I am lost.
“How?” You might ask. Or, “Where? Do you need assistance?”
Or, you might simply say, “I don’t care.” This might be accompanied by a slight shrug of the left shoulder, a disdainful twitch of a nostril, or a swift retreat into your previously undisturbed state.
I am going to ignore that last reaction, though valid, and answer the first in a grand display of narcissism laced with a hidden cry for help.
So, how am I lost?
Emotionally? Spiritually? Under papers with tiny scratches that many perceive as letters, words, or fear?
These answers might be true at times, though my usual state is a simple one. I am physically lost. Confused by my surroundings. Unknown to my atmosphere. Making eye contact with an unknowing passerby, wondering if they see my pupils dilating in fear. Whatever you want to call it, a large chunk of my life has been devoted to the art of Knowing Where I Am.
It hasn’t gone very well.
In Eighth grade cross country, I led a group of confused twelve-year-olds astray by never turning. I went out on the run, gradually lost sight of the group in front of me, and went straight and straight and straight again as if the school was both behind and in front of me.
A group of small seventh-graders caught up while I stopped and stewed in panic. They mistook me for a guide sent from the heavens and trailed after me like a group of ducklings following a Roomba on the fritz. After a few fruitless miles, I gave up and stopped at an unexpected haven for the lost. An Office Max.
We wandered around the store searching for the time to see just how lost we were before realizing all the products were demos with a myriad of different yet still incorrect times. We then used a kind and confused employee’s phone to call someone to drive us back to the middle school.
The seventh-graders didn’t trust me after that.
Arriving at college last year, I feared the worst. The two block by three block stretch of land seemed a vast kingdom akin to the drawings at the beginnings of fantasy novels. I now have a folder of pictures on my phone with maps–of the campus, of Noyce–and I consult them more than I should as a second-year student.
I love these maps though, and I’ve come to rely on them with a small portion of my soul. With every new Noyce classroom I have to find, I look up the map online and find the room to figure out the best route and scope out the nearby bathrooms.
But then, last week, the dreaded day came. I could sense it lurking behind me, sending shivers down my spine that, on second thought, might be Noyce’s extreme air conditioning I aggressively try to pretend isn’t there.
The new room number just wasn’t on the map.
It didn’t exist.
I sat in my bed and scoured the small, blurry 1200 hallway on my dying phone. I could feel it laughing at me from somewhere. The room, that is, laughing at the confused adult child that would soon wander the halls with a frantic expression and a full water bottle because if I can’t find the classroom, I will just keep filling up my water bottle to look busy.
The truth was that there was a typo, and I found the classroom with time to spare. There was no reason to be nervous. No need to scour the halls.
But, scour the halls I did.
When I was learning to drive, my mother would ask me what way I “felt was right” when I approached familiar turns. “I don’t know,” I responded, because I didn’t. I would have had more luck flipping a coin just to appease the angry cars gathering around my stagnant one.
To answer an earlier, self-addressed question, no, I do not need assistance. I am lost, that’s true. I should probably get where I want to go, indeed. Would some help probably get me there faster? Definitely. But, I once attended an oddly creepy Dora the Explorer live performance. Like her, I enjoy my maps, at least more than I enjoy failing at small-talk interactions.
At least maps are quiet while they judge you.