most people that’s not an option. I have personally experienced arriving a full two hours before everyone else (at 6.30am) and leaving promptly on time at 4.30pm (not even asking to leave earlier), and being looked at slightly because the norm was to leave at 5.00/5.30pm. This just fostered more resentment, and unhappiness in the workplace. Some people may be able to make it work, and I wish everyone could, but unfortunately, that’s not the reality.
Do I still consider rent money ‘dead money’?
No. I’m paying for my sanity, my time, and my independence. Any one of those reasons would make it worthwhile, but all together, it’s a steal of a deal to me. Of course, I picked an apartment I loved (space, location and cost-wise), so that transaction in itself needs to be value for money that you’re happy with firstly to feel like it’s worth it.
Am I going to rent forever?
Gosh no. I need a house with a yard for my puppy babies (and no, putting puppy and baby together isn’t redundant...calm down!). Owning my own home is something I aspire to and hope to achieve in the not too distant future. It would be nice if housing was more affordable, but ah well…something will work out.
Would I encourage other people to rent?
Maybe. Everyone’s situation, and reasons are different, but if it’s something you feel strongly about then you can try it, and if it’s not for you, then hopefully your former living arrangements will still be available to you. But, whatever you choose to do, make sure the decision isn’t because of a fear of the unknown, because fear holds us back from too many good things.
Have you had a similar experience? Leave a comment and let’s discuss. Remember to subscribe to the blog, and share the posts.
Light and love always!