Can You Give Me Directions to…?

Here’s a tip: If you see me walking down the street, and you are lost, don’t ask me for directions because that will make two of us. I seriously couldn’t direct you out of a paper bag if all but one side were sealed. In fact, I would probably point you in the direction you came from and ask if you’ve tried “that way” yet.

Honestly, I think it’s something about the spatial reasoning of it all. I know people who are good at Geometry who can sort of visualize the shapes in their head, but I can hardly pick a square from a rectangle, let alone tell you where to go when there’s a fork in the road.

And as irony would have it, time and time again, I find myself walking around my complex at work and being stopped by people that ask me for directions to offices that I either don’t know where they are or I know exactly where they are and I can’t explain how to get there. (Uhm, did you try going around the circle and then taking a left after you’ve gone around twice?) And do you know what happens as soon as I walk away from their car? I know exactly how to get to their destination, and I also know the easiest, fastest way to do it. (I must be the only person on this planet that can lose someone by trying to help them.)

This is a frustrating experience for everyone involved, and I used to feel really bad about it. Until I realized that giving directions is a lot like giving advice. You have to tell someone where to go without having the same experiences or knowledge as them. So, you try to relate what you’ve gone through, how you’ve gotten there, and how if they do blank and blank, they’ll arrive there, too. (Not to mention that you may not be telling them the fastest or best way, but it’s what you know.)

And even when they ignore you and your advice in favor of their own ideas and experiences, you still feel somehow responsible for steering them wrong. Almost as if you weren’t communicating clearly enough, almost as if your path was wrong, too.

But that’s not true at all. Because from the very beginning, that person was going to do what he or she thought was best to do, no matter if they had your blessing in the form of advice or not. If he or she was driving down a road that didn’t “look” right to them, they would take it upon themselves to try a different path, which would invalidate your “directions” entirely.

You are no more liable for someone not following your advice as you are for someone following it. In the end, it is entirely up to them in terms of what they do with your information, just like when you give someone directions. You can give them step by step diagrams, and it’s possible that it still isn’t going to bring them to their destination.

Now, if you’re thinking that this has been one thought-provoking conversation after a couple of people asked you for directions, Bailey, then you’d be right.

But I think there’s a real take-away here. It’s time to de-emphasize giving advice in favor of encouraging people to follow their hearts and seek their own truths.

Okay, okay, following your heart won’t get you to the mall, but it does work anywhere else a GPS is not required.

How Do People Run Out of Gas?

The sight of brake lights is infuriating whether you are heading home or leaving it.

This was certainly the case when I took a right to jump on the fast-track this evening and saw that one lane was completely blocked. People were performing the typical shenanigans of driving as far as they could, where the lane was still open, and then quickly flicking on their indicator and pulling in front of the people who were already in the second lane. And, as usual, we all slowed down to have a look at what was causing the blockage. Would it be a grisly accident? A traffic violation?

None of the above, in fact. I saw a woman standing nervously next to her car, chewing her nails, while a man in a dark coat poured gas into her tank, her hazard lights blinking to a steady rhythm.

Okay, no problem. Just swerve around the scene and continue forward, I thought. 

Except, it got me thinking: who actually runs out of gas and has to stop in the middle of a busy intersection?

I mean, you have a dashboard meter and lights that warn you when you are low. And then lights and sounds to alert you when you are dangerously low. And it is not like we were in a rural area. My bet was this person had plenty of times to stop and get gas, passed at least a dozen gas stations. But that’s what she did: passed them by, only to land in the middle of a lane, choking rush hour traffic.

So, I ask again: who actually runs out of gas and has to stop in the middle of a busy intersection?

Well, anyone who didn’t know they were losing their job. Anyone who didn’t know their significant other was cheating on them. Anyone who didn’t know how out of shape they were until they joined a gym. So, this is to say: everyone. Everyone can run out of gas and stop in the middle of a busy intersection only to be helped by a complete stranger.

Why? Because people are terrible at reading the signs. We’ve completely turned off our instincts now that we don’t have to hunt for our own food. We rely on ignorance and are blissful.

But they are there. There are still signals that can help us to realize what is happening before it is right in front of us. In fact, some of these signs are so loud and annoying that they are like an empty gas tank alert. Yet, we keep going, keep driving. Hoping that we can make it before our time runs out.

The truth is we are never completely blindsided in this life. Whether we decide that we will deny the obvious or that we are truly oblivious, we miss the signs.

Oprah has this great quote that says essentially, “life will whisper to you. And if you don’t pay attention it, it gets louder until it’s like getting hit in the head. Then, if you don’t pay attention to that, you get smacked with a brick. And then, when you really aren’t getting it, an entire brick wall falls down.” And if you haven’t realized what life is trying to do before the brick wall, then you are going to have a hard time. Of course, it would be really great if our entire lives had dashboards like cars, where the lights would brighten when there was a problem or to tell us that we were low on something.

But we don’t have that. We only have our hearts, which are terrific compasses, when we allow them to be. Yet, it does not matter how good a sign, a piece of advice, or a set of directions is: it only matters how well we listen to it.