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Wave Column: I don't get lost; I find alternative destinations

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wave Detroit Lakes, 56501

Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

If you grew up in Detroit Lakes, you might know. If you're growing up in Detroit Lakes, you know. If you're growing up in Detroit Lakes and you don't know, you're doing something wrong.

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As a happy citizen of our fine township -- wait, did the acquisition of a Wall-Mart promote us officially to city status? -- I find there are certain expectations of teenagerdom. Call them rites of passage, if it pleases you to do so, or call them all that DL has to offer the under-20 crowd, as the under-20 crowd has found none-too-pleasing to realize.

One simply cannot part from the high school in favor of post-secondary education, military service, inevitable employment or endless slobbering slumbers on Mom's couch without having first amassed certain vital experiences. Jumping off of Long Bridge (not that I know anyone who's done this, making it perhaps a myth of belly-flopping proportions), two in the morning trips to Perkins for blueberry muffins and French silk pie, and the first parentless drive to Fargo are musts and milestones, inextricably entwined for those of us growing up in Detroit Lakes with the concept of growing up in general.

A friend of mine this summer took his first solo maneuver into the City of All Wonder and Enthrallment: Fargo, North Dakota. (The sad part is that I don't use such a title with the degree of sarcasm one would hope might be involved.)

The amazement of all amazements (note: I-can't-Believe-it's-Not-Butter still makes me somewhat incredulous) was that said friend, whom I shall now refer to as Fork Boy, managed the drive there and back without once getting lost.

The first time I drove in Fargo, I was honked at incessantly; the following trips I've taken with friends have always involved getting utterly, gloriously lost. This is, and I am definitive and defiant on this point, how it should be. F.B. did it wrong. Curse MapQuest and the soulless teenagerhood it represents!

Once after a musical cast party, my buddy Norge (ooh, I'm positively squealing with anticipation to see her reaction to that nickname in print!) was driving Cyborg (okay, it may be getting excessive now) and I home in the teensy-weensy hours of the morning. One wrong turn (that I'm sure none of us could distinguish from a right turn even now) became an unfathomable multitude of mistaken highways and backwards navigation, and soon we were hesitantly headed along a gravel drive surrounded by collapsed barns and a noteworthy lack of road signs.

After being mercilessly swooped upon by an enormous flying creature of some relation to a pterodactyl, and screeching harmoniously in the pitches teenage girls must at that time of night in that sort of situation, we arrived in Cormorant Village. (If you know where that is, could you drop me a line? Tap out a text message? Send out a carrier pigeon?)

Tiptoeing into a bar, arms linked and rape whistles at the ready, we got directions to Lake Park, from where we were actually still quite confidant we could find home.

But what an experience!

Last year I left a party midnight-ish, turned left instead of right, decided I may as well just keep driving, and did. For hours. A few miles after I hit Clay County, I pulled over, called home (maybe long-distance), and waited for my dad to come find me. Yep. For real.

I have, however, passed several geography courses in my years in the public school system, and once memorized the locations of approximately 40 European nations overnight. (I might have slept with a map under my pillow and absorbed it in my sleep; that's how I've passed my A.P. exams thus far, too.)

I may not become a cartographer (though it might be a good idea to be very close friends with one), but, having been lost so many times, I ponder the concept.

Edward Beck, Roman Catholic priest and avid traveler, after finding himself entirely unfamiliar with his surroundings while out on a walk in California's hill country, states that, "Once I got so lost that I began to wonder if I'd ever get found," before going on to extol the necessities of becoming lost so as to be found, having arguably more to glean from the former than from the latter.

Tour guides recommend getting hopelessly lost while visiting new cities and countries so as to completely immerse oneself in off-the-beaten track truths of the culture and climate of a foreign setting (although they probably recommend finding your way back at some point, too).

While college visiting in Chicago, I listened to a panel of very intellectual students -- at the school where "fun goes to die," according to rumors -- talk about getting on buses, riding to random stopping points and loosing themselves into new neighborhoods and new experiences in a city beloved for its crime rate. (Maybe we should stick with Murderapolis -- it is, after all, much closer to home.)

And so I pose this question: can one be lost? Mayhap we just find alternate destinations.

Certainly, we don't always know where we're going; and yet we always end up someplace. Obviously, we (and here I heartily include myself) don't always know how to get there; but we always do. Regardless of whether it's where we thought we had set out for, we are bound to arrive there. Wherever that may be.

I write this with the best possible intentions: Get lost.

Thressa Johnson is a senior at Detroit Lakes High School.

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