Your Car GPS Knows More about Life than You Do

7 min readDec 15, 2020

Don’t feel ashamed for taking a moment to adjust your coordinates

They say you will find some comfort
in memories of your
memories you can pull in like a
catfish from the lake
each time you are

What they don’t tell you is how
those same memories
will leave a mess to
clean up
sticky greasy soaked through paper plates
sharp white bones in the trash can
a stomach ache

The first time I used a GPS in my car was about ten years ago. In the span of an hour I went the wrong way down a one-way road, got turned around three times, and sobbed the whole way home. I just wanted to go to ALDI for some cheap ass bananas.

I swore I’d never use a GPS again. Landmarks, street signs, and the occasional printed-out MapQuest directions would serve me just fine for the rest of my living life.

Thankfully my resolve didn’t last long. Today, I can hardly function without my handy dandy GPS, now conveniently accessed from my cell phone by the touch of one finger. Last year on vacation, I dropped my phone in a shark tank and quickly realized how utterly dependent I am on satellite navigation. People look so funny at you when you pull up and ask how to find the Airbnb on West Brown Street.

I’ve gotten so used to the convenience of my GPS that my mind can drift to other things. Which is why I have time today to contemplate the beautiful, unexpected life lessons I have gleaned from using this particular technology.

I often feel anxiety-stricken by the small-picture dilemmas of my life. Should I take the art class or use that money to pay off debt? Should I spend more time with my hurting friend or get to work on time?

One antidote to anxiety, my therapist tells me, is to plot out a course for the big-picture goals for your life, and then ask yourself — is this choice I’m considering, however small, moving me any closer to my destination?

Follow the purple solid line.

Along with a destination, we all need a clear-ish outline of the path. Maybe we don’t have all the details worked out yet. Maybe the path is just outside the frame of the small box we’re looking into, somewhere just off the screen. A few jogs to the right and we’re on our way.

The important thing is to have some idea of where we’re heading. With a mind and heart set on the destination, the details will fall into place.


When we get turned around or take the wrong street or completely fall off the map — in relationships, in careers, in Iowa — it’s easy to freak out and assume we’re completely lost.

But all hope is not gone. We aren’t total screw-ups who have to go back and start again at square one. Instead, we get re-routed.

In fact, we are constantly being re-routed. Even though our mistakes seem big and daunting, even though it feels like we could never be forgiven or forgive ourselves, even though we feel so very, very far from where we want to be, it is unlikely that we are actually that far from the solid purple lifeline. Really, the only way to be “lost” is to stop moving.

Searching for satellites….

And when we do get stuck, it’s okay. It’s normal. It wouldn’t be much of a journey without a pit stop (or a dozen).

Here’s the secret to getting unstuck: point your feet in the direction you need to go.

That’s all. Go ahead and stand there for a minute and assess if that is the direction you want. Wait for the satellite to locate you. Wait for all the systems to adjust to the new trajectory. Wait for the tears to dry, the storm clouds to roll on, the phone call from your mom just to remind you she loves you.

You’ll know when you’re ready to move again.

Sometimes we think that in order to get somewhere, we have to take big giant leaps and have every possible factor taken into account. We get so scared about what those big giant leaps are going to mean for us, that we don’t end up going anywhere at all. We freeze.

We forget that we will gradually adjust to the setting as we go. We forget that by making the simplest movement — a mere shift in the direction of our goal — we have already made progress we should be proud of.

You have arrived.

I always get a self-esteem boost when GPS Lady offers up this line in her happy cadence. After all, I worked hard to get here! All those left turns and lane shifts and emergency bathroom breaks. All that circling back around when I missed the exit. I didn’t get here by sitting in the car with the emergency lights flashing. I braved the storm, I soldiered on.

We all need to take time to acknowledge where we came from and how long it took.

There are few things more pleasing than putting two feet on the earth, hopping out and saying, “I did this. I got us here.”

And there are few things that motivate us to take longer, braver, more challenging journeys, than making good progress on the ones we’re currently on. The more we push through, the more opportunity we have to recognize our own potential and celebrate our own growth. We “arrive” all the time, in ways big and small. Each one is a cause for celebration.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to celebrate with some cheap ass bananas.

A slightly different version of this article was previously published at Annesley Writers Forum.