i love maps and globes and yet i am directionally impaired. if someone tells me the taco stand is on the southeast corner i look at them blankly. left or right? because the 'L' is my left thumb and pointer finger and that will never change. i never know if i am facing north or south unless i'm standing next to the ocean but i guarantee if you put me on the east coast, i would get it wrong. and here i am, in charge of teaching finn how the world works. sometimes i'm just passing along information that was passed along to me, unfiltered.
i was in my fourth year of college. my first week in 'images in film' i was required to write an essay discussing culture and society, ethnicity and class. i was an english major. i wrote papers in my sleep and my editing consisted mainly of correcting typing/spelling errors. remember typewriters? painstaking pounding of keys, attention to detail. first drafts always written by hand. i bought a super ugly electric typewriter/word processor that showed the line before it printed on a ticker above the keys and i felt a step above, streamlined. i finished the paper an hour before class and turned it in, smiling at my professor with the ignorance of a middle class woman who has always risen to the academic top. forgetting that the fat that rises up first generally gets skimmed off and discarded. the next class, a warning lecture to students. there is no excuse for failing to think critically. i half listened. i got an A in my critical analysis in literature class. these are skills i was born with. my paper gets handed back to me and he smiles as i take it. i smile back. on the top of the page, a note. 'well written with a complete disregard for critical thinking. must be an english major.' next to that a huge 'R' - you know, for REWRITE.
a simple two page essay. i rewrote it three times before it was accepted. i added american multicultural studies as a second major and dr. gray became my mentor and i, his assistant for the 'images in film' class. i critiqued and graded these weekly essays, he critiqued and graded my assessments. sometimes we disagreed, which led to some of the most stimulating discussions i have ever had about what it means to be human and why we do the things we do given certain parameters. all of a sudden, the map of my hands, left and right made sense because i realized that i have taken my sense of direction for granted.
i have accepted that my sense of direction is impaired. that i don't always know where i am, where i am going. that you can give me the ocean, but if you don't tell me what side of the world i am on (or if you stick me on an island) i will still not know if i am facing north or south. i will question the possibility of everything and i will watch my daughter learn to fill a bottle with water in the bathtub with awe and restraint. i will want to tell her to keep the opening submerged, at a slight angle, to watch for the bubbles rising to the surface, the air being replaced by water. but i won't. i will hold my words on the back of my tongue, a silent 'R.' and i will sit, silent and aware of how much i really don't know when i see her realize after a very short amount of time the correct way it works. that perhaps her sense of direction is something i don't have control over. i am merely the 'you are here' sticker on the map of her life. the place she starts from so that she knows where she is.