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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 23, 2005
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MY LIFE
Chelsea Samuel

Perfecting the art of getting lost

I'm not a fan of maps, mainly because I can't read them. I prefer the tried-and-true method of getting acquainted with an area: The get-totally-lost-and-try-to-figure-out-where-I-am formula.

It works. I have no maps in my car. Whenever I get lost in Atlanta, I keep driving until I find whichever version of Peachtree I come upon. Then, I drive in the direction of where I want to be, until I recognize something, usually a mall.

It may surprise people that I do this often when I'm in the car. I avoid such activity when it comes to life. I guess I like to contain my spontaneity. The analogy of traveling along the road to moving through life never worked for me.

When I'm on vacation, I hate itineraries. I love side trips and shortcuts. No schedule, no plan, just getting out and going. When I'm working through my day-to-day existence, however, my life is more precisely calibrated than Martha Stewart's oven. Every second of my day is scheduled, whether I'm in class, at work or hanging out. My day planner is practically color-coded.

I'm not the person who makes lists of lists or writes "Make to-do list" on my to-do list — they're long enough as it is — but I'm the first to admit that structure is my friend. This structure isn't limited to planning the next few weeks of my life; it maps out the next few months, even years. You know how people talk about having five-year plans? I have 10 of them, and they're 10-year plans. Fine, I'll admit it. They're 15-year plans.

That's why it's so refreshing for me to get into the car and try to figure stuff out. I know where I want to go, but not necessarily how to get there. If I decide on my way home from the mall that I want to go to the museum, I'll go to the museum. If on the way to the museum, I decide I want coffee, not art, I'll stop at Starbucks. I mean "spontaneous free time," is written in my calendar.

And if I get lost, Peachtree Street is never hard to find.

Chelsea Samuel, 21, is a Decatur native and a senior at Emory University in Atlanta.

Chelsea Samuel Chelsea Samuel

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