Do you remember Mapquest? I think about it a lot. About us printing out directions on white printer paper and keeping them in our bags so we could figure out where we were going. It sounds so archaic, and slightly…stupid? Since maps were always a thing? But think about us now, so reliant on Google Maps. On Waze. On asking Siri whether we need to turn left or right.
And yes, I guess this is a metaphor.
I guess this is an observation about how it’s human nature to always want to know where we’re going. To know what direction we should head in. To ask Siri whether we’re going the wrong way and need to proceed to the correct route. How it’s a very, very normal and rational thing to what to know what’s next.
For the most part, I’ve always had a very clear direction when it comes to what I’m doing and where I’m heading in life. I’ve never been an “up in the air” kind of girl. Maybe it’s because I have so much Virgo in my chart I’m a walking “I told you so” meets To-Do List meets nightmare, but knowing what was next and where I would end up was always something that was incredibly clear to me. When I was in high school, the goal was always to be the star of the show (not a metaphor) and continue that through college. Check. Then the plan was the move to a big city and make it my place. Check. Then it was to be a writer, to work in media, to become a partner at a company, to take over editing. Check, check, check. Even as I grew up and my plans changed and my dreams shifted, there was rarely a time where I felt like I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Like I had absolutely no idea where I was going.
The cross-section between ambiguity and uncertainty has never been somewhere I was comfortable. I’ve never thrived with whatevers, with what ifs, with we’ll sees. I don’t see an ellipsis and think, “Oh! Interesting! What a fun challenge!!” I see a precursor to a panic attack.
The first time I went to New York City I was 17 and going with my school’s show choir. Our teacher kept drilling into our heads how different the city was compared to North Dakota, how we couldn’t wander off, how we were *never* to go anywhere alone. I remember all of us stressing out, in the days before iPhones and Siris oh-so-handy directions, about what would happen if we got lost.
And then somewhere around W 71st St, when our teacher was trying to coordinate enough cabs for 20 some teens and himself, I realized while looking at a map that the city is a literal grid. That to get almost anywhere, all you have to do is count the blocks. That getting lost may be an inevitability, but getting yourself out of it and back on track and back in the right direction was all a matter of taking a deep breath and just counting.
Yes, I’m still leaning hard into this metaphor.
If ambiguity is something I hate, repeating myself is right behind it. I hate that feeling of going in circles, of finding yourself right back where you started. But how do you figure things out, how do you get out of the circle, if you don’t keep repeating yourself? How do you get the answers to questions without asking them? And how do you figure out what the answer is, if you don’t keep asking? So even though I hate doing it, I’m still running in this metaphorical circle asking over and over and over again.
Where are we going, what are we doing, what is the point of all of this? Repeat, repeat, repeat.
I’ve always been one of those people who loves answers. I can debate with the best of them but I believe that one side is right, and one side is wrong and there is very little in the middle. I love to know exactly what is what and I do well coloring inside the lines. The lines are there for a reason.
I want to believe that I’m capable of grey, that everything isn’t always black and white. I want to look for the places where the lines are more like suggestions. I want to be able to see that there are levels between all and nothing where I am capable of existing. That I can be in flux and be okay.
But in these shades of grey, in this in between, this flux…what are we doing. What is the point of all of this? Where are we going? How can I take a deep breath and count the blocks until I know where I am? If I ask Siri, can she tell me where to go? If I find myself at the cross-section of ambiguity and who-the-fuck-knows, which way should I turn? Does anybody have a map to help get me the hell out of here and back where something makes sense and the answers are right there?
Where are we going? What are we doing? What is the point of all of this?
And this isn’t a metaphor, or at least it’s not supposed to be. I just really want to know.