I was heading home the other night when I found my exit was closed for construction.

“No big deal, I’ll just take the next one and loop back.”

The next exit was closed. This pushed me into another freeway that I eventually had to loop back on only to find the same exits were closed coming back the other direction too. The entire time Google Maps was telling me very patiently to “Take exit 12”. When I passed it once more, Google just wanted me to u-turn eventually leading me back to square 1.

Without revealing my location in this blog post, I basically was stuck in a loop with Google maps. No matter what I did, it was trying to put me back on the most efficient path that was very clearly blocked. When this dawned on me and I was sufficiently annoyed, I turned off the app and turned on my brain. How do I get home?! It was a surprisingly fun puzzle to solve (I still don’t know San Diego’s freeways that well between the 15, 8, and 163). It took me 15 minutes longer to get home but I did it and felt a strange sense of accomplishment over something so mundane. We’ve gotten so used to turning our brains off.

On a recent trip to Baja California, Mexico, I ran into a similarly un-Google-able predicament. After driving 1.5 hours down a dirt road near Santo Tomas, we arrived only to find the place we wanted to stay completely closed with no one in sight. There was no way to call someone. There was no address we could Google. There was no option to Google basic Spanish phrases to get help. I felt completely adrift and helpless at first.

I say I felt helpless and adrift at first because it also spurred a part of me that wants to figure it out. I turned my brain on and remembered that I’m smarter than my phone ever could be. I hope my phone feels humbled by this experience but I don’t think it’s that advance yet ;).

I’ve felt that deep feeling of panic once before. My brother and I were hiking part of the Appalachian trail in high school when we started running low on water. According to the guidebook we had (this was pre Google maps on your phone), we were coming up on multiple water sources in the next couple of miles. As I drank the rest of my water completely trusting there would be water up ahead, it hit me just how thirsty I was and how thankful I was we were going to be filling up soon. We hit the marker for the first water source and couldn’t find a single sign of water. We checked the map multiple times and wandered off the path to see if we could find it. We eventually found a dried up creek that we assumed must be at some time during the year a water source. We shrugged it off confident that as we continued we’d run into another. The next one was dried up. It was in that moment that this feeling of panic started to sink in. I never truly understood Maslow’s hierarchy of needs until then. All I had to hold on to was “but the map says there would be water”. It wasn’t much to hold onto after all. We eventually did find water miles down the trail and I still remember the relief I felt. As I write this, I’m reminded of those who experience this feeling on a daily basis. There are no words.

Sometimes in discussions, someone will just say “google it” as a way to get an affirmative “you are right and you are wrong” ending. This enrages me a lot of the time. Why can’t we just bullshit about a topic and wonder aloud how the car engine works? Why do we always HAVE to know? What are the merits in knowing the exact details and reading the wikipedia description of something? So often it feels like we shortcut creativity when we reach the delusion of certainty. It reminds me of my biology teacher, Mr. Bluge, who would never give me the answer even when I was at my wits end.

“Think, Anne! THINK! I’m not helping you. Leave me alone.”

I would badger him absolutely exacerbated until… I’d understand the answer. I have always had so much impatience with not knowing that it feels quite ironic to be writing this. It’s taken me years to appreciate the openness and freedom not knowing gives you. When I let go of the constraints of knowing facts, I find I’m much more creative in my solutions.

What gives me hope is that there is so much we can’t Google :D.

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