Navigating the Awkward
I just spent the past week traveling to the north of England with my family. Family time is one of those things that can bring out the best and the worst in people. Add to that, driving on the left hand side of the road. Plus, night time maneuvering dimly-lit, old cities. As my dad would say, "it was a nightmare." Last night, we drove around in circles while both navigational systems, the car GPS system we called Rodney and the map app on my iphone, kept us circling the same route. Rodney had let us down. (Considering he got us to Durham, we gave him some reprieve.) It amazes me how much dependence we have on technology. I find it so difficult to unplug. I kept repeating, "what did we do before we had smartphones?" Paper maps and actually asking people where to go? How primitive! Then again, perhaps it allowed us to actually connect with our surroundings. Before our "smart" technology, we needed to actually use our senses, voices and smiles to get around. Human interaction was a necessity.
Today we walked out of the old city, up a green path, over a bridge, and ended up on a city road. As we walked down this road, we needed to find our way back to our car. I pulled out my trusty iphone. We walked up to the roundabout. (Side note - The roundabout was something we as a family worked together to navigate in the car. Rodney: "Enter the roundabout, and take the third exit." We as a family: "One, two, three. Follow that car!!!! Get in the left lane!"
It was a group effort.) As we discussed, at the roundabout, how to cross it on foot, my mom kept walking up to people to get directions. My sister wanted her to stop, my dad looked for a way through the roundabout, and I waited for the directions to show themselves on my phone. The first couple my mom asked were visiting, so no luck. But the second man, was a local and gave accurate directions. In hindsight, it is interesting how I would have preferred to have walked the wrong way, but be guided by my techno map rather than to have stopped a man to ask simple directions. What is that?
Here's my theory: I think that I, and a whole generation of us, would prefer to run away into technology than to feel the awkwardness of relating to a stranger. I was watching a news report on a family that unplugs for much of their week. The parents have decided to strictly enforce how much time the kids can use their smart phones. One of the comments by the teenage daughter struck me. She said that the hardest part of the unplug is that she can't use her phone to avoid awkward situations. I'm curious that, if in the future, we will be studying the impact of a generation without the social skills to manage awkwardness.
I don't like awkwardness. I remember hiding in a bathroom, at 12 years of age, in order to avoid the boy who wanted to ask to dance. Recently, I've acknowledged, for myself, that awkwardness is a part of human existence. You can't run away from that awkward feeling, so you may as well embrace it and let it live. I think those who embrace the discomfort of that feeling, are the ones who actually don't appear awkward. They expect it, allow it, and live life in spite of it. It doesn't stop them from speaking up and asking for directions. Life is awkward, but isn't that the best part of life? The awkward first kiss, first day at a new job, first time saying, "I love you." The best bits of life are the ones that are sometimes the least comfortable. I need to remind myself of that.
So maybe I need to challenge myself to keep my iphone in my bag and try to navigate life the "old fashioned way," awkwardness and all.