When I turned sixteen, I was so excited. I couldn't wait to drive to the mall and meet my friends at the Orange Julius and buy crappy earrings at Claire's. I couldn't wait to get in the car and drive by myself to school, to roll up to Wichita Collegiate in my sweet '94 Ford Explorer, windows down, Cranberries blasting on the CD player. The world [or Wichita, at least] was mine for the taking. Because I could go everywhere.
So imagine my surprise when I get in the car that bright morning, the sun shining, the world fresh and new with possibilities - and I realized, suddenly, devastated - I didn't know how to get anywhere.
I probably could have guessed that I was bad at directions, but I didn't know for sure until that moment. And what a sad, pitiful moment it was. All I wanted to do was get to Towne East Mall. I'd been there two zillion times. Yet there I was, paralyzed; I didn't even know where to begin. But like, literally. It's quite possible I wasn't even sure which direction to turn out of my driveway.
Realizing what I had to do, I collected myself, I turned off the car, and dragged my Doc Marten sandals into the house. [literally, dragged, do you remember how heavy those things were?] I averted my parents [unprepared to face the mockery that awaited me if I told them the truth]. I slunk quietly into my little brother's room and asked him ashamedly if he would mind terribly shutting off his gameboy for just a quick sec... and teach me how to get to the mall? And to Kelly's? And to Ali's? And to... everywhere else I'll need to go pretty much ever? I'm pretty sure he started drawing a map. And I'm pretty sure I surrendered what little pride remained to ask him if he could please just tell me rights and lefts, because I was pretty sure I couldn't read maps either.
That pattern continued essentially until I moved away from home. But leaving home didn't really change much about much. Once in college [in Texas] I called my brother [in Kansas] and [I'm not kidding] said something like, QUICK, I need to get back to Trinity, which way should I go on 410!? And he told me. And he was right. And I died a little inside.
I got cocky though, when I moved to Colorado. Sure, the first week I lived here I cried for a solid hour because I couldn't find Target, but that's neither here nor there. Somehow, slowly, I kind of figured out where I was going. You see, in Wichita, my entire life took place in a 1-block radius. At Trinity, I barely ventured off campus and when I did it was pretty much just to one place. When I moved off campus, I moved to that one place. So Colorado was a new thing for me - I lived in downtown Denver, went to school in Littleton, nannied in Lakewood - and I did it! All of it! All by myself [mostly]! Up until a week or two ago, I was feeling pretty freaking great about my ability to get effortlessly from point A to point B.
My family still makes fun of me for the events mentioned above, and I have been fighting it recently, insisting that I have recovered from the directional challenges of my youth. I was rehabilitated, see, I can even get to and from my friends' houses without Google Maps. But a hard truth became abundantly clear to me today as I drove aimlessly around Denver trying to find places I've never been before. Less than two weeks as a case manager [where a great deal of my job is, apparently, to do just that] and I feel I need to confess the truth to you:
I am [still] bad at directions.
I haven't called any out-of-town family members yet, but hey - there's always tomorrow.