28 February 2007

Finding Our Way

Yesterday, I learned what might be the secret to finding one's way in life.

My wife and I were at UC San Diego. We arrived early for our play and I wanted to scamper over to the university bookstore to see what special treasures they might have. This seems like a simple task save for one thing: we San Diegans, apparently struck with guilt about how easy our lives are in this land with the climate of an indoor shopping mall, have a propensity to construct convoluted paths. Horton Plaza, the downtown shopping mall, is constructed so that one can actually see a store across the way but not know how to get there sans the cable and pulley systems that someone like James Bond might carry in his wallet. UC San Diego is similar - a beautiful, big campus that seemingly opts for meandering sidewalks and foot paths wherever it can.

We knew the general direction we wanted to head but we quickly found ourselves in a dead end of sorts. I asked a student, "How do I get to the bookstore?" In a delightfully helpful manner that reminded me of why I love living among humans, she walked us a short distance, trying to describe how one might navigate the convoluted, un-named paths that eventually led to the book store. After a few attempts to describe a route that defied description, she finally turned to me and offered this simple advice.

"Just head in this direction," she said, pointing, "and ask people along the way."

I had to laugh. How perfect was that advice? And how broadly applicable.

None of us can make it on our own. Find your general direction – and then ask for help along the way. As it turned out, I didn't even have to find the bookstore to get my daily dose of wisdom.


Life Hiker said...

The Good Witch liked this post a lot when I read it out loud to her as she prepared our chicken parm for dinner.

I love to walk in the general direction, and I love to ask for help along the way. Believe me, you don't hike the Appalachian Trail unless you are comfortable approaching strangers!

Yet so many of us humans prefer to wander, afraid to ask. "Would I seem stupid?" "Will I get bad advice?" "Will I be rejected?" These questions roar through their heads.

The best way to put these questions to rest is to ask yourself, "What if I was the one who was being asked? How would I respond?" Then just smile and ask. It will be alright.

Ron Davison said...

chicken parm (I too will refrain from attempts to spell it) and homespun philosophy - sounds like a great winter evening.

I hadn't thought about how our expectations of others would so color our willingness to ask for help, but once you say it seems so obvious. Excellent point, thanks.

David said...

Every so often I try to give someone the wrong directions. It's another life lesson that will serve them well.

Ron Davison said...

What's the old joke about the New Englander who intentionally gave wrong directions to the tourist that took the tourist right back to where he started, asking for directions for the old-timer. His reason? "I just wanted to make sure you could follow directions before I wasted my breath on the full directions."