Monday, November 11, 2013

Note from University College London in Camden Town

(Disclaimer: I guess I always feel the need to provide background information and disclaimers to what I write these days on my blog. This morning (that being Saturday 09 November) I met with teachers who write monthly. We met at the Wellcome Collection, a library and medical museum, on Euston Road in London. We wrote directions for each other to follow as a writing prompt. It was a fun activity, and the directions I chose from the pile consisted of steps such as "Walk 10 paces left. Go upstairs. Turn counterclockwise and write what you see. Find a corner." I did follow most of the directions, but I found my corner and wrote freely for about 40 minutes straight. Here is my first 10 minutes or so of freewriting. The comes later. xo)

09 November 2013, Wellcome Collection Library, 3rd floor reading room

I am so unsure what is happening in my life sometimes that even having clear directions confuses me. Turn left, look right, mind your step, careful when alighting...what? Just what?? I now, thanks to the British, have confirmed that I cannot even tell my own left from my right, so I am grateful for the visual in the form of arrows provided on crosswalk directions.
Directions, what are they? They guide us through life--maybe help us to accomplish things in life I should clarify. They help us put together IKEA wardrobes and cook up full English breakfasts. They get us from St. Pancras station to 183 Euston Road. They are sometimes simple, and sometimes tricky. They are often one or two words, maybe colorful images, or sometimes they are complex sentences that denote nine instructions with steps A, B, and C in one direction. They are provided as a means to an end. Follow these, and you'll have this. Start here, and you'll end there. Sometimes we have to pace ourselves through directions, and sometimes we even skip steps we feel are not necessary. But sometimes, we get so lost in direction that even Google maps cannot connect to the server and we're (I'm) left to find our (my) way through alleys and around street corners guided only by the unfamiliar.

There is value in getting lost. From moving away from the direction. I once had a quote on my FB wall that encouraged people (well, mostly me) to travel often, and in doing so to get lost, which in turns helps you find yourself. And I believe that in theory. In practice, though, that has proven hard for me. What am I finding out about myself? What am I learning by being lost in English culture and navigating myself around the tricky and convoluted changing educational system that is the UK right now? How can I emerge learning something new, and what will that something new be? 

Could someone write those directions? Tell me where this will all end, and what will be the outcome. Step by step, lead me. My directions today said to face 87 degrees northwest, then turn back 37 degrees (I just pretended I knew what this meant!) and here I found The History of Printing In America by Isaiah Thomas.  I turn around and wander toward Hippocrates' "On Air, Water, and Places' and turn once more toward the New England Primer. Did these writers ask the same questions I ask today? Were they curious and inventive, or were they simply providing the direction in their times of inquiry?

I do know that if you give me the directions, I will find the answer. If you let me write the directions, I will create your answer. I should probably start by writing myself a to-do list...