Anyone who's watched this series of Doctor Who will recognise this refrain. 'I don't know where I am, I don't know where I am...' - it begins in the first episode of the series as members of the public get sucked into their wifi, and is repeated as Clara spins through time in the series finale.
It's a state I hate being in, not knowing where I am. I am someone who is unfortunately graced with a horrendous sense of direction. If I walk into a shop that has more than one entrance and exit I'm done for when I then try to leave - I could be anywhere! (Why do they do that?!) When I passed my driving test and was allowed out in the car, I remember my mum being amazed at how little I knew of navigating my way around the town I'd lived in for eighteen years - it just isn't how my brain works. I don't retain direction, unlike my big sister, who could navigate to my grandparents' house when she was three, or something. We really are wired quite differently.
|Even when we were squee she concentrated on the road while I just waved at passers by. (I don't think I was doing any of this driving, despite having a wheel.)|
So in my current role on placement with an ecological consultancy firm, being sent all around the country in a van on my own, I am my own worst nightmare. Not only do I have the problem of waking up in the morning and having to work out which region of the country I am in (trying to decipher which bit of the 6:45am weather report applied to me this morning was genuinely impossible), but I have to find my way there: to sites, to hotels, to places to eat. I rely heavily on the sat nav software on my phone, but that in itself isn't always enough. As we know, a bad workman blames his tools, and a bad workman in the craft of navigation, I surely am.
Today was a bad one. Due to a complicated survey arrangement, where I essentially had been booked in to be in two places at 8am at the same time (which were an hour apart, I might add), I was meeting some other ecologists onsite, having already started. I rang one of them when I was nearby, on a fuzzy, middle of the countryside-style phone line: 'Meet us at Crockham Hill!' she said. Fabulous, I thought to myself, type that into the sat nav and off we go.
Twenty minutes later, I'm in the village of Crockenhill. No, that's not a typo, genuinely there are two villages within 17 miles of each other, one called Crockham Hill, the other Crockenhill. When she'd spelled it out over the crackly phone-line, I'd got the wrong one. So there I was, trying to be guided through a village both by a colleague on the phone and by a sat nav, who were clearly at odds with one another, while I, merely the hands and feet that move the little white van, try to work out the discrepancy between the two.
I don't know where I am.
Even with maps, I said this several times today. Trying to find Crockham Hill. Trying to find a supermarket. Trying to find my hotel. Thinking about what I'm going to do when my placement ends...
Not knowing where you are is fundamentally disorientating. I realise that while for many people there is excitement and adventure in exploring a new place - uncharted territory - for me there is an underlying unease about being somewhere I genuinely don't know. For several weeks in the last month or so I have been out on surveys in Leicestershire, which despite being tiring for all sorts of reasons, was great for me because a. I went back to the sites several times, so became very familiar with them; but also b. Leicestershire is a county which borders my home county, Northamptonshire. My Granny lives in one of the villages there, the scenery is familiar, I know the names on the signs, it's all within my extended territory. But here? Here is uncharted for me. It's only Surrey and Kent, but still.
But unsurprisingly, where I am going with this is that this is not just a physical and geographic principle. Not knowing where you are is frustrating and disorientating when it refers to the rest of life too. Increasingly, at the moment, I am saying perhaps not 'I don't know where I am', but 'I don't know where I'm going', or 'I don't know where I'm going to be'. Welcome to your post-graduate twenties, eh?
I still have three and a half months of this placement, and therefore my masters, left to go. Mid-September it all rounds off. And at the point of writing, beyond that point I don't know where I am. Oxford: that's about as far as I've got. Oxford is home now, so living in Oxford is the only thing that's vaguely firm. However. Thankfully, I am repeating to myself, I don't have to be worried, because I can trust in God who does know where I am. He knows where I've been, where I am, and where I'm going, all at once.
Being a Christian in the workplace is genuinely not very straightforward. In my old office, it was fine: you had a problem, you prayed about it together. But here, out on placement, I swear when I'm lost just like everyone else, I get groggy when I'm tired and hungry just like everyone else, and I find some people difficult to be gracious to, just like everyone else. Turns out being a Christian does not make you a perfect colleague. (Ha, who knew?) But. It does give me hope.
There are phenomenal verses like:
'The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?' Proverbs 20:24,
'The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry, and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.' Isaiah 58:11,
'The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights [and not slip on your bum as you cross a stream]' [Emily paraphrased] Habbakuk 3:19
and, one of my favourites 'No-one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.' Psalm 25:2.
So. I don't know where I am. But, thankfully I don't have to fret while I work it out. Phew. Feel free to remind me of that when I'm fretting, ok?
Sorry this is such a long one - you may have noticed it's been a long time since I last blogged, and I've got lots of words in a backlog, it seems. I shall sign off now, from my little hotel room in Godstone, with a song that gave me hope yesterday morning when I was stuck on the M40.
Hopefully I'll see you soon :)