I am directionally impaired and have been for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I was invited to my friend's house after school -- we didn't call them play dates back then. I remember our moms discussing how I was to get home. My friend's mom suggested I walk -- we only lived a few blocks apart. Panicked, I said, "I don't know how." The other mother thought I was being lazy and answered with a snarky attitude, "just put one foot in front of the other." My own mother smiled. She understood the truth. I knew the part about putting one foot in front of the other; I just didn't know which way to put the feet. Mom picked me up.
As I got older, my sense of direction got no better. The first time I drove down to the Jersey Shore by myself was interesting. I was throwing quarters into tollbooths, the wind running through the open windows of my green Dodge Dart. I was young and free -- then it happened. I saw the large highway sign right before my very eyes. The Garden State Parkway was about to divide. What? The highway divides? All the years I had been driving this route with my family and I never once noticed the road divided. I was a wreck. Why didn't anyone ever tell me the road divided? I pulled onto the median. Which side should I take? There were no cell phones. I couldn't call someone and ask. I could feel the beads of sweat forming on my forehead. I wiped them with my sleeve -- remember, I was young and free and didn't carry tissues.
I didn't pray either, but I did chant. Eeny, meeny, miny moe. Catch a tiger by the toe. If he hollers, let him go. Eeny, meeny, miny moe. The rhyme from childhood would have to be enough. I stayed on that median for a long time before landing on the right side. I took it. The right side. When I arrived at the beach house, I discovered either way would have worked. Huh... all that worrying for nothing.
And then there was the time I was driving to my college for the first time. I got so confused on the Pennsylvania turnpike that I turned off onto an exit that the previous nine cars had just used. I wasn't following them. They were not my fellow undergrads. But I just figured if nine cars made the same turn, they had to know something I didn't. Pathetic, I know. Naturally, I got lost. Here's a little tip for you... if you are following cars that are NOT going where you are going, chances are you will get lost. You can put money on it. I had to stop and ask for directions but I didn't have a pen. I used lipstick. Equally effective.
Now I have a navigation system in my car. It helps. I don't get lost, but I don't always take the fastest route either. Last week I was driving to Whiting, NJ. Before I left the house, my husband told me to take exit 88 off the Garden State Parkway, then use the navigation system to take me to the exact address. In other words, I was supposed to bypass navigation and get off at exit 88. At exit 129, the kind navigation lady, whom my children named Gertrude Penelope Stein (as in GPS), told me to take the exit on the right. I listened to Gertrude. I took the exit on the right. I was forced onto a route loaded with traffic lights and consequently, traffic. A trip that was supposed to take one hour took two. When I finally arrived at my destination, nobody was surprised to see I was late. They just figured I got lost. This time I wasn't really lost, but I wasn't found, either.
Why, Judy, why? I berated myself on the ride home. I ought to know better by now. I am too old to believe every direction I am facing is North. I am too old for these crazy, clueless, getting lost stories. I am too old. As I continued to turn over my disability in my brain -- making sure to stay on the Garden State Parkway this time -- I had an epiphany. What I have is not a disability at all. It is, quite frankly, an asset. Stay with me people and keep your glass half full.
It is my disability that has proven to me time and time again, there is more than one way to get anywhere. There are long ways and short ways, scenic ways and winding ways. There are even out-of-the-way ways. It doesn't matter which way you happen upon, you will arrive at your predetermined destination. As I see it now, it isn't always about the destination but rather about the journey. My sense of direction, or lack thereof, has taught me a most valuable life lesson -- it's OK to get lost.
You will get there.
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