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We Draw Our Own Maps

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I like maps. I like looking at them almost as much as I like using them. Maps present so many possibilities for both imaginary and actual travel. I can look at a map and in my mind arrive at exotic places without ever leaving the comfort of my favorite chair.

Those mental arrivals and departures are fun and often necessary. They can be relaxing. They can help me escape the day's stress. They can even inspire me to chart actual courses.

However, the true value of a map is as a guide to where I really want to travel in real life. In order to effectively use a map for that purpose, though, I need to know where I want to go. It's not enough to simply want to go someplace. Destinations are important.

Not knowing my destination is the first barrier to my arriving there. Having no particular destination can be unsettling. Having no particular destination can lead to anxiety and stress and, yes, anger and depression.

Of course, we get it that we rarely pack the car and take off for parts unknown -- we at least want to know if we're going to the snow or the desert. We at least want to know whether to bring the snowboard or the backpack. We might, indeed, scoff at such a misdirected adventure.

Weekends and vacations are far too valuable. They deserve at least minimal planning.
Maps for such escapes -- such breaks from daily routines -- are easy to obtain. We can go online or to the auto club or to a convenience market or to a bookstore. With a little effort we can become expert readers of maps. We can make plans. We can have a good time.

With the plethora of such maps, we plan our outings. Those maps are all over the place. Use them or not, there they are.

So where are the maps for living our lives? Where can we find them, or do they even exist? Is that why it's so difficult to chart those courses?

Life maps are so much more difficult to obtain. They aren't in the convenience stores. The auto club knows nothing about them and bookstores never stock them. No courses in cartography help us. And yet we must create our life maps if we want to get to where we want to go with our lives.

Here's the good news: No one else should create our life maps. It's okay to drive from California to Florida on the Interstate 10. It's a good road, fairly well maintained and widely used. It doesn't matter much that everyone else driving from California to Florida uses it. Taking that route is okay. But having no choice in life except to live a template created by someone who never met us, knows nothing about our fears and dreams, is not okay. That's the good news.

Here's the bad news: We have to draw our life maps ourselves. No one else can.

That's also the good news.

We own the paths and the destinations of our lives. Our challenge is to first discover where we want to go and then to chart our courses.

Here's more good news: We can do it.

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