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An all-purpose GPS for life

Published: September 5, 2008
Section: Opinions


I’m the kind of person who needs an all-purpose GPS, a tiny electronic box to steer me.

Whether my destination is the beach or my first post-college job, I need something to direct me left at the light, right at the roadblock. I told this matter-of-factly to Becky and Eve one day, and they laughed, thinking it was just another quirky comment. My two roommates from junior year abroad in Budapest were privy to my craziness, by virtue of shared living space and a shared fate.

All Americans (actually Eve was a Scot), all new to Hungary (actually I had been there before) and all eager to meet sexy European men (actually Becky was a lesbian), we navigated the former communist country together. Give the wrong coins to the farbissina at the market? Check. Take a simple bus ride and end up in the Harlem of Budapest? Check. Take advantage of the 18 year drinking age? Resounding check.

But being abroad was not just cheap alcohol, few if any academic commitments, and city hopping from Ljubjliana to Dubrovnik to Rome. It was feeling lonely in a city of 2 million, where the language barrier mattered more than I had thought it would. Where trying to find a religious community, and consequentially a taste of home, created more problems than it provided comforts.

Deciding how to best utilize my precious few months abroad stressed me out, instead of supplying me with options.

With the limitless horizon I could go anywhere, yet saying yes to one locale meant saying no to the other ten. Every day was this cataclysmic decision. Going to traditional folk dance lessons meant missing the Romanian film festival, barhopping till 5 meant missing my history class in the morning, and the biggest mistake, Jake, fucked up my head for a while, and he steals his way into my dreams, even months after.

But barring hiring a life coach to decide tampon brands and other minutiae for me, my malformed psyche is all I’ve got. My biggest achievement in Budapest was conquering that street and metro map, making it submit to me. Proving to me that will and resolve could yield some result.

But life isn’t a linear, drawn to scale, architecturally crafted map. There’s no helpful lady at tourist information circling my destination and snaking the map in pencil. For me there’s only pen.