When I went to college, I thought I wanted to major in journalism. I took one journalism class and knew it wasn’t the thing for me. I then spent the next year adrift and unsure. After beginning the second semester of my second year, I realized I was at that point where I was wasting my time and my parents’ money unless I came up with a major. So I dropped all but two of my classes (to keep my on-campus job) and pondered the lint in my navel.
By the end of the semester I knew I wanted to major in Government and that’s what I did. When I graduated, although I had enjoyed my major, I had done nothing to create job opportunities for myself out of my major. I went to work as a receptionist/word processor/executive assistant at the local law school. Because the one skill I had was the ability to type really fast and I was reasonably personable. I think.
But that wasn’t what I was really meant to be. After a year, I enrolled in a masters program at the local university. International Relations. Because that just fascinated me. After a month or so of working full-time and going to school at night and realizing that the amount of reading and projects and reports and assignments just didn’t mesh with having to work full-time, I dropped out.
And I cast about for what else I could do, because the executive assistant life just wasn’t the life for me. I mean I was responsible for filing and keeping track of all this stuff for the Assistant Dean and … filing isn’t my friend. I looked around and realized if all these other people could go to law school, then, gosh darnit, I could too!!
So, I enrolled in law school and that was it.
Only it wasn’t.
Halfway through I thought I should have gone to culinary school instead.
And at one point I thought I should have got a Masters in Social Work instead.
And since I received my law degree, passed the bar, and began practicing law, I have identified the following careers I should have pursued: stock broker/financial advisor, elementary school teacher, writer … anything but what I was doing.
And I now realize that I have simply failed to recognize my destiny.
My father was in the Air Force. He was a navigator of B-52s. I don’t know why, but I have always thought of that with some pride. My dad navigated the planes that carried nuclear bombs on them for a chunk of the Cold War. Regardless of how I feel about the Cold War and nuclear weapons and all that, I still just feel that what my dad did was special and it has always made me feel good to know that he did that.
Somewhat coincidentally, my parents provided me with a name the initials for which spell out the word MAP.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
An odd thing has developed over the years. I work in downtown Sacramento. I wander the streets during lunch occasionally and at other times during the day and week. The number of times somebody picks me out of the bustling crowds to ask for directions is pretty amazing. I can be walking with a friend to lunch or with several co-workers to a meeting and every single time, the direction-seeker will come right to me and say “How do I get to …?” It’s as though my parents besides giving me my name also tattooed the initials on my forehead and I’ve never figured that out.
Tonight I was driving home from work. Late enough that the sun had gone down. On a busy, rush-hour freeway, filled with cars. Four lanes of traffic. I’m driving along in the left lane when I look over and realize there is a woman in a mini-van next to me with her window rolled down, waving vigorously to get my attention. My first impulse is to ignore her. My second impulse is “maybe there’s something wrong with my car and she’s trying to let me know.”
I push the button for my window to roll down. I’m probably driving 30 miles an hour. She’s going a little slower, so I slow down to keep pace with her.
“Where the hell am I?” she yells at me.
“I … I …” Truthfully, I have no idea how to answer that question. On Hwy 99? In Sacramento? Approaching Florin Road? North America? The United States of Trump?
She helps me out.
“I’m trying to get to Marin.”
“Ummm … you need to turn around.” And then I try to figure out how to tell this woman she is woefully off course while driving 30 miles an hour and trying not to rear end the car in front of me if the traffic slows down suddenly. “You need to go back to …” And how do I explain how to get her to Marin from where we’re at, which involves turning around, going back through the downtown interchange and heading west on 80 and then all of the things she’ll need to do from there to get to Marin, which is 100 miles away and north of San Francisco.
“Yes … you need to turn around and get back to 80,” I reply and that’s the best I can do. Really. It is. So I push the button for my window to close and I accelerate away.
But, yes, all of those other ideas were just distractions from what I should have become. A mapmaker. Or in the modern world, one of those people who drives the Google mapping cars. Or maybe I should just walk around with a sandwich board with maps of the area I’m walking through so people can just look at the maps and figure it out themselves.