I used to always keep a road atlas in the car. Whenever we'd go somewhere, I'd pull it out and trace out our path. I loved looking at all the lines and seeing all the little towns. There was something comforting about knowing what was around the next bend. When we moved, the road atlas got tossed in the big car clean out of 2011 along with our Kansas City map. I remember when I noticed both of them were missing. We were coming back from meeting my brother and sister-in-law in Columbus. We saw a sign for some historic site and at the last minute, exited the highway to go see it. Afterward, we took a round about way back to the highway and we didn't know where we were or if we were on the right road. But suddenly it didn't seem to matter. We found some of our favorite places just by getting lost. The control freak in me should have balked at losing the maps. It should have been like taking away my security blanket. Instead, I embraced it without even thinking about it. I'll glance at Google Maps before heading out the door to a new destination, but I never print it out and study it like in the old days. If I get lost, I pull over and look at the map on my phone. What I didn't expect was to find a growing aversion to the old paper maps. My parents live for those things and keep stacks of them tucked near their chairs and in the door pockets of their vehicles. I met them for brunch today in Springfield and afterward we stood around Mom's car just talking. I spotted the folded up map of MO on the dash of the car and said I'd like to take an alternate route home. When I grabbed the map to take a look, I felt an annoyance. The crinkly paper feel of it made me twitchy.
I am not sure when the switch happened. My whole life I've followed some sort of map. I went to school. I went to college. I got married. I went to grad-school. I got a good job. I bought a house. I paid/pay bills. I have followed the the straight and narrow path of life. In the same way I took comfort from knowing what was ahead on the road map, I took comfort in knowing that I would go to school, get married, get a job, buy a house. But there was no comforting knowledge to the in between parts. There was no map for the things that happened on the way to those destinations. Now I've reached a stage of my life where there are no set destinations and the last reliance I had on maps was blown away with Chris's death. This sounds like I am lost or floundering, but I don't feel that way.
For the first time I have only minor destinations and I can take any path I want to get to them. I don't need a map. There's a peace in knowing this. It's like all of a sudden I realized that I can go easy on myself and let go of the expectations I've put on myself. I've reached the wanderlust section of my life and it feels fucking amazing to toss that map out the window and just go.