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Losing Myself and Finding a Stolen Car

By Emily Milner

This is the classic story of Emily’s Stolen Car: I walked out of the mall and scanned the parking lot for my car. No car. I walked up and down the rows of cars, hunting for my car. No car, no car. It must have been stolen.

I ran back inside and borrowed a phone to call my sister. “Come and get me,” I said, emotional. “My car’s been stolen.”

So she came and picked me up. “I drove past your car on the way to get you,” she said.

“No way,” I answered, still sniffling. “I looked all over!”

But she drove me right to it. On the other side of the mall. I had walked out the wrong door.

Maybe that’s a mistake anyone could make, once. And it’s true I’ve never made that particular directional error twice. I always check what’s for sale when I walk in the Macy’s doors now–I make sure to walk out of the door by the luggage rack. There’s no guarantee I’d emerge from the correct door if I didn’t force myself to pay attention to it.

The stolen-car thing is a one-time deal. I hope. But I have many, many other Directionally Challenged Emily stories: the time, riding the bus in Utah, I got on the wrong one and ended up in American Fork, at the end of the line. (I called the same long-suffering sister to get me.) The time on my mission I spent an entire P-Day afternoon on a bus riding through scary parts of Guayaquil, trying to remember which stop was mine while my greenie got more and more peeved (and deservedly so. The day culminated with us locking ourselves out of our apartment while hauling bags of wet laundry.) The time, also on my mission, when I was in a new area, and we were driving to church with an investigator. Except I’d just been in the area two weeks when my companion left, and I didn’t remember how to get to our own church. (That day culminated in our getting mugged. Nice.)

For this reason I have a strong testimony of Mapquest. Also Google Maps. Also GPS. And cell phones. You’d think that living with Utah’s grid system and all these maps, I would never get lost. Sadly, it happens just about every time I try to navigate someplace new.

And the Lord knows this about me. He knows that finding my way around paralyzes me, that it scares and humiliates me to be perpetually lost. Therefore, He sent me on a mission to Ecuador. And he gave me many short-duration companions–I’d have two weeks to learn the area before my companion was transferred and I was left bewildered and lost. I would make maps for myself, recite lists of street names like rosaries, praying that I’d be able to find my way around, that I would not look as foolish as I felt.

Basically I found out that the Lord did not care too much about my looking foolish. It humbled me, and humility is good for missionaries. He did, however, care very much about getting the work done. And He cared enough about me to force me to find my way around, over and over, helping me confront my fear of being disoriented.

Wow I am feeling long-winded tonight. I have so many getting lost stories, and so many mission stories. But the story I want you to read, after all that, is Brooke Benton’s eloquent essay “Small and Simple Things.” She talks about how a calling to play the piano blessed her to overcome her fears, and taught her deep truths about the reciprocal blessings of consecration. Go read it, and tell me how you relate to her story, or to mine … and if there’s anyone else who is directionally challenged, for the love of Mapquest, let me know I’m not alone!

About Emily Milner

(Poetry Board) graduated from BYU in Comparative Literature, but it was long enough ago that most of what she learned has leaked out. She would like to mention other hobbies or interests, but to be honest she spends most of her free time reading (although she does enjoy attempting yoga). She used to blog at hearingvoices.wordpress.com. For now, though, Segullah is her only blogging home, and it's a good one.

7 thoughts on “Losing Myself and Finding a Stolen Car”

  1. oh Emily. My favorite thing in the whole world is Hertz's "Neverlost." It literally saved our lives during our move because we could search for restaurants, stores, post offices, and our hotel and it would tell us to 'turn left' here or there. I am completely, madly in love with it.

    Unfortunately, I only get to use it when I rent a car from Hertz (is that how you spell that?) and Hertz does not exist here. So, I'm back to using maps. I've decided that what I love about knowing where I'm going is that I'm in control. Being lost is utter horror to me because I have no control. And I need to get much better about being out of control.

    My mom and I used to get lost a lot. Inside the mall. We actually were such amazing shoppers that we learned to memorize the mall so we would lesson our chances of forgetting where we were. "Where's North?" I don't know, I think it's this way. And, of course, we'd point in different directions. We were usually both wrong.

    So, yes…I'm directionally challenged. On the bright side though…some of my favorite experiences with my mom were being lost together. And having to cross our legs while we shook with laughter at our own dingy-ness.

