When I first learned about Lewis and Clark in elementary school I went through a brief period where I wanted to be an explorer. It sounded so great, striking out into unknown territory on a wild adventure to unveil new things, be it people or land or animals. Nevermind the bugs or the diseases or the lack of clean water and feminine hygiene products, no, I could handle anything.
However, I went on to change my mind, deciding that I wanted to be a veterinarian, then a doctor, then a zoo keeper, then a veterinarian again, then an english teacher, until finally I decided to be a special education teacher.
Life moved as fast as my indecision and soon I was looking back, wishing I had decided to be an explorer…then maybe I’d have discovered new lands, settled down and lived as a hermit until the end of my days. I might not have become an explorer in the literal sense, but life itself is a journey into the unknown and unbeknownst to me at the time, we have been explorers our whole lives. Exploring ourselves, our surroundings, our relationships, what we like and dislike, our favorite music, the best movies, what makes us happy and what makes us sad.
I am an explorer.
And with things like journaling, blogging, picture albums and memories, we are all cartographers. Life cartographers–we leave trail markers everywhere we go, documenting where we’ve been and then we move on, always moving, to the next trail marker, the next bend in the road.
Like Lewis and Clark, we wake up every morning not knowing what terrain lies before us or what types of discoveries we’ll be making. We only know that we will have to strain and push ourselves until we can set up camp for the night and take stock of what the day revealed. It always reveals something, seemingly insignificant or not. How often have you been in bed at night, mind racing as you try to make sense of your circumstances?
As a cartographer, I decided to physically map out my life. I zoomed way out and only focused on the educational trail markers (middle school, high school, college) that split my life into chunks. The end result was a bit abstract, but I love the way it reflects my life:
Each section has a different pattern and each pattern reflects the overarching feeling of that time in my life. I’m currently in University so I added some arrows since there are still so many ways it can turn out.
Being an explorer is scary business! But maps are a way to remember where you’ve been and to remind yourself of all the unexplored territory that’s still waiting to be uncovered. You have the choice to stay where you feel safe or to strike out and boldly go where you haven’t gone before.
Either way life is going to take you to places you’ve never been. I say lets grab some camping equipment, bug spray, a lot of tampons and get out there!