Having dissed in the previous post others who use the concept for trite purposes, I have had strong personal identification with the wayfinding concept and want to share that in my portfolio.
One personal example of my ‘wayfinding’ adventure through my PhD. Firstly, I wrote it primarily as an autobiographical attempt of self-discovery and closure as much as I did to score a good job at the end. I was approaching the topic not from a problem-solving perspective- indeed my argument and Title was “The interminable problem of Truancy”.
So I was wayfinding my way through masses of educational literature looking for signs and snippets that would help me to build my arguments and examples- I read far more than I actually used as there were not a lot of North Stars in the literature. My encouragement from my Supervisor was key- she herself an academic wayfinder whose writings have had an influence in disrupting common-sense arguments (such as- why Pacific Island girls want to do well at school even though classroom contexts silence their cultural ways of being).
Reading and writing my way through masses of research and putting it all together in a thesis was guided by an unknown- while I had a central “thesis” I was allowed wide freedom to construct my arguments and it was really not until the last 3 months where I moved into my ex in-law’s basement and worked full time on it every single day, rarely leaving the house, that it all came together. As I always knew it would if I just keep thinking and writing and looking for signs that would keep me confident that I was heading in the right direction.
Truancy as wayfinding
My experience of being a chronic truant was either enabled by, or led to the development of, strong wayfinding instincts. I established for myself a range of landmarks across the city that I could dash in and out of. These were primarily hiding places, but also spaces where I could get lost in the tourist crowds where the truant police were not going to bother trying to identify who was a local haole* and who was a tourist.
From listening out for the sound and speed of passing cars as I was making my escape from school (truant police were heavily present when I was growing up in 1970’s Honolulu) to watching the light in the sky to work out when it was getting close to 2:15 when schools let out, I was adept at identifying my location in the environment.
The goal was usually to make it into Waikiki- once I could cross the boundary of the Ala Wai canal, I was able to be invisible, which I just loved. Sleeping on a lounger during the day next to a family on holiday whose kids were splashing in the pool, I told myself stories about myself that blocked out the fear and guilt at knowing I “should” have been somewhere else, if only I was a “normal” kid.
I sought out flash bathrooms in hotel lobbies as I could hang out for an hour or more before someone was likely to think it odd there was a kid reading on the sofa in the large ‘parlour’ area provided for “ladies” to do their lady primping. I still recall clearly the pathway leading to the perfect Banyan tree in Ala Moana park which had this great hollow just perfect for me, a beach towel and a book to while the days away.
In these spaces, I was safe and invisible and I could breathe. I had found myself places of peace.
*equivalent to Pakeha in Hawaiian.