Fact: I have an excellent sense of direction. Also a fact: I did get completely lost once. I chalk it up to two missteps. First, I allowed my travel companion to read the directions I prepared and play navigator. Second, the sun set while we flew into BWI, so my favorite compass point, the sun, was unable to provide me with its brilliance, both as a directional point, and to allow me to read the map to determine in which direction we were travelling. The most challenging part of identifying our current location was that across the DelMar peninsula, every other town ends in -burg or -ville and finding a fixed point on my pre-printed map just didn’t happen. If I could determine where I was, I could get myself headed in the right direction. And how do I know I was headed in the wrong direction? I wasn’t yet in Waldorf.
Like a responsible driver, I decided to stop for directions at a 24-hour gas station and quickie mart. Why this particular location? Because I am a woman traveling alone at night (my non-navigator had long since dozed off) so I pull into this location because one of its other patrons is a Maryland police officer. Certainly, they will know where we are, and I can take it from there. Or from here to there, which is what I really needed. Unfortunately, the officer was only slightly more certain of his current location than my destination, neither of which he could find on the map for sale in the convenience store. In case you’re wondering, GPS was not effective and so I had to take time while I calculated a new route to my destination, which I eventually determined was two hours south of our starting point, and four hours from wherever this police officer was patrolling. By 4:00 am, I reached Waldorf.
A Bachelor’s Destination
A few hours of sleep – very few hours – pass before my alarm reminds me that I need to be in a eight-hour, one-semester class on the Battle of Gettysburg (see An Education At Gettysburg from March 2013). I spend the bulk of the morning somewhere between obvious exhaustion and self-reprimand for asking for help from my co-traveler and not trusting my own skillset. I may not know the details of Pickett’s Charge or the alignment of Union troops on the eastern line, which encompasses the purpose for my journey here, but I do know even in the hilly autumn Maryland sideroads, I should always be my own guide. I decide to buckle down and learn everything I will need to know ahead of next week’s on-site walking classroom in south central Pennsylvania.
I enjoy learning, which is part of the reason why, more than twenty years after leaving high school, I prioritize and dedicate myself to studying American history. I have twelve semester hours remaining after the first of the year, including an in-depth research course that requires a western excursion (see Hidden Beauty from March 2012) in addition to the multiple visits to a nearby research facility (see The Other National Archives from November 2021). But I need just one tiny semester hour to reach the magic mark for graduation, so I choose this obstacle course of adventure, this lack of slumber, this particular traveling companion, and this weekend in Waldorf, Maryland to finish the education I started decades ago. A sleepless night of driving to arrive at this weekend’s destination leads me to my ultimate destination: my university degree.