It’s not only possible, but 111 percent probable that if you dropped me into any area within a 20-mile radius of my house and gave me directions using only North, East, South and West, I would end up somewhere 40 miles away from my house.
A compass is as foreign to me as self-editing and maps are simply pretty pictures with lots of distracting colors that are entirely impossible to a) understand b) look at while driving and c) fold back up.
In other words, I have no sense of direction.
It’s not that I haven’t made a valiant effort to understand directions–I’m aware that North, East, South and West exist—it’s just that I don’t quite understand where they are in relation to where I am or want to be.
In my world, local highways are not labeled by specific names—1-96, I94—but are instead known as the “mall highway,” “Harvest Health highway,” “work road” etc. Sometimes people that don’t know me very well will ask me for directions and in turn get a series of landmarks and things like, “Turn left at the gas station that has my favorite gum that everyone else stopped carrying” as a response.
Not many people ask me for directions after that first time, but I actually feel much worse for people trying to give me directions somewhere.
Here’s how a typical conversation with me generally goes:
Other person: Go east on that road about five miles.
Me: Is east left or right?
Other person: Head north on that street.
Me: If we’re standing in my driveway, is that behind me or in front of me?
In my head I see a flat map with north at the top, south at the bottom and the other two things on the sides. How this translates into real life is somewhat more complicated. Until someone paints a big N, E, S or W in the sky, I’m pretty much screwed.
But I really don’t get lost that often, as I end up figuring out my own system—and don’t generally travel alone if it’s outside that 20 mile radius from my house. If I’m traveling with someone who expects me to be a dependable co-pilot, they soon learn the error of assumption (and which gas station has my favorite gum that everyone else stopped carrying.)
I’ve tried to fix this little issue, but my internal GPS is completely MIA. However, instead of lamenting this directional deficiency of mine, I’ve embraced it.
I’ve accepted the fact that I might not always know where I’m going—either in my car, on foot or in life—and that it’s OK to stop and ask for directions, even if those directions don’t help me out that much at the time.
Even if I take a few wrong turns and feel a bit lost, I take a small amount of comfort in knowing that I seem to find my way eventually.
Just don’t ask me how I plan to get there.
I’m still figuring that out myself.