Nothing could prepare me for the emotional journey I embark upon every day when I climb into my car.

When I first moved to Northern Virginia, I was warned about the traffic. At the time, I was sure I knew all too well what I was getting myself into, having grown up just outside of Philadelphia. So, once I had settled into my little D.C. beltway town, changed my license plates, and half-heartedly familiarized myself with my route to work, I merged onto I-495 feeling confident and well-prepared for my first commute.

In the months since, the drive to and from work has taken about 10 years off my life.

The roller coaster of emotions we Virginians experience in our efforts to somehow navigate our way through the awful NoVA traffic is near impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it themselves. Usually, it begins with an innocent dose of ...

Denial

Despite how often you’ve made the journey, you still can’t help but leave work every day with the misguided thought that "Maybe today it won’t be as bad." Even as you turn onto your first exit and see a parade of brake lights in front of you, you try to hold it together by telling yourself, "Okay, but maybe it won't take so long." Oh, you sweet, naive thing. 

Regardless of your desperate attempts to stay positive, however, you’ve experienced this route enough times to recognize the initial symptoms of D.C. traffic. As your hopes of smoothly making it home after a hard day's work dwindle, you find yourself entering the next phase of your journey ...

Anger

Ordinarily, you’re jolted into this stage after your neighbor’s abrupt lane change nearly knocks you into the guardrail. You look over at the culprit expecting an apology, or at least an admission of guilt, only to find your offender speeding into the distance without so much as a courtesy wave. One of the first lessons I learned upon moving to NoVA was that using my turn signal was a good way of letting everyone know I was new to the area. After one or two more near-death experiences, your disposition will transition into one of ...

Bargaining

Occasionally you’ve thought about offering up your firstborn so the car next to you will let you merge. Or, you’ve debated how much is too much to offer pedestrians to pick up the pace after your light's already turned green and they’ve only made it about a quarter of the way through the crosswalk. It’s incredible how desperate we’ll become after putting up with 40 minutes of standstill traffic. Around the same time you lose all hope of making it home before the sun sets, you'll get hit with the first wave of ...

Depression

Usually, you’ll start to debate whether or not all of this is worth the benefits of living so close to our nation’s capital. God forbid, it’s a Friday and all your friends are sending Snapchats of their weekend plans already kicking off.

On the bright side, however, you've finally come to succumb to the inevitable end of your journey, which is ...

Acceptance

Sure, pedestrian, it’s no inconvenience that you’ve given me zero time to react to your lackadaisical pace across the middle of Columbia Pike! And of course, I don’t mind that this SUV has brought traffic to a complete halt by parking across three lanes in an attempt to make a left turn! At this point, we’re all happy so long as we make it home in one piece.