Three and half months ago, my family and I moved from Michigan to Tennessee. To say there are a lot of annoying, stressful things about moving is an understatement. (Insert “I love moving,” said No One Ever meme). One stressful thing about moving happens after the move is officially over. After the U-haul truck is unloaded. After all the boxes have been lugged to their appropriate rooms and the furniture has been pivoted into place. (Silent salute to Ross Geller and his epic “Pivot!” order).
When the moving stress is over, a new stress kicks in: learning your new location. Learning where the Walmart and Lowe’s and Bank of America is. Learning which lane to get into when turning right onto College Avenue. Learning that there is a shortcut to Lowe’s so you can bi-pass a huge section of the always busy Madison Street. Learning that Wilma Rudolph Boulevard is a nightmare on Saturday afternoon.
In the last eight years I’ve moved four times and whether it was 5 miles, 50 miles, or 500 miles, there’s always something to be learned when it comes to moving to a new area. And one of the things that I have solidified for myself is how I navigate a new area. I am a tried-and-true Landmark Navigator. Tell me to go 5 miles west and then turn south and I’ll respond with a deer in a headlights look. Tell me to go until you pass Kroger and then turn left, and you’ll see me waving in the rear view mirror.
I know I’m not the only one. In fact, I’d place some heavy bets that there are more drivers like me, rather than the Compass Rose Captains. I rely on landmarks so much that even when I have Google Maps up on my phone with specific turn-by-turn directions, I find myself noticing the landmarks posted on the screen instead. “Okay, turn left at the Dairy Queen,” is much more comfortable and stress-free than, “In 100 feet turn left at Heritage Place.”
I suppose that’s what makes the location by landmarks my preferred method–it’s comfortable. Because let’s face it, navigating is what makes learning a new location stressful. That’s why we turn the radio down. That’s why one of the first mainstream tools of technology was a GPS device. That’s one of the reasons why, I’m positive, road rage occurs. Because when you’re trying to get somewhere and you don’t know exactly when and where you’re going to be there, your stress level accelerates.
Life gives us figurative landmarks too. Touch points to seek out when we’re stressed and anxiety has gone from 0 to 60 in six seconds. The trick is knowing when to turn on the internal GPS if we start feeling lost or scared or anxious. Knowing which tool is the right one to guide us into a state of comfort and enable us to pull into the correct lane and make the right turn. Knowing that we’re on the right path or need to recalculate for some reason.
Landmarks can also pop up out of nowhere with the message that everything is okay. The path is still safe. My sweet husband seems to always know when to send the “I hope you’re having a good day. I love you.” text. My BFF Cassie sends me cards with genuine handwritten messages that encourage and inspire. And I swear my daily devotions are often written just for me. All of these landmarks remind me who I am, inspire me, and encourage me to keep going on my path, despite the difficulty.
Two of the first landmarks I used after we moved were emotional landmarks. It’s not easy to make the decision to move away from what is comfortable and known. There are still things we are figuring out every day. But there are two landmarks that bring me comfort. They are both road signs, Southgate Lane and Ball Road, that are for crossroads that I go by on my drive from our country home into town. It’s more than a coincidence to me that in the last year we changed our location from Southgate and I traded my maiden name, Ball, for my married name Lay. Those are my crossroad landmarks. I salute those landmarks when I go by as I keep my eyes forward on my new path.