  2. If only all performance and other anxieties. . . . Well, I remember the time my husband, a professional musician with a real full time gig, went to sleep at the wheel, while traveling at 65 mph. This was on an early Sunday morning. He had agreed to play in sacrament meeting that day. Playing in church is the hardest kind of performance because there is no time to warm up. So he is always nervous (a few nerves are good, he says). On this day he was so grateful to be alive that he played the best he had ever played because he just didn't think about how difficult it was.

    As for Map Quest and Google. I'm glad they are there, but they get me lost more than I like.

  3. Mara, that's it exactly: being out of control. I hate that feeling of disorientation. I can laugh at the experience afterwards, but while I'm in it I am tense and snappy. My kids know not to try to talk to me when I drive someplace new.

    Wow, Claudia! What an experience! I think I'd be so shaken up by the accident that I would play worse, not better. A testament to your husband's professionalism.

  4. Unfortunately, I relate to both directional difficulties and performance terror. For my directional challenges I have learned to lean heavily on my visual memory and all the conscious, careful recitations you mentioned, Emily. At BYU as a music major spending nearly all my time inside the HFAC, I still always felt like a very unsuccessful rat in a maze and was far too often surprised at where I'd end up once I stepped outside.

    Which leads to the performance anxiety. Yes, I was a music major with serious performance anxiety. That did limit me. I switched from English to music because it seemed like that was what the Lord wanted me to do. I've wondered many times if I imagined that inspiration. Maybe the Lord just wanted to humble me. It worked–at least about music.

    My performance fears started very much like Brooke's–a traumatic recital in which I completely blanked out on the piece I'd memorized. I have no idea what I played. I'll never forget that long walk down the stage steps and the long, long center aisle past what felt like an endless, faceless crowd (I think they are faceless in my memory because I only looked at knees and feet), back to my seat.

    I finally began to tackle my fear only a year or two ago by accepting an invitation to play in Sacrament Meeting. Just accepting when "no" was an option was a big first for me. I picked a piece I could sight-read and practiced every day. It was also a piece that was very soothing to me. During the performance (is that the right word when it's Sacrament Meeting?) I focused on letting the music calm me, and on the idea that my job was to bring the Spirit, not to impress people. And it worked! I still get super nervous, but I don't try so hard to avoid opportunities to play. So I guess that's progress.

    P.S. I don't think I imagined the inspiration, if only because that degree has come in pretty handy financially, helping me quickly find students when we've needed a little extra income. The deeper understanding of music has served me well pretty too. And maybe also for the humbling.

  5. I relate to both issues. In high school, my piano teacher let me play first at a recital because I had to live early to go perform a speech for a banquet for the debate club, of which I was the president (over schedule much?). She made it very clear that she would normally NOT put me at the beginning, because she likes to open her recitals with a different kind of piece, a different kind of player, blah blah blah, and that bottom line, I'd better be good.

    Yeah. Totally bombed it. Completely.

    I got stuck, forgot where I was, started over, and got stuck again. My teacher had to walk up the aisle and give me the music, which made my stomach turn. I blew her recital, but luckily didn't have to face her because I had to leave to go to my speech. I haven't played in a piano recital since.

    One time I was asked very last minute to play in Sacrament meeting. No biggie at all, until I got to the closing hymn, which was 'All creatures of our God and King". Totally blew it. I blew it so badly, I actually said, "Oh, SORRY!" so loudly that some of the people in the congregation actually laughed. I wasn't aware I was almost screaming, but there you go.

    I've never played in a Sacrament meeting since.

    I do have some compensatory stategies for my directional challenges though, like memorizing landmarks as I go if I'm someplace unfamiliar, and usually I manage ok. But if I'm talking to somebody in the car, or they are giving me directions that I'm just blithely following without really paying attention to where I am, I'm stuck. Many a time I've driven aimlessly around housing developments after giving somebody a ride home, hoping for an outlet to a street I recognize. It's bad. So very bad.

  6. You are not alone in the directionally challenged department. I hate that feeling. It was the worst for me when I lived in Portland–all those trees kept me from navigating by landmarks.
    It's totally a sense of agoraphobia "anxiety about being is places or situations from which escape might be difficult, or in which help may not be available in the event of having an unexpected or situationally predisposed panic attack or panic-like symptoms".
    I only park by Penney's–by the women's shoes. Always. I will circle and circle waiting to a parking spot in the first 3 rows.

  7. Wow, I love all these directionally challenged stories. Maybe it's because I always feel so alone when I get lost–thank you!


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