It’s funny, isn’t it, how a single word can have one meaning to you for the longest time and then all of a sudden you come to the realization that there is a whole other life to that word?
Growing up on the Big Island, the term “wayfinding” has always for me described the method by which the ancient Polynesians charted their course as they navigated across the ocean to new lands. To find your way, look up to the stars. Look up to the sun. Look at the ocean around you. In Hawaii during the 1970s, a double-hulled sailing canoe similar to the ones that brought the first Polynesians to the Hawaiian archipelago was built and launched. Imagine all that went into the building of that canoe – the opportunity to connect with your past, to trace where you came from in the same fashion that your ancestors did generations ago. Think about the chance to recover your voyaging heritage, think about the possibility of a cultural reawakening. This canoe, the Hokule’a, the Star of Gladness, would travel to other islands in Polynesia with seafarers using no mechanical sailing instruments and, instead, opting to guide by looking up.
That journey of the Hokule’a is not really what this post is about. Let me get back on track. Earlier this quarter, I was sitting in on a three-hour (yes, three hours) website redesign meeting and the first person speaking was talking all this computer design mumbo-jumbo talk. My mind was flitting off in multiple directions and then I heard him use the word “wayfinding” and I sat up a little taller in my chair. He used the word to describe how visitors to the website find their way from the home page to the pages they’re interested in reading. Oh my gosh, wayfinding is not only about navigating by stars? I jotted the word down in my notebook in capital letters and have since become even more fascinated with the word. I remember thinking at the time that the topic would be a good blog entry, but as you may have noticed, it never got written. Then just this past Friday, two colleagues sauntered in to my office to chat and I mentioned how I got lost up on the newly renovated third floor of our building because there are no signs. “Better wayfinding needed.” one of them stated. There’s that word again. So go back to the first sentence of this blog. Wayfinding is that word for me.
Think about it. Wayfinding. Finding your way. Let’s say you’re in college and you aren’t 100% certain law is in your future. Should you take the easy route and just apply anyway? Not the best course of action, right? Instead, check out the career planning office; go to some pre-law events; spend time with a panel of four law school deans who travel the country every fall talking about this (Geiger, Hoye, Kleinrock and Deal!); visit the law school on your campus and learn what’s going on at these places; see if your interest areas overlap with any faculty research interests and volunteer your time. See if your alma mater has alumni who are practicing lawyers and connect with them. Shadow friends who are in law school at the moment. Do some exploring. Let’s say you’re sure you want to go to law school at some point, but you just don’t know if you want to do it now. Should you ignore this timing issue you have and just figure you’d end up in law school anyway so you might as well apply now? Not the best course of action, right? Think about what interests you have right now and let it flow from there. Check out organizations whose missions overlap with your areas of interest. Maybe there’s an employment opportunity; maybe there’s a chance to really see if that’s what you want to do. Again, shadow friends who are in law school and learn first hand the advantages and disadvantages of taking some time off. Whatever you do, don’t just sit back and let life happen to you. Do some exploring. No, you’re not going to look up to the stars to find your path as the ancient Polynesians did, but you are going to chart a course to get to your goal. You may veer off course, but you’ll steady yourself and get back on course. In a previous post, I talked about the importance of maps. The ancient Polynesians did not have a physical map to hold on to, but they had a map nonetheless. That map was above in the skies. But what happens when the skies are clouded over and you can’t see more than a few feet in front of you and certainly not anything above you? You don’t panic. You look around. You observe. You listen. You gather information. You learn to trust your instincts. You recalibrate as necessary. You find your way.
I usually end my first blog of the admissions season with a song that’s tied to California. I actually thought about “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas and The Papas but opted for this one instead – a nod to the stars…