I have found that the most difficult and most rewarding challenge of my work is how to be both a mapmaker and a traveler…Over the years I’ve learned that a surefooted and confident mapmaker does not a swift traveler make. I stumble and fall, and I constantly find myself needing to change course.
-Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
I’m forever envious of those who think the right answer is straightforward. Of those who hear a question, and before the speaker has even properly said the whole thing, already have an answer queued up.
True, sometimes they begin by answering the wrong question, anticipating the speaker will say something else.
But it must be nice to be that confident.
It’s fuzzy now, long spammed away by other more recent memories, but I can see such a time vaguely in my own life. It has been a long time. But I was a bit bossy as a little girl, before puberty hit and my body changed. Before I started to care about fitting in. Trying to hide so that no one would ever attack me.
I got over that phase, thankfully… at least that part of it. Around the time I turned 30, I went to therapy and worked on the paralyzing phobia of being criticized.
These days I can speak my mind without worrying too much that others might not agree with me. And could possibly judge me.
I got that part locked down tight. But I never quite got my confidence back.
If anything, I’ve found that the more I learn, the less confident I am. And the more complex the problems seem.
I find myself listening to the entire question, asking followups, taking some time to research the issues and also to think them over before responding.
The more I’ve learned, the harder it is to answer questions. Because I can see that there are usually multiple concerns involved. And that there’s probably a lot that I’m not seeing about the situation — and especially not right away.
But no one said being a traveler was easy. And they certainly don’t say that of mapmakers who strive to chart that new terrain as they go.
But I don’t think the phenomenon is limited to those who do vulnerability research — like Brene Brown — or those who study and coach alternative relationships, folks like me.
I think most lives involve times when you are both mapmaker and traveler, when you set out into the unknown and are tasked with traversing and documenting it for others. Maybe it’s for other academics. Maybe it’s for readers or clients. Or maybe it’s for your children, your family.
No matter who you’re making those maps for, it’s not easy being mapmaker and traveler.