I have been living in a new city for four days.
I arrived here after having lived in a small town for 16 years. Before that, I grew up in a gravel roaded, tether your horse and pump that windmill village.
So needless to say it’s been pretty exciting, and completely terrifying.
I have discovered that your best friend, when you live in a city like Cape Town, is the GPS on your phone. Unfortunately, it does not help you to find your car in a large mall parking lot.
Note to non-city people: ALWAYS take note of the level and block you park in, and that little ticket thingy you get when you drive in – ya, you can’t leave again if you toss that sucker. Apparently, it’s important or whatever.
I have always thought Cape Town drivers were raging maniacs (they are) but I finally understand why. Noone, not even the seasoned city veterans who have lived here all their lives, has a cooking clue where they are or where they are going.
Without the magic of Google Maps (Or Waze Lady – Laze Wady, as we call her), no-one would get anywhere. I realized that it’s not just I, the newbie with CX number plates, who is unable to navigate my way out of a paper bag (in Cape Town) without assistance.
If you look around you, you will find that at least 75% of people are driving with the help of a navigational aid. My bestie and her colleague even admitted openly to the fact that after a decade of living here, they can’t get anywhere new without using the mighty map of Google.
Of course me being me, I got to thinking about the deeper implications of what it means to be lost in a bustling, throbbing city. What does it mean if you accept that you just don’t know where you are on a map? If you can’t form a mental picture of where you are in relation to home, or where you are going.
Is it a new kind of trust, of letting go – where you simply trust the device? As a bit of a control freak I find it hard to fathom. It makes me sort of claustrophobic if I think about it too hard. But maybe it’s actually good, to simply be where you are and trust in the universe’s ability to get you home.
Or is it actually a new kind of helplessness and does it represent a greater loss of self? Are we all so lost in the great bustle of our daily lives that it no longer even worries us that we’re physically lost, too?
Perhaps it’s both a type of zen and a type of “lostness”. Perhaps it’s two sides to a coin.
Whatever the case may be I suspect the answer is time, and patience.
In time we learn the routes. In time we find ourselves. We find what matters to us. We find our focus, our lighthouses in the dark (or our Google Maps lady telling us to turn right in 300 meters, if you prefer). I think the big thing is to give yourself time, and also to take time to listen to yourself.
I know my country roots are going to miss the stars, the darkness at night, the wet grass underfoot, the smell of rain on hot dry farmlands. But I have a hope and a feeling that city life may be wonderful, too. I am taking the time to find my lighthouses, my routes and my new points of focus, and I am going to be a little bit more patient with myself this time around, because I’m in my thirties now, and life is too short to always be in a hurry.
(PS: If you were wondering about the weather here, chances are, it’s windy, regardless of when you read this)