Getting lost is the only way to really find yourself

There is a game I like to play. These are the rules. Get in the car. Drive. Don’t read street signs. Ignore landmarks. Avoid main roads.

The object of the game is to get lost, and then to find the way home again. I take turns on side streets and hope the canals interrupt them or the highway brings them to an end.

It’s a game I’ve played in new cities, in old cities, and on two-lane highways and dirt roads. It’s the only way to know a place, to make it my own.

Since I don’t have a car these days, I have to hitchhike: Find some willing person to drive me around in circles with their eyes closed. I’m lucky; I know someone who knows the game and loves it as much as I do, and the other day we played it together for the first time. I had always known creating my own labyrinth was the way to find myself again, but when we lost ourselves together, I discovered its also a way to get to know someone else.

It takes away all the distraction and leaves just the inside-out navigation, the smell of oregano from a spice warehouse, and the surreptitious pleasure of a beautiful home with the lights on inside.

I know people who’ve lived in Miami as long as I have and have still never driven down Calle Ocho. This baffles me: For fear of getting lost, they’ll never know where they are.

Late at night the streets are quiet, and in a city, the sky is bright like dawn and midnight at the same time. The lights of the buildings reflect off the whites of the clouds, and the traffic lights blink on and blink off, as if they’re saying be careful-but like an anxious mother, they’re almost afraid to look. My friend says the way the sky looks at night makes him believe he could begin anything and it would be fruitful.

I ask myself what there is to begin now, and the red blinking lights tell me to look both ways and go; nothing otherwise will change. I wonder if I do this just for the surprise of coming out of a foreign street into something familiar, or if it’s for the satisfaction of knowing I will inevitably find home.

The thing is, it is impossible to get truly lost, in this game or in life itself. One way or another I will roll down the windows, sigh, and find the way back to something I know. In the end my way is the only thing I will have lost at all.

Angie Henderson is a graduate student in the School of International Studies