If my mother and I walk out of a store into the center of the mall or exit a building onto any town’s main street, there’s a 95% chance she’ll ask me which way we came from and which way we’re now headed. If we park in a crowded lot, she follows as I lead to her hidden car. When I’m with her, I am the navigator, the way-finder.
The 33-page nonfiction piece begins in an airport, Sellers struggling to find her way out to her car. From here, we work back, finding this was always an issue, cultivated when she was young as her mother struggled with mental illness and her father with alcoholism. Knowing which way to turn, when it’s okay to turn on a red light, how to navigate a college campus or a familiar neighborhood, recognizing faces—this is all foreign to Sellers. However, Sellers writes all of this straightforwardly and clearly as if she’s describing how we can make it out of an airport, a route we can effortlessly follow, her words a way-finder at our side.
After tracing back to examine the possible source of this predicament, she puts a name to it: prosopagnosia or topographical agnosia. Once it has a name, it’s easier to understand and cope with, which leads to the deeper point of Sellers’ piece. In witnessing others struggle, she notes that she’s not uniquely alone, and she realizes the compassion and patience she shows others lost with or around her. This sympathy is missing when dealing with her own directional mishaps, the rest of the piece a steady reminder for readers to treat ourselves and others with more compassion as we find our ways through the world.
Review by Katy Haas