Belated Sense of Direction

Too XYZ was designed not simply to offer personal advice and observations about succeeding,  but also to, in as frank a manner as possible, examine some of the reasons I may be so far behind society’s (and sometimes my own) definition of success. While much of my lagging behind remains a mystery to me, years of introspection have led me to realize a great many possible reasons. Some could not have been avoided. Some could have been. Some are huge, and some started out quite small, and would, in theory have been easily rectified if I had as much self-knowledge at the time as I do now. I’d actually like to talk about one of the small things today.

Driving. I’m not especially bad at it, and once I have driven somewhere, oh, about 100 times, I have no problem with doing it. But there has always been a slight tension in me associated with driving. Especially when driving somewhere new. It’s better now, but for the first few years I drove, it was almost clinical.

It was a combination of things, really. First, my sense of direction is garbage. If I could park in a giant paper bag, I probably couldn’t find my way out of it on my own. Owning a GPS has for the most part eliminated this problem for me today, but for the longest time it kept me from things.

I don’t think you can really learn that. My mother has an exceptional sense of direction, and she is the one that taught me to drive. (My father died when I was a child, and zero people stood up to help fill the gap. Another reason I don’t have all the tools I need,  but also another post.) So her sense of direction didn’t rub off on me.

Mom, however, is also a slightly nervous driver. Never takes highways except in an emergency. Doesn’t like to drive after dark. Likes to hover just under the limit. Because this was the type of driving I was exposed to 85% of the time growing up, and as I was getting a license, I did inherit those things.

So combine a lousy sense of direction with a pretty constant fear of other people in traffic, and you get someone who doesn’t drive more than 10 miles from home very often between the ages of 16 and 21.

When college came, I very rarely ventured further than a few miles from campus in the car for the same reasons. I feared getting lost, or hurting somebody. Fortunately in college there were more caravans on which I could hitch a ride to do stuff than there were in high school. But as far exploring nearby towns and such myself…never happened. Maps just look Greek to me.

To this day I do not do highways very often. (But more than I used to.) I won’t drive certain times of the evening or morning. Traffic makes me a wreck. (No pun intended.) So through the years, my job hunt, (a dismal failure anyway for much of my life) always took one thing into consideration first; can I reach the place via public transportation? If I couldn’t I wouldn’t apply for the job.

Now I am somewhat fortunate in that I live within the Washington D.C./Maryland/Virginia public transportation vortex. Trains. Metro. Buses. If I had ever gotten a job in those places I could have swung a public commute in most cases, I dare say. But this is beside the point. I am sure you can tell that such a timid view of driving, seemingly an insignificant character quirk for the longest time in my mind, was actually a moderate to severe limitation on my creating opportunities for myself in all sorts of areas. Career. Recreation. Social.

Could this have been different had I been taught to drive by a more adventurous, relaxed driver than my mother? Or was it a symptom of a deeper psychological situation within me that could not have turned out any differently, regardless of who taught me to drive? I imagine the true answer to that can never be known. But I mention it here because without a doubt it was something that initially seemed to be rather small; I don’t like driving. But over the years it became a significant hindrance.

And it remains a problem to some extent even now.

But I have improved. Again, the GPS has helped a great deal. I try to make plans that allow me to drive in lighter traffic times. Sheer practice on the horrible Route 340 in West Virginia, (whose traffic flow has increased by 65% since I first took it to a theatrical rehearsal 7 years ago) make things easier than they otherwise might have been.

But there is still no way in hell I am driving the D.C. beltway, no matter how good the job. And it would have to be very important for me to attempt I-270 in Maryland. But I do things now I didn’t do as a teen. Maybe in a few years I will be doing even more. If I’m not Too XYZ for it.


  1. I always appreciate hearing others' perspectives on driving. I've been in 2 serious crashes and, as a result, dislike driving more and more as I get older. I desperately want to live in a metro area that has well-developed mass transit, but for now those places are out of my reach financially. Thanks for this interesting post.

  2. Thank you for reading, Scott. I have not been in any serious accidents, but I have been in a few fender benders, usually the other person's fault. That has not helped matters either.

    And I am lucky to be near DC and the ever present public transportation, should I ever need it.

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