For years, whenever I’ve driven anywhere, a internal narrative plays: do not deviate from the route you know; you’re not good at making it up as you go along; rats, I’m lost again. It originates in the fact that I am not good at reading a map (it makes so much sense on paper or screen, but I can’t make it match the real world); I find it hard to retrace my steps because a) I’m seeing navigation landmarks from the other side and b) so many times, the streets I took to get someplace were one-way so I can’t go back the same way; and my sense of direction doesn’t function if the sun isn’t shining. Even the advent of Google Maps hasn’t completely resolved the problem; my ability to screw up directions transcends the technology. Mind you, I’ve been getting lost for so long it doesn’t bother me most of the time; in fact, I (and my family and friends) find it a source of amusement.
It occurred to me recently, though, that this narrative is somewhat inaccurate now. Coming home from a grocery store in a nearby commercial area, I realized that I don’t have to turn on Google Maps anymore, despite the fact that the way there and the way back are quite different due to one-way streets. Admittedly, it took several trips to memorize the route, but I did memorize it and have (usually) been able to cope with an ongoing series of deviations due to construction of a tramway. I’ve even learned how to get to a couple of other stores in the same area for which the route is very different.
I was thinking about this when coincidentally, I came across an article about the two kinds of stories we tell about ourselves. One of the things that struck me about the article was “the idea that we can edit, revise and interpret the stories we tell about our lives even as we are constrained by the facts.”* While my internal narrative about my inability to get from one place to another is fairly harmless in that it doesn’t stop me from going places, there are other stories we tell ourselves that can stand in our way—the stories that keep us from taking a chance, making a change, being at peace with our choices. It made me wonder what personal narratives need taking out, reviewing, and revising.
Now, I know that as the quote above states, we are constrained by facts. In my case, a couple of days after that revelation while driving, I got lost walking to a place I’ve been numerous times. However, the fact remains: the narrative does need to be updated because it’s no longer quite so sweeping and encompassing as I once believed.
* “The Two Kinds of Stories We Tell about Ourselves.” IDEAS.TED.COM, 12 January, 2017, ideas.ted.com/the-two-kinds-of-stories-we-tell-about-ourselves/.