Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Sunday 01 August |
Saint of the Day: St. Alphonsus Liguori
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

The real reason you may be directionally challenged


Element5 Digital | CC0

Calah Alexander - published on 06/06/18

A shortcut in our language could be responsible for the difficulties you have navigating.

So here’s a true fact about me: I cannot navigate to save my life.

I mean that literally, y’all. If I were required to navigate anywhere at all in order to save my skin, I would be dead before you can say “the sun sets in the west.”

Here’s an example: in high school I worked at a Tex-Mex restaurant that was right down the street. Literally a 5-mile drive across city streets, one that I made every day for two months. Until the fatal day when I decided that hey, I had been 16 and driving with a license for two whole months. I could definitely handle taking the highway.

I definitely could not handle the highway.

Unbeknownst to navigationally-handicapped me, the highway split literally directly before the exit I took from our house into two separate highways, only one of which meandered past my place of business. Guess which one I took.

In the end I called my sister (who waitressed at the same restaurant) in tears and hysteria from a gas station 20 minutes northeast of the job I was 20 minutes late for. She guided me back and then pulled double duty by reassuring my confounded managers that no, I wasn’t lying and yes, I actually was that hapless and incompetent.

There’s a point to this anecdote, and it’s this: apparently being navigationally crippled is not entirely my fault — in fact, according to Lera Boroditsky’s TED talk, the language we use could play a large part in my lack of navigational abilities.

The entire talk is fascinating and goes way beyond navigation ability, but for me this is where the talk began and ended. Because I have long believed, the older I’ve gotten, that the words “left” and “right” absolutely cripple our ability to navigate. Why would you use words that require the slightly more difficult work of orienting yourself in relation to the polar axis of the planet when you could just use the words that orient yourself in relation to the polar axis of yourself?

It’s a language “shortcut” that might seem clever, but is ultimately crippling. At least for those of us who lack the basic navigational sense to tell north from west and south from east. (And everything in between.)

Personal Growth
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
Mathilde De Robien
Did you know Princess Di was buried with a rosary?
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
Theresa Civantos Barber
The one thing we all should do before this summer ends
Zelda Caldwell
German women’s gymnastics teams modest dress protests sport’s ...
Lauren Daigle
J-P Mauro
After 3 years Lauren Daigle ousts herself from #1 Billboard spot
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